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This is the text of an article in New Media Age from 14th January 2005 issue:

Adriana Cronin-Lukas is on a mission to educate and convince companies of the benefits of improved communications through blogging, discovers Michael Nutley.

“There are two trends in online marketing.  One is to say, ‘This is our message and we’ll use all the new technology to make it louder and harder to escape.’ I’m working on the other trend.”

Adriana Cronin-Lukas is a woman with a mission. Her goal, she says, is “to make companies open themselves up”.  And her method of choice is blogging.

Cronin-Lukas discovered blogging in 2001 when, inspired by the book The Cluetrain Manifesto, she was working on ways for insurance giant Lloyds to use the Internet.  A friend took her to the first British Blogger Bash, organised by the founder of Samizdata, a group blog of socio-political commentary.  As a child of activist parents in Czechoslovakia, she found the idea of 21st Century pamphleteering, “using the blog format to give a persistent worldview”, immediately appealing.  She started writing for Samizdata and eventually became an editor.

But Cronin-Lukas is also a trained management consultant, so she soon started thinking about the brand Samizdata had built and how its approach could be applied to business.  She asked a fellow blogger who was a media lawyer to explain to her the legal problems companies might face using blogging, and then set up The Big Blog Company to bring the blogging message to companies.  At the same time, Google was buying Pyra, the company behind blogger.com, and bloggers were starting to think about how they might make money out of what had previously been little more than a hobby.

Cronin-Lukas has strong views about the commercial use of blogs. A blog is something that can help a brand to make money, not something that makes money itself, she says.

Instead she emphasises what she calls the value-for-value exchange. It’s true there’s no such thing as free content.  You’re being paid in attention,” she explains.” Any monetisation shouldn’t disrupt that value-for-value exchange that’s already happening.

Instead Cronin-Lukas sees the value of blogs as allowing companies to tell customers their story and the stories behind what they’re selling.  Instead of entertaining people into hearing about your company, you tell them what you think they might want to know, she says.

She cites Microsoft as a classic example of a company recognising the power of blogging. 

Robert Scoble worked with the developers of Longhorn at Microsoft.  His blog is called Scobleiser and with it he cracked the monolithic facade of Microsoft.  Almost singlehandedly he changed the perception of Microsoft as the devil in Redmond; he humanised it.  Microsoft recognised this and started its Channel 9 group blog for developers, addressing the developer community outside Microsoft.

Channel 9, named after the in-flight channel on some airlines that allows passengers to listen to exchanges between the cockpit and air traffic control, is an example of the kind of blog that most interests Cronin-Lukas.

One-person blogs are all very well.  People call me in to advise them on how they can use a personality within their company to write a blog.

What’s more likely is I’ll suggest a group blog; a Channel 9 for the whole company.

She gives the example of VC firm Augusta Capital, which has a group blog discussing the issues surrounding venture capital. 

VC is supposed to be a black art; it’s not something you’d instinctively think of blogging about.  So if Augusta Capital can have a blog, anyone can.

It also shows that the company brand can emerge as a collective identity by allowing individuals to express themselves.

And Cronin-Lukas sees a further value in encouraging employees to blog.  A blog can be a tangible way of storing expertise, she explains.  That’s one of the ways it repays the time put into it. It can make the intellectual capital stored within your employees tangible, because they’re writing it all down.

This goes hand-in-hand with another of her main interests: using blogging to improve internal communications.

I’m trying to reproduce the dynamics of the blogosphere within a company. It’s not a technical problem, it’s a human problem.  Content management system approaches aren’t working as a way of getting departments to communicate, because there’s nothing in it for the people who are supposed to be using them.

Taking the idea that the basic unit of a company is the individual, I’m trying to get firms to let everyone have a blog and see what emerges, she says. 

A lot of what I do requires a mindshift on behalf of the companies I’m talking to.  I’ve come to see my job as being much more about education in recent months.

The wave has already broken in the US, but we’re only inching towards it in this country.  People in the UK are more responsive to ideas, but it’s harder to get them to try new things.

Trying new things is crucial for Cronin-Lukas. It’s what brought her back to the UK after she’d trained as a management consultant.

My plan was to go back and use those skills in my country, doing what would have been very useful work, but I had to come back to the UK to be at the cutting edge, she says.

And it’s also what drives her enthusiasm for blogging.  She sees the blogosphere as the next step in the development of the Internet.

The Internet is not a channel, it’s a network.  It can behave as if it’s a channel, but that’s only part of what it can do.  The problem with Web sites is that they’re not designed for the Internet.  They’re network nodes by default, not design.  They have the legacy of being conceived as something very different to what a network node should be, and it’s the user who loses out.

An agency can produce a beautiful site that the client loves, but it expects users to sit and watch it.  That’s not how network nodes work.  If you want to use the Web properly, you have to design your Web presence as a network node.  And blog software builds optimal network nodes.  Think of the blogosphere as Internet 2.0.

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