Reflections on blogging

I was out at dinner the other night with some ex-colleagues, and one of them, who reads here regularly, apparently, wanted to know how I actually find the time to maintain a blog. When thinking about the question, what occurred to me was that anyone not finding time to blog is actually doing themselves (and their organisations) a disservice.

As a side note, those who’ve been reading for a while know that I usually write on the Tube on the way to the Bank (via the gym, the other part of my early morning routine). Today, these words are coming to you from somewhere between Earls Court and Gloucester Road tube stations. Apparently, there is some kind of broken signal or something. Probably I shall have time to deal with my inbox as well as write this post.

As a second side note, and for international readers, I have to tell you that the London Underground (the Tube) is a fantastic thing. Being an underground railway, it is generally affected by snow in Winter (don’t know why), by heat in the summer (the rails bend),and by leaves on the tracks in Autumn. In Spring, you can usually get a decent trip out of it, if you’re lucky.

Anyway, regardless of where the time comes from, the question at dinner made me wonder whether people really understand the upside of all this effort online. For a conservative institution, all this social media is an internal game changer, and that is the real point.

For starters, this blog lets me reach out to other banks. I’ve had lots of banks come through to London to visit us, and the value of those visits is extremely high (for both parties I hope). A case study in my (forthcoming) book from Caja Navarra on civic banking would not have happened, for example, if this blog didn’t exist. They reached out to me to tell me how they’ve put the customer at the centre of their proposition in a remarkable way.

Inside the bank, lots of powerful people read this blog, for which I am grateful. Of course, I’ve been in trouble a few times with some of the things I’ve written, but here is the deal: through this blog, the bank and I can experiment with what is, and what is not acceptable in public social media. We are learning how to handle people with personal brands. And we have enacted various policies to govern how others can use social media as well.

And here’s another thing. There’s always this fear that whenever anyone speaks in public, we’re in danger of giving away the game to competitors. But I’ve found that when you keep things secret, it actually takes much more effort to get things to happen. Talking about things creates the reality. Doing social media has made a lot happen here at the bank.

Naturally, there’s a personal angle as well. Besides being highly rewarding, social media lets us – as innovators – avoid what I call the Curse of Incumbency. The Curse is the situation where stakeholders turn to outside consultants rather than relying on internal knowledge. There is quite a lot of validity in this, by they way. Consultants have the advantage of seeing how many institutions work. But through this blog, so do I.

I’m so surprised there aren’t more bloggers from banks. Perhaps the time is coming though. The reality is that doing this – as part of my job – makes my other job so much easier.

11 Responses to“Reflections on blogging”

  1. August 4, 2008 at 9:45 am #

    I’m a banker/blogger who find your site last week, and will keep reading

  2. Peter Brooks
    August 4, 2008 at 10:36 am #

    James, I am a regular reader of your blog (via RSS) and find your comments and thoughts most interesting and thought provoking. I know many of my colleagues also read it which helps me in selling the opportunities to think and behave differently in the way we try and achieve change…..just wish sometimes it was easier!

  3. Patrick
    August 4, 2008 at 5:54 pm #

    I’m a California bank regulator and blog reader who linked to your site through American Banker. In the words of our Governator, I’ll be back!
    Regarding the snow, I’ll hazard a guess that it’s probably melted snow leaking into the system that causes problems with the London Underground.

  4. dan littman
    August 4, 2008 at 6:17 pm #

    I am a national bank regulator (although to call myself a “regulator” is a stretch), and have found your blog to be an excellent resource, and very thoughtful, for many months. It is bookmarked alongside perhaps 20 other public blogs on my PC, and I try to visit them all at least once a week. I too am a blogger, but thus far my blog is only accessible to employees of my own institution.

  5. Rob
    August 5, 2008 at 12:10 am #

    James, interesting point, and one I agree with – my blog TheBankChannel.com started as a simple way of remembering and saving items I’d seen as part of a new role in Customer Experience Mgt. It then grew to be seen by many people here in Aus and overseas. Whilst its not overly laden with editorial as opposed to reporting, the personal brand benefits, and the connections with peers in other banks that I would techically not be able to contact or share with otherwise has been good to receive. Once you’ve cleared it with corp comms, everyone should perhaps put their thoughts and ideas down – you never know what the collaboration can bring.

  6. August 5, 2008 at 6:36 am #

    I would add that blogging offers the opportunity to think out loud, gain feedback, and discussion, and simplifies my work.

  7. August 5, 2008 at 2:03 pm #

    “Inside the bank, lots of powerful people read this blog,”
    This is an often overlooked point. The blogs that I drive are for our own people as well as for customers and observers: It’s actually a convenient way to flag up to them what’s interesting and helps to encourage internal discussion and sharing.

  8. August 6, 2008 at 3:48 am #

    James – you have a great blog and a fantastic point of view. Your comments here are spot on and represent the tip of the spear for the tranformation we are about to see in banking and industry.
    Companies that do not connect will become extinct.

  9. Heiki
    August 6, 2008 at 12:33 pm #

    James, I truly learn and benefit from your openness and willingness to share ideas and experiences. Thank you so much – and keep up the good work!

  10. August 11, 2008 at 8:45 am #

    Thank you all for your kind remarks. I really appreciate the positive feedback.

  11. October 1, 2008 at 8:16 pm #

    Did you hear? Russian agressor attacks USA…
    More info here: hotusanewx.blogspot.com
    SHOKED!!

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