Corporate Blogging's PR Nightmare

Last Updated Apr 9, 2008 1:50 PM EDT

One of the big stories of the past week has been Tesco's attempt to take the US by storm (starting with parts of its west coast) with its Fresh & Easy chain of convenience stores. There seems to be no shortage of pundits saying that, even at this early stage, the retail giant is struggling.

We shall see.

What's apparent now is that corporate blogs â€" and by that we mean real, unmanufactured blogs penned by executives â€" can be troublesome. While a whole marketing and PR machine can spend months working on a tightly spun message, to hit different people at different times, one honest comment going out over the most far-flung medium the world has ever known can upset the apple cart.

That's what happened to Tesco. Marketing director Simon Unwins let it slip on his blog that Fresh & Easy would put the brakes on for now, in terms of new store openings. (Which is not quite the same thing as total failure, as some would have it.)

Who doesn't like corporate blogging? Well let's ask the opposite question â€" who likes it? The media love them (this writer can say with surety), customers and various partners tend to as well, for their openness. Even the financial community can get more of an insight than before and make, you'd think, better investment decisions as a result.

Doesn't leave many constituencies â€" apart from HQ.

There will always be those that figure the best way to connect with an audience is through being straightforward and honest.

And there will always be those who see the world as a much more complicated place than that. A few words of honesty can move a share price a few per cent â€" which in the case of a Tesco's is no small change â€" just as they can improve longer-term relationships and brand equity.

For those reasons, most corporate blogs will continue to be PR guff. The rest will either fade away or â€" hold onto your chair - be truly valuable.