And so what we decided then was we needed to get into the space in some way, shape or form. Given the audiences we communicate to – we have 31,000 restaurants, compete in 118 countries – we’ve got everybody from entrepreneurs and multimillionaires we call franchisees or owner-operators, to the crew in our stores. The dimensions, any way you look at it, of those we need to communicate to are vast and broad. We speak 25 languages around the world.
We believe we have made progress over the past several years in how we communicate and trying to get a consistent message across to our organization about our plans, about where we are trying to take the company, about what our priorities are, what our values are and all the things you would normally want to communicate. But even with that, we find pockets where we’re not getting the right messages across. So when we looked at it, we said blogs might be an asset, another mechanism, another tool for us to get a more consistent message across.
Like everyone, we understood some of the risks. Our counsel was very nervous about this. It’s a space where I would argue the rules are ill-defined and the traditional communications rules just, frankly, don’t work. So as uncomfortable as our legal counsel was, we decided we would venture off into this space in a way, I would argue, is a lower risk for the start. And that was: How do we do it internally within the company?
So we created several blogs. The chief operating officer was the first one. He did a great job; he’s a great communicator to begin with and he did an excellent job of getting started with this.
Subsequently, our senior management team, including myself, each started them, and we now have 18 blogs within the organization. Based on the feedback we’ve received so far within our organization, I would argue it’s pretty well received.
So what are the things that are working and what’s not working? First, it’s a great channel for isolating groups, especially if you’re trying to share best practices. The Ronald McDonald House Charity Chat Blog, for example, represents our charity organization, which essentially is a global set of local chapters that operate in 48 companies; 253 houses around the world. Communications and the tools behind that are not perfected.
It’s really difficult to share best practices across that organization. We set up a blog as a place to pose questions. From one house
For individuals within the organization to ask how they’re getting things done, what are the challenges, what are the successes they’ve had in raising money or whatever the issues might be. It’s a very active blog and one that I would argue has been very successful for us.
Then I started my own blog. I have a worldwide staff and I’ve done it more from the position of here’s a community within that staff, giving them the opportunity to access myself, my leadership team, to ask questions. Some questions are really easy, some are very personal. Others are very challenging with the direction we’re going. But it’s just another vehicle for us to communicate with a smaller group of people – and you get questions from those who normally in meetings won’t even speak up.
Starting internally has allowed us to get our feet wet, to learn a little bit about the tools and about the process before we go prime time. And prime time for us is when we want to go externally. One of the challenges I would ask each of you to think about when you consider the idea of blogging, is that it’s not the right channel for all content and for all people.
Essentially, we have two forms of blogs -- one of which we call a partially driven blog, which is not a service provider within the organization. And the other is more personality or role-based. Our head of HR, as an example, established a blog. What we found out is that given all the other communications mechanisms he has, and he clearly has access and is one of the best users of the intranet, he wasn’t getting any activity on his blog. So while he was one of the first to do it, he was also the first to go away.
The next thing that we’re doing to communicate information that normally is not being communicated, we opened up a week ago a corporate and social responsibility blog. This introduces a little more risk for us. But we’re also telling a bit of a story we don’t often get to tell. Corporate responsibility for us is about a balanced, active lifestyle; it’s about procurements, about our people, the environment and the communities in which we operate. I think it’s an opportunity for us, hopefully, to dispel some myths about our organization and to get some candid feedback from our consumers that will help us improve as we go forward.
We’re getting a positive reaction from without our organization and, again, a lot of learning for us inside the company. We believe it’s a useful tool for sharing ideas, for encouraging communication, getting direct feedback. I believe it actually can impact our employees toward the organization, which is one of our ultimate goals here. It’s another medium of communications you have at your disposal. I’m not sure what’s next but given what blogging is today, it’s something we’re going to use and we’re going to ride it.