Like it or not, blogging is huge. Almost 30 million web logs - defined as online journals - currently exist, according to blogging website www.tehnorati.com, and about 70,000 more appear each day.
Some people are attracted to the notion that blogs represent power. In the past, if you wanted to say something to a global audience, you depended on the media. Now you can simply relay your own unspun, unfiltered messages on your blog. Others like the fact that blogs are interactive. Indeed, many receive huge numbers of online responses, creating a kind of forum.
Because bloggers generally discuss various aspects of their daily lives, a good proportion of them mention their workplace - the very reason why many employers are getting increasingly edgy about their staff blogging. Some are concerned about blogs revealing confidential information about the organisation, according to Ben Wilmott, employee relations adviser for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, while others worry about bloggers saying inappropriate things about their co-workers or even negative things about the workplace.
"Employee bloggers sometimes shoot from the hip, especially because of the informal nature of blogging," Wilmott explains. "You could even get employees making racist or sexist comments about their workplace in their blog."
Search engine impact
The reality is that most blogs aren't widely read. But it only takes one negative reference to an organisation to appear on a search listing and within hours, it could appear higher up the Google ratings than the company's official website. Google tends to promote blogs higher up its search ranks than static web pages.
The first thing for employers to remember, says Jonathan I'Anson, an associate at Brabners Chaffe Street, is that "blogs are universally accessible and, as such, a blog may create bad publicity, bring an employer into disrepute or even place an employer in the legal firing line".
Indeed, an employer may well be liable for the act of an employee carried out in the course of their employment, even if it is done without the employer's knowledge or approval, he says. "S