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Change Agents

Scott Kveton? Blake Caldwell? Here are some people you probably don't know who will shape IT in the coming year.

Blogging's Naked Truth

Robert ScobleRobert Scoble, the Microsoft employee who has softened the company's image through his unfiltered Weblog postings, is ready to help others improve the quality of their customer interactions. He's co-authored a book, to be released next month, on how to use blogs to nurture customer relationships.

The blogging phenomenon means many things to people. For Scoble, it's a way to avoid the bureaucracy, clumsy marketing, bad decisions, and media distortion that gum up business communications. Blogs are a fast-and-easy way to establish direct connections, so people get to know the real you. Among the benefits, says Scoble in an E-mail interview, are better relations with the public, higher ratings on Web search engines, and "an opportunity to talk with people about your company and product every day." But you better do it right, because opinion shaping in public also can get you dooced-blogger lingo for fired.

Scoble's book, written with PR veteran Shel Israel and published by John Wiley & Sons Inc., is titled "Naked Conversations." While some bloggers have been known to take that literally, it's the stripping away of company-approved mumbo jumbo-the old "company line"-that Scoble's talking about. "When you blog well, you are totally transparent about your motives," he says.

General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz, for example, has begun addressing the auto-buying public directly on GM's FastLane blog. Frustrated with criticism about GM's product line, Lutz recently noted that the Cadillac DTS luxury model outsold BMW's 5 Series by 17% in October. "How many of you knew that?" he asked in exasperation.

It's this kind of one-to-many, many-to-one dialogue that Scoble, having honed his craft on Scobleizer.com, believes creates a more meaningful dynamic. Throngs of newbie business bloggers stand to learn from him. "We're in the very early stages," he says. "Very few businesses blog at all, and even of those, only a small percentage blog well."

Why should businesspeople blog at all? "Asking that question is sort of like asking, 'Why advertise?' or 'Why have salespeople?'" Scoble says. "To me, it's now a necessity, not optional."

At Microsoft, Scoble creates video clips for the company's developer-oriented Channel 9 Web site. He describes that as his day job but says he's as much an ambassador for the company as anything. He continues to blog at a furious rate, writing mostly at night and on weekends.

There's an eager audience for Scoble's advice, including thousands of fellow bloggers who visit his site and seek him out. Microsoft's top blogger just returned from an 18-day trip to Europe where, in addition to meeting with bloggers, he partied late into the night, met beautiful models, and visited the local attractions.

How do we know all this? It's recounted on Scoble's site. No one said business blogging has to be boring.

--John Foley

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