Is it time for CEOs to take up blogging?
Old-school thinking demotes blogs to the domain of college students and frustrated authors battling writers block. This is the world where one's dogs, cats and recent piercings are all prominently posted.
New-school thinking elevates blogging to a much different sphere of influence. We already know that journalists consult Google and Romesko more than primary sources. Many reporters are themselves bloggers, using their blogs to report unedited news and create ties with other bloggers who may become future information sources.
Blogging also has a place in the corporation and is actually good for business. Consider the following:
- In light of Enron and other fiascos of the past few years, "transparency" is a pervasive buzzword. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, enacted in 2002, sets new rules for corporate financial disclosure. Among these requirements is the responsibility of an organization to quickly disclose events that are likely to have a material impact on company financial performance. The corporate blog is a quick way to announce such events. (For more information, see Gartner's Sarbanes-Oxley blog).
- A good blog tells more of the organization's story than the traditional media. An even better blog is read by the media as background information for articles or reports.
- Good brands truly reflect the day-to-day operations of an organization. A blog provides a daily (or weekly, if more doable) report of a company's activities. It's an opportunity to demonstrate how the brand is regularly "lived out" by the organization's leaders.
- Internal audiences also want to hear from the top brass. In some organizations, the only instances when employees hear from their chiefs are during the holidays (the cheery "here's your gift certificate for a turkey" note) and when cutbacks are looming (the dreaded "these are challenging times" letter). A blog lets employees know what's happening in their organization and helps manage messaging, sometimes usurping the all-powerful grapevine.
- The investment is minimal. CFOs should be thrilled at the relatively nominal expense of starting up a hot marketing project.
Ready to consider a corporate blog? A few tips:
- Get an authentic person to author your blog. If you're a public relations professional, I know you're itching to ghostwrite—it's in your blood. But a blog should come from the real deal—the CEO, a respected researcher, the product developer. Yes, you can always offer ideas and feedback, so don't fret about job security.
- Keep writing. A blog is not a one-time thing; it's a commitment. Your blogging CEO or other influential person in the company must understand that he or she must keep writing, through thick and thin (including when negative feedback is slung their way).
- Write like a human being. There is no room for corporate-speak in a blog. So, ditch the paradigms, quests for excellence and even, yes, "commitment to transparency."
- Spark new ideas or comment on others' insights. Blogs address a community of forward thinkers. Be brave and posit new ideas. Or, if you're not as daring, comment on the latest concepts being discussed in your field. Talk about an article in a journal, a conference attended or even a comment received on your blog.
Still nervous about blogging? Consider some of the big boys and girls currently in the blog pool:
- Microsoft. A company known for secrecy, Microsoft has truly seen the light and now has hundreds of internal bloggers to its credit. The blogs primarily focus on the company's technologies and are usually targeted at software developers. Readers can also provide comment.
- Google. Public relations professionals who worry that they won't be penning the CEO's messages now that blogging has arrived can take heart. David Krane, Google's head of corporate public relations, has a blog called Kraneland.
- Edelman Public Relations. Here's an example of a CEO offering truly thoughtful entries on his personal blog. Edelman, who heads the eponymous global public relations agency, posts his observations on travels to India, his family history and even a musing on how Lincoln's Gettysburg Address provides today's marketer with lessons on branding and leadership.
Want to get your company blogging? In upcoming columns, I'll discuss more on how to convince senior management to start blogging, as well as some case studies on companies that dared to blog... and succeeded. In the meantime, you can direct your CEO to what seems a somewhat influential blog—the CEO Bloggers' Club. Apparently, corporate blogging is not just THE thing to do—it merits its own exclusive club!