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Chrysler's Firehouse: Corporate Blog Gone Wrong

Perhaps aiming to avoid the mistakes of Dell in ignoring Jeff Jarvis’ blog comments and experience, Chrysler PR chief Jason Vines has taken a wide swing in the opposite direction, lashing out at Steve Hall of Adrants in response to his (justified) posting about the new blog as being "stupid, illogical, idiotic and insane."  Mainly Hall’s criticism took issue with the composition of the blog as a journalist-only affair where you could only gain access by showing the proper press credentials.  Of course, the comparisons were drawn to GM’s well regarded FastLane blog.  To add to Steve’s comments and offer my support for a fellow blogger, he’s spot on with his view on Chrysler’s new blog.  You need to look no further than a few of their own "Rules of the Blog" for reasons why this will fail and earn further ire from bloggers:

  • Rule #1 – In the spirit of honest, free-flowing conversation we’d prefer you post comments using your real name, but you will be given the opportunity to post under a screen name. [RB – A blog which requires a login to keep non-journalists out starts with "in the spirit of honest, free flowing conversation"?]
  • Rule #2 – Users must stay on topic within any given thread. New topics must be made the subject of a new thread. [RB – Sounds more like a discussion board than a blog]
  • Rule #4 – Blog administrators retain the right to ask the user to re-write a proposed submission to comply with the rules of the blog before being posted. [RB – Interesting – does this also mean you will proof my proposed submission for spelling too?  What if I use "colour" – is that ok?]
  • Rule #9 – Proprietary information may be inadvertently posted on the blog. DaimlerChrysler blog administrators will act to remove it as soon as possible, and users who have viewed the information will be asked to disregard and not re-distribute it. [RB – I wonder, how can proprietary information be inadvertently posted when you are screening postings, and asking users to rewrite them prior to being published?]
  • Rule #11-The is not intended as a forum for outside suggestions, including but not limited to those which pertain to vehicle design, product attributes, marketing or advertising, and no such material will be posted. [RB – So after registering a group of journalists who are usually expected to have and offer their opinions, you expect them not to offer any thoughts at all?  What a missed opportunity!]

Perhaps what Chrysler should have done is launched a "media extranet."  Certainly that’s what they have now, and it could have helped them avoid the blogosphere showdown starting right now.  Of course, then there would be no buzz either … which could be Vines’ ultimate intention any way he can get it. 

Update (10/31/05):  Lots of people have posted about Chrysler’s effort since this post and talked about how they are perhaps only expanding the definition of a blog, and how none of us has a right to define what a blog should or should not be.  I’m not a blog expert and I don’t have the right definition of what a blog should be.  But I do know marketing, and I know that sometimes it makes sense to do something to capitalize on the buzz around the trend of the moment.  Blogs are hot right now.  GM has gotten a ton of credit based on being the first mover to blogs with Fastlane.  The way I see it, Chrysler had to launch something, and they had to call it a blog no matter what. 

Are they redefining blogs as we know them?  Time will tell.  For now, the only thing I can tell is that they have launched a site for media similar to closed extranet style sites that have been launched before.  And unlike others launched before, they called it a blog … generating lots of discussion/outrage online.  But whether people are discussing, bitching or defending, they are still focused on Chrysler.  And ultimately, I believe that was their goal.

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