Your company might have a blog - and you might not even know. The question is, what are you going to do about it?According to Michael O'Connor Clarke, VP of Thornley Fallis Communications - a blog-smart public relations firm - many businesses are at least tangentially connected to a blog, and probably several, perhaps written by employees who might post about hobbies or even the employer.Companies have a choice: seek and destroy any unauthorized external communication re: confidential business matters as per section four (subsection 3a) of the corporate information-dissemination policy...or embrace online diaries as a kind of stepping stone into Web 2.0, said Clarke. He noted that companies will have to deal with Web 2.0 at some point regardless. You can probably guess which option he advocates.Speaking at the IT360 technology conference in Toronto yesterday, Clarke outlined "MAIL", his company's plan to help businesses benefit from Web 2.0 technologies, beginning with blogs. MAIL stands for "monitor, assess, interact and lead."Monitor: Search out blogs belonging to partners and competitors. What are they doing in this realm?Assess: What are bloggers writing about the industry or the firm?Interact: Post comments on blogs that discuss the sector or the company.Lead: Launch a blog - but keep it inside the firewall to start. "Make your mistakes among friends," Clarke cautioned.He pointed out that many businesses build blogs into corporate communication strategies. General Motors Corp. publishes one, and Sun Microsystems Inc. CEO Jonathan Schwartz has received kudos for his candid diary.Not all blogs are successful. McDonald's corporate responsibility blog was supposed to show the world that the fast-food chain is environmentally friendly. But when the restaurant offered toy SUVs with Happy Meals, people accused it of hypocrisy. And when people tried to post comments on the blog, the negative missives went unpublished. It was a weekend, Clarke explained. McDonald's blog editors weren't at the office. By the following Monday, complaints that McDonalds refused to post negative comments had spidered across the Web - a mistake that turned into a massive public relations headache.Still, others have had better results. One company witnessed revenue increases after publishing a blog, Clarke said. The business figures the blog helped spread the word about its services.In the words of one of Clarke's colleagues, "blog" should be an acronym for "Better Listing On Google." Blogs often best traditional websites in the search engine's rankings.That's why many company executives are asking IT departments about blogs. But they and other Web 2.0 technologies might be more than corporate horn blowers: they might also be changing the communication landscape. Don Tapscott, head of IT think-tank New Paradigm, told the IT360 audience that blogs, wikis, social networking sites such as MySpace, as well as the underpinning Web services architecture that ties these applications together, create a new economic platform where "context" - not "content" - is king. Collaboration is the next generation's language of choice, and they'll insist on speaking it in the office, just as they used it on their home computers, video game systems and cellphones when they were teenagers.Clarke said companies should prepare by investigating blogging server software such as Six Apart Ltd.'s Movable Type and WordPress. Companies should also study Web tagging platforms such as del.icio.us and Connectbeam Inc., blog search systems such as Technorati Inc. and Google Blog Search, wiki platforms such as from Socialtext and MediaWiki, and RSS systems such as the NewsGator Enterprise Server.Before beginning any blog project, enlist C-suite approval, Clarke said. He's seen blog endeavours crushed in the eleventh hour when unsuspecting executives get wind of them.If executives instigate the blog discussion, technology managers should have an important line of questions ready: Why publish a blog? What purpose will it serve? It's no use publishing a blog without reason. "Don't do it if there's no point to it," Clarke said.