Earlier this week, I had lunch with a VC friend of mine, and the subject of blogging came up. He told me that nobody at his firm blogs, not because they aren’t aware and “plugged in” to the phenomenon, but rather because they associate VC blogging with a negative reputational value. We talked about the risks involved with VC blogging, which I think could apply to all “professional” blogging (by that I mean individuals who blog about their professional life specifically, not those who are paid to blog).
While many in the blogging community have extolled the virtues of this activity, it appears that the potential risks involved have often gone largely overlooked. My friend and I identified five perceived reputational risks involved with professional blogging that could inhibit people from doing so:
1. Blogging is viewed by many as a fad. Whether or not this ultimately bears to be true, the viewpoint is a real one. Should one associate their career and personal brand with a trend that perhaps may fall by the wayside? What will be the reputational effect if/when one stops blogging?
2. Bloggers are sometimes perceived to have many negative attributes. Some believe that bloggers are overly-bearing “used-car salesman-types” in selling themselves or the extremely ego-centric people who speak the loudest but don’t really know what they are talking about.
3. Professionals (especially VCs) should have a network already to leverage; blogging could signal that one’s network is weak. Blogging is in effect a “networking” activity which connects people to other people. Some view bloggers as those who don’t have a strong network and use it as a crutch, or as those who aren’t successful in other networking venues.
4. Professionals are busy people; blogging could imply that one isn’t busy with “real” work. Serious blogging takes serious effort, and all professionals are limited by the amount of time that they have during the day. Perhaps bloggers can’t find productive uses of their time and are using blogging as a meager substitute for nothing.
5. Blogging provides an uninhibited permanent record to ones’ thoughts. Yes, permanent. Everyone is wrong some of the time. (In fact, VCs are wrong a lot of the time with their investments). When someone is wrong and there is an easily accessible record of it, that individual must either admit the error if his/her ways or ignore it to cover it up. Both of these are difficult actions to take, and could potentially leave someone worse off than taking no vocal opinion at all. And with the internet being archived in the manner that it is, it’s clear that anything published online will be able to be accessed forever.
My own personal view: User-generated self-expression content is here to stay, but blogging in its current form will certainly evolve. Currently, I see many benefits to blogging, and will continue to do so until those are over-weighted by downsides. If that point comes, I will clearly articulate why I have decided to stop (or slow down my postings). I feel that transparency here is the best route to chose, as do many others in this community. Yes, the negative attributes enumerated above are both real and tangibly felt by many, and I, along with any professional blogger, do run the risk of these associations. But I believe that the benefits associated with blogging, including the ability to critically think about and express views that are extensions of my work, outweigh the potential drawbacks and risks. And, of course, I am careful to limit what I say to things that are careful and thoughtfully articulated, as I am mindful of the permanent record that online publishing brings with it. In sum, while some in the community may argue that everyone should embrace the self-expression blogging phenomenon, I would argue that each individual should carefully weigh the risks and merits involved with it.