How Do You Do It?
If you want people to trust you, you have to be as open as you can.
So in that spirit Jem Stone, my executive producer has asked me to write this post explaining how I approach my job.
“Editor, Internet Blog” is shorthand. “The man who persuades important people in BBC Future Media and Technology to write blog posts” is more accurate but a bit of a mouthful.
But as well as persuading people to write, Alan Connor and I do the actual work of putting what they write into the blogging software, checking it, sometimes adding extra links and photos, and then pushing the button to publish. In the long run I want the contributors to the blog to draft their posts in the software rather than sending them to us on emails. Ashley Highfield has already agreed to do this.
Senior BBC executives are busy people. Asking them to put aside time to blog as well as everything else they do is sometimes tricky. It would have been easy for Ashley to say “this blog is a really good idea, but I’m far too busy to do it myself”. Instead he has now written 18 blog posts in three months, which speaks for itself.
At which point I hear a sceptical blogger somewhere saying “does Ashley really write all his blog posts?”. Yes he does. Sometimes I suggest an edit (and he sometimes gets annoyed with me when I do!), but everything you see in his name on the blog is written by him personally, not by anyone else.
But I should mention, in the spirit of openness, Paul Almond who is Head of Communications in FM&T. We have recently added Paul as a user to the blog so that he can read entries before they are published (particularly Ashley’s). Since this blog is read by the press and media it’s a good idea for Paul to be aware of what's going on and he does sometimes suggest the odd edit. From the start Paul has been an enthusiastic advocate for the blog, in his words he wants to “put it at the heart of everything we do”.
I can hear that sceptical blogger again “why are communications people editing blog posts? Blogs should be about personal expression, not corporate messages!”
Well, for me “blogging” is just a very simple form of publishing content on the internet. You can use it to do anything you like. So the Internet Blog is a mixture of things:
Stuff we want you to know about (call it marketing BBC products and services if you want).
Stuff you want to know about. For example as a result of the comments on Richard Titus’ post about the beta home page I asked James Price to write a post about the promo box. You might call this customer relations or even accountability, particularly when BBC people explain and justify decisions they make.
Conversations. BBC people asking you what you think the BBC should be doing (should this be called research?).
Put these four things together and what are we doing? Shall we call it “blogging”?.
I think marketing and public relations are being shaken up by these new media tools just as much as publishing and content creation (PR person Steve Rubell is one of my favourite bloggers). The traditional suspicion that exists between content creators, journalists, bloggers and marketeers is pointless. In fact they are a network, even a community of people who rely on each other and increasingly use the same tools and techniques.
Which brings me to the other part of my job. As well as just publishing stuff I try and join in relevant conversation where ever it is or blogs and in communities. I try to identify myself clearly by giving my name and job title. If I'm not on buisness and am writing something personal I omit my job title, but I don’t try and disguise my identity online.
Simply by putting in links to relevant posts from the Internet Blog I hope to stimulate conversation about what the BBC does on technology and on the internet.
I’m obsessed by the idea of the “link”. So much so that now if I see some web content that references a blog post but doesn’t contain a link I go a bit peculiar.
But linking is not just about linking up web content. It’s also about linking up people. It’s part of my job to link up with people all across the BBC in the hope that everyone can talk to each other better. Frankly, I’m happy to talk to anybody who wants to talk to me, inside or outside the organisation.
Other people who should be mentioned are Alan Connor (coeditor) who works on the blog two days a week (and a bit more). Alan's contacts and expertise are invaluable. Jem Stone (executive producer) comes up with ideas for the blog. I have day to day editorial control over what gets published on the blog, but if Jem says no, it doesn’t happen.
"Transparency" is an over used word but that's what I'm aiming for on this blog. And I’m racking my brains to think of anything else I can tell you. So if there is anything you want to know just leave a comment.
Nick Reynolds is editor, BBC Internet Blog.