This past Monday’s edition of For Immediate Release included a comment by Sebastion Keil. Sebastian is a blogger/PR practitioner who was looking for input on launching a blog for a car rental agency he works for. The idea had been floated in a meeting of the CEO blogging as well as including posts from the cars. More accurately, an in-house writer would make up a story about where one of the agency’s cars had been and include pictures. Sebastian knew Shel and Neville had voiced strong opinions on character blogs in the past so was interested in their feedback.

Not only did he get their opinions but also thoughts from others, including yours truly. Here is my response in full which I left in the FIR comments section.

I had some thoughts on the story of the car rental agency that wanted to start a blog not only including CEO content but also stories from the cars. I think think there’s a nugget of a good idea here.

First, though, I completely agree that this should NOT be mixed within the CEO’s content. Two seperate things, two seperate blogs. Instead of being from the car, though, give customers cameras and allow them to start a travel blog. Then the company can take the photos and upload them to a photo gallery. Of course highlight what car was used on the trip and what office(s) the car was rented/returned from.

Doing this gives the customer some sort of control and begins a conversation. The customer then will say to their friends “Check out my blog! It’s at www.(name of the agency).com/myblog.” It seems this doesn’t cross the line into fictional content but instead gives the customers a cool point to start talking about the company.

Now what’s interesting about this, and Shel mentions this in today’s show, is that three or four other people dropped similar comments as well. They all focused around giving the customers a voice (and a photo gallery) and play up the viral/buzz effect this could have for the company. When you give people a modicum of control or a voice they will tell their friends about it.

Sebastian replied that while this was a great idea but his client was very conservative and would never consider giving customers any outlet to voice their opinions. Shel brings up the inherent possibilites of some customers not having great things to say about their experience and what that would mean in terms of cherry-picking which blogs would actually see the light of day and which would be resigned to the garbage heap.

So I leave it to you as a discussion question: Which is more important to you or your client – Offering customers an open forum for engagement or ensuring the corporate voice is the only voice of communication?