GASTBEITRAG: Happy fourth anniversary, Daimler-Blog

It is a great pleasure to be invited as a guest contributor to the 4th anniversary of the Daimler-Blog! Being acquainted with the Daimler-Blog, I feel connected with you all and today, from miles apart, I am taking part in your celebration and wish you the very best in your future endeavors.

I am a third year doctoral student in Communication at Purdue University in the United States. My field of study, Public Relations, as well as my research interest in corporate blogging led me to conduct a study about the Daimler-Blog. The initial results were presented this summer at the International PR conference BledCom in Slovenia and I am delighted to share some thoughts about this research process with you.

Happy AnniversaryWhy choosing a German corporate blog for an American study?

I chose Daimler for this study partly because I was interested in a powerful brand with a long-time tradition and an unshakable reputation. In addition, I was personally driven by the excitement of finding out how Daimler was perceived by its employees.

The aim of this project was to determine the ways in which the blog posts reflected and discussed Daimler’s core values among which innovation, sustainability, corporate social responsibility, safety, and diversity. Specifically, my goal was to analyze if the convergence between the way in which the company defined its values in its mission statement and the way the employees discussed about them. And if so, if I could find for which of the company’s values the convergence was greater.

Since previous studies on corporate blogging proved that online communication was similar to how employees communicated in offline environments, the Daimler-Blog was a great source for the study.  For the purpose of this analysis, 159 articles were selected from those posted over a period of a year, namely from March 2010 until March 2011.

As a theoretical framework, the study employed Erving Goffman’s theory of framing. The theory discusses the way in which we attribute meaning to our social experiences. Specifically, according to Goffman, whenever we attempt to understand a situation, event, or fact, we subconsciously make use of a context or a frame. The type of frame that we employ will determine the way in which we perceive the event. In this respect, the study made use of Goffman’s types of frames to determine the context from which Daimler’s employees perceived the values of the company.

Innovation, safety, and diversity are the key values

The results revealed that the greatest convergence occurred for the values of innovation, safety, and diversity. These findings show that both Daimler and its internal stakeholders, among which interns, employees, etc. communicated about their experience, that revolved around these values, in a similar way. Hence, they perceived their workplace, their goals, and expectations similarly. An interesting finding is that about 21% of the posts that discussed innovation and 25% of those that revolved around safety employed a frame that Goffman calls “cosmological interest.” This frame shows that we attribute a special almost supernatural meaning to a value. In other words, innovation and safety appeared to be giving the company an aura of unmatched performance and achievements.

Additionally, about 64% of the posts that dealt with innovation framed the value based on the expectations of the employees for the company to balance the new and the classic in the design of its vehicles.

Safety was found strongly correlated with innovation and the analysis brought to light the same uniqueness of the “cosmological interest” frame triggered by the company’s outstanding use of the technology.

The value of diversity, found in 21 of the posts under study was connected with corporate social responsibility and 33.3% of the articles revealed convergence with the company’s mission to embrace cultural differences. Additionally, the posts  showed that, in the employees’ views,  part of Daimler’s social responsibility was to promote the German language and culture overseas as well as to bring about positive changes in the political and economic milieus in which the company operates.

Daimler banks on transparency and dialogue

These are some of the most relevant results of the study conducted on the Daimler-Blog. The fact that the analysis led to the emergence of these frames is a proof of the transparency of the communication found online and of the ease with which the contributors share their experiences within the company.

In the age of the Web 2.0, when most corporations are still reticent to the use of blogs and fear the latter may reveal too much about their operations, the fact that Daimler has a public blog created by its employees shows the company’s commitment to engaging into dialogue with multifarious voices.

View the Daimler-Blog Study on Slideshare.

I very much enjoyed working on this project mostly because, apart from giving an insight into the company, the interaction on the Daimler-Blog seems to build an online community it was a pleasure to be part of. Jeder Tag dieser Analyse war wie ein Besuch bei Daimler vor Ort. Aus der Ferne, an meinem Tisch in der Bibliothek, mit meinem Laptop und einer Tasse Kaffee, bis spät in die Nacht…es war eine große Freude, Einblick in „den Daimler“ zu gewinnen! Vielen Dank für ein wundervolles Erlebnis. Happy Anniversary!