CEO Blog: Should CEOs Stick to Internal Blogging?

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Forgive me…for I have sinned…I haven’t blogged for quite some time but given my recent journey, I’m going to ask for forgiveness and hope that this blog post makes up for it.  In my last post, I covered the first part of the CEO blog: Good for the Executive Brand and Thought Leadership with Guy Kawasaki, where he outlined some interesting points around this topic and whether CEO generated blogs truly garnered value versus the time and effort a CEO has to dedicate to his/her blog.  When asked the question whether CEOs should have an external blog, Kawasaki said, “It’s hard to provide a definitive answer to this because there are several key factors at play. First, is the company publicly traded? If it is, then the CEO must be very careful to limit the information in the blog—so much so, that the blog may be rendered boring. Second, can the CEO write well? If not, is she or he willing to use a ghost writer? Third, does the CEO truly have something significant to say? This is a ‘duhism,’ but not enough CEOs as themselves this question.” 

 

In a world where social media is revolutionizing the way we communicate, connect, and collaboate, more people are begging the question: “Should CEOs blog?”  Better question would be: “Can your CEO blog well?” It’s definitely an untapped opportunity for CEOs to get in on the action if their passion and time permit.  As Del Jones (@jonesdel) puts it in one of his interviews in USA Today, it’s about risk and readability. Further, it’s about the transparency of the blog. With that said, is it more beneficial for CEOs to stick to internal blogging for the sake of enhancing communications with their internal audience – the employees?  This question takes me to my second installment of the CEO blog series and why CEOs should stick to internal blogging.

I took this question to my colleague and good friend  Chris Hewitt who used to run his own marketing firm. He is also the author of his personal blog called What Does Marketing Really Do?  He’s makes a good argument as to why CEOs are better off having an internal blog to reach their employees and boost communications with their constituents. Read below:

Do you think CEOs should or shouldn’t blog and why?

Absolutely. I believe that CEOs should most definitely share their voice through blogs.  However, where to blog is the real question for me; I believe that CEOs should strictly create internal blogs for employees of their companies and not blog for the general public.  

While I understand that a CEO is the public face of an organization, I believe that there are plenty of other outlets for CEOs to meet those demands.  If a CEO is going to blog, that valuable time is better spent on topics that can motivate, inform, and organize the members within their organization.

How important is it for CEOs to blog? 
Continuing with my concept on internal blogging, I believe that it is critical for a CEO to embrace blogging as one of the developing concepts for communicating with their people.  

A CEO could use blogging as a method for supporting and encouraging dialogue with the members of their organization.  The asynchronous communication vehicle allows employees to read and respond to the CEO and vice versa…regardless of work schedule, time zone, or geography. 

Additionally, it is important for the CEO to share their thoughts…not simply rely on the talents of a ghostwriter.  Whether it is a video, audio, or written blog, the experience has to be honest and authentic – transparent straight from the CEO’s mouth.

Should you get other senior management to blog? Why or why not? 

Senior management should follow the spirit of internal blogging that is presented by the CEO.  Additionally, the roles of senior managers may demand externally blogging to reach targeted audiences.  Leverage this group to reach outside the company and reserve the blogging of the CEO as exclusive content for employees.

Do you think blogging by a CEO has a positive or negative impact to their overall brand? 

Based on my ‘internal’ blogging concept, I would say that CEO blogging has tremendous value with the ability to influence and affect the value of an organization’s brand.  Discussing core organizational and strategic concepts through a CEO blog – and encouraging open dialogue around those concepts can enforce brand positioning.  As employees (and their interactions outside of the company) are a powerful reflection on a brand, a CEO blog can directly affect that outcome through engagement and dialogue.

What other ways can it benefit the Company and it’s overall business objective?

Many internal communications are structured ‘releases’ thoughtfully created by teams of people. A CEO blog can create a meaningful dialogue among all people within the organization, especially large enterprises where employees can be many levels-removed from the CEO.  A personal voice to a message and an invitation for feedback could positively affect employee satisfaction and motivation.

Top 5 dos and don’ts for senior management and CEOs when it comes to blogging?

Do 

  • Authentically share insight and information 
  • Encourage and support feedback 
  • Respond and participate in the dialogue on an ongoing basis 
  • Invest the time in thoughtfully reflecting on blog topics (especially difficult or sensitive topics) 
  • Continually return value through content; take responsibility for developing readership (spend some time with your blog analytics)

Don’t

  • Assume you know what subjects are the most relevant; ask for ideas on blog concepts 
  • Overly ‘market’ the message 
  • Let someone else be your voice 
  • Feel the need to make every presentation formal 
  • Ignore your organizational culture; know your audience

Can bad blogging kill your brand? Any examples?

I definitely think that bad blogging can damage, if not kill, a brand.  Written communication, because of the general thoughtfulness and preparation, can be so powerful…especially when drawing out emotive responses.  The following are some examples of conceptual mistakes that can result in a ‘bad’ external blog:

  • Is not consistent with the brand positioning, customer approach, or messaging.
  • Ignores the needs, motivations, interests, or concerns of customers.
  • Introduces an important or potentially divisive topics without thoughtfulness or context.
  • Abuses trust, loyalty, or commitment of customers and readers.

Although not technically a blog, we can learn a lot from the recent controversy surrounding John Mackey’s (CEO of Wholefoods) comments regarding healthcare reform.  Regardless of your opinion on the subject, John’s comments were strong enough, on a highly volatile topic, to powerfully divide an audience.  Coupled with John’s influence as CEO of Wholefoods, the message collaterally affected customers, employees, and the business…forcing a burden that can affect those relationships.

Which CEO blogger do you admire most and why?

From an external blog perspective, I really like the authentic and consistently relevant writings of Jason Fried (founder of 37Signals – Web-based software).  As a small business entrepreneur, Jason is close to his business, his customers, and the evolving trends in the Web 2.0 marketplace.  The innovative approach he uses to drive his business is shared with readers; creating dialog and discussion from value-added content.  

In closing, here are my final thoughts – regardless of whether your CEO blogs internally or externally, it’s no small feat. Doing it well and blogging on a consistent basis can take great amount of time and effort. If properly executed, a CEO corporate blog can wield tremendous value to the brand and thought leadership. The question is, what’s the right platform for the CEO and what’s the overall objective.  To round things off, having a CEO internal blog can be a powerful tool for any company when it comes to bridging and building strong employee communication – especially when most people are, as Chris puts it, “many levels removed from the CEO” but the key to maintaining a successful blog is doing it well, being authentic, and being consistent…some of the key ingredients to a corporate blog.  Look for my next installment of the CEO Blog Series on whether CEOs should stick to other simple tools such as Twitter.

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Comments

  1. This is a question that will never lose its validity, as CEO’s (and the anxious PR and comms folk behind them) weigh the risk vs returns. Chris is spot on. The ‘where’ is the key. It also has to come naturally. Forget CEOs for a moment. Senior management folk who don’t spend time expressing themselves to people across the org chart may not be suited for this exercise in transparency. (A quick look at their emails will tell you!)

    But, there are ways around this, as I have found out. If the end-goal of a CEO blog is to humanize the person, then you could get the person to chat with someone and record the session –as a video or podcast. The latter comes more naturally, as CEOs are often great at loosening up in front of a mic.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more. I believe one of the most powerful leadership skills is good communication skills…not only to their direct team but across the organization and externally. While the concept of blogging for senior management and CEOs is a great way to humanize the brand and elevate thought leadership, I think it’s also a great exercise in building their communication skills and understanding the power of the platform to do so. Whether it’s internal or external, I believe every executives should know how important it is to exercise that on an ongoing basis. Thanks for the great comment. Appreciate it.

  2. Talking the Walk.

    Every day that passes CEOs are expected to get better at talking their walk. In fact, whether its a blog or Titter, or email, or podcasts, these new technologies are what employees are using in their everyday lives . . . often at work, too.

    CEO blogs seem to be very popular once they are started. Even some of the most boring stuff becomes important because the boss “talks” about it. But most of all, blogs are a way for the CEO to get the same messages out to many people with great accuracy and consistency.

    Especially after a series of public appearances that are face to face, we encouage CEOs to blog about what they said, learned, and heard. It tends to establish the record of these events and heps everyone to learn the lessons the boss did from participating.

    If the boss does a news interview, for example, we recommend that the interview be audio recorded and the recording and the trascript be put on the web . . . yes a public web site. Then, if further comment is needed, the boss can blog about it.

    As always, one of the main reasons for reaching out is to generate feedbck and questions. All CEO blogs sould have a moderated comment sytem to gather reactions, which can also be blogged about.

  3. As far as internal vs public blogging, I think both should be considered on the same level. If the person is not adept at talking to the public, s/he is probably not good at blogging for internal folks either.

    Whether to blog publicly or not depends on the CEO. Some companies have had great success with CEOs doing the blogging and tweeting. Consumers love that personal touch! It gets headlines.

    Having an editor, blog manager, or blogging coach help out is a good idea. Let the CEO do the thinking and drafting and let someone else do the polishing and promoting of the blog, so the CEO can move on to other things. (I do blog coaching and editing so I can answer more questions if you like.)

    • Hi Val,
      I think a lot of people would agree with you. If time permits, I think it’s a win win situation for any senior level executive or CEO to do to benefit the company as well as the industry by leveraging both. I appreciate the comment. Thanks again. On that note, I would say it’s up to us professionals who understand to covey the value to those we work with, especially those high up.

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