Earlier this year the Globe & Mail published an article entitled, “They blog, therefore they are…better CEOs“. The story referenced senior executives of large organizations such as General Motors, Sun Microsystems and Pitney Bowes that have embraced blogging.
Are those CEOs who blog on the right track or are they asking for trouble? Why have senior executives been slow to jump on the blogging bandwagon? Here’s my Coles Notes summary of pros and cons on whether or not your CEO should blog from the Globe article originally published on Mar. 15, 2008.
- Direct communication with your marketplace is the biggest upside. Blogging is about connecting with people who care about your company’s products and services. It’s about having a two-way conversation with them and it tends to have a lot of authority coming from the CEO.
- A corporate blog can be a great way to collect business intelligence, ideas and input from customers, employees, suppliers and other interested stakeholders.
- When the company critics come knocking, blogs offer a forum for leaders to fire back or offer up their own version of events. It’s a way to tell your corporate story the way you want in an unfiltered way to communicate your message.
- It can be a way for a new CEO to acquaint with new staff, reach out to them, and show them who s/he is, which may help lead the company.
- The more people who know your CEO better, the more potential influence he or she can have because your audiences (customers, suppliers, etc) know your executive in ways they normally wouldn’t without the blog.
- It’s an opportunity to share wisdom on topics outside of the core business you are in. For example, one CEO’s postings focus almost entirely (80%) on work-related topics like time management and efficiency; the remaining 20% focus on business. Who says you have to blog about your company all the time? You can blog about topics of mutual interest.
- Blogging can help elevate your brand and give the company more credibility as a leader. If you want your company to be seen as a leader, its leader must be seen that way too.
- The start-up cost to create and manage a blog is low, making it an appealing alternative to more expensive marketing options. A blog can also be quietly shut-town in mere seconds if your blog fizzles.
- It can pay off in marketing spades. For example, it can generate interview requests from major media that would have otherwise would not have contacted your organization had it not have been for your senior exec’s online presence.
- You receive comments real-time from people who use your products and care enough to let you know what they think.
- A CEO may spill sensitive or confidential information. “Lawyers don’t like it. A public company can’t write about material information before it’s been officially released…There are things you have to be more careful about.”
- It can be a huge commitment. If you want traction and want it read, you have to post regularly, which takes time.
- Blogging may not be a good idea if your CEO has a boring, lackluster personality, and lacks a gift for writing and communicating. You have to be a good writer and write in an interesting and engaging way.
- On the other hand, one CEO said, “If you write a couple of interesting posts, it raises the bar and there’s a burden to perform.”
- It requires a thick skin. Blogging isn’t a one-way street so CEOs have to be prepared for negative feedback.
- There is a question of whether the CEO is the right person to be blogging. “The intelligence you get from the middle…the people who are actually doing the building, the engaging, the selling, that’s where you get the really interesting content. Generally speaking, it doesn’t really come from the CEO, it comes from the other people in the organization.”
*One final note of interest: It has been estimated by online sources that only 54% of Fortune 500 companies have corporate blogs; of that number, we don’t know which ones are actually penned by CEOs.