A lot of companies see the value of blogs to communicate with customers, with partners, with investors, with the media and with the world at large. At BZ Media, Ted Bahr and I both have blogs — his is on Folio, and of course, this is mine.

The most famous IT company with an executive blog is Sun Microsystems, where Jonathan Schwartz writes regularly. It’s fair to say that he’s breaking new ground in this area.

According to a story in Workforce Management’s May 2008 issue, about 11 percent of Fortune 500 companies have corporate blogs. By contrast, that was about 4 percent at the end of 2005.

How are companies handling blogs? The name of Workforce Management’s article makes it plain: “Chief Blogging Officer Title Catching On With Corporations.

To quote from the story, it’s not about the title, it’s about what the blog says. And how it says it.

While the title of chief blogger is seductive, analysts and industry insiders said the title shouldn’t be the focus. What’s essential is the brand voice, whether it comes from one chief blogger (such as vice chairman Bob Lutz on General Motors’ FastLane Blog or CEO Jonathan Schwartz on Sun Microsystems’ Jonathan’s Blog) or a group working together, such as those on Southwest and Wal-Mart’s blogs.

No one is saying that a chief blogger or blog voice is right for all brands. Bloggers and analysts said companies that want to blog should identify a specific reason to do so, such as to humanize the company (like Microsoft), make the company more open (like Dell) or advance the fun-and-happy company image (like Southwest).

Transparency and open communications are good things. A customer-facing corporate blog can be wonderful, as long as it’s not just a way to distribute corporate speeches, canned marketing messages and press releases in a different format.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick