Blog, Boss

Randall Stross writes a rousing sales pitch for CEOs to blog in today’s Times:

C.E.O. blogging should no longer be viewed as extreme sport. Mr. Schwartz’s example shows that blogging fits quite naturally into the chief executive’s work week. In an exhortatory piece, “If You Want to Lead, Blog,” published in The Harvard Business Review last year, Mr. Schwartz predicted that “having a blog is not going to be a matter of choice, any more than having e-mail is today.”

“My No. 1 job is to be a communicator,” Mr. Schwartz told me last week. “I don’t understand how a C.E.O. would not blog if committed to open communication.”

Assuming that other chief executives are willing to make their thoughts just as visible as Mr. Schwartz’s, the blog provides a highly efficient medium of publication. Mr. Schwartz, for instance, simultaneously reaches shareholders, software developers and current and prospective customers. With posted responses, these groups easily reach him as well as one another. . . .

“They should come down from the mountain and communicate in their own words — without handlers,” Ms. [Debbie] Weil [author of “The Corporate Blogging Book,” which Portfolio Hardcover is to publish this week] said. “For what they’re paid, is that too much to ask?”

Who are the CEOs you think would most benefit from blogging?

  • It’s all PR, nothing more. Very few CEO/corporate blogs actauly give any information or talk about the future of the company.

    You wouldn’t wanna reveal secrets to the competitors, right?

    Blogging is teh new “hip” things, and corporations trying to show off that “Hey, look, we can too”.

  • I’d like to CEOs of some publishing houses in the UK blogging.

    Not necessarily for the communications benefits, but for the personal experience of seeing the power of networks first hand. They’d see how content and dialogue flows between nodes in the network – blogs and media websites – and how intricate and powerful the interplay of influences are.

    It would be educational for them, they really would learn something about how their industry is changing.

    The publishing bosses who would benefit from it most are those who have trade and specialist publications in their portfolios, as some of these are most ripe for the communities they supposedly serve to disntermediate their services.

    I wrote about this yesterday here: http://open.typepad.com/open/2006/07/guardian_takes_.html

  • Armin,

    PR is not interactive; blogging is. While blogging has a certain amount of PR to it, inviting the customer into the conversation is how to engage the customer and not just manage or sell the customer. It’s more experience and not just product.

    Jeff,

    Any CEO that doesn’t interact with customers today. Which, in the Fortune 1000, is pretty much all of them because of the size of each company and the diversity of strengths in its workforce. I agree with Schwarz that CEOs must be communicators, but isn’t a CEO’s first job to extend the life of the company and grow it? Communicating by blog might help that, but would all CEOs be good bloggers and help the company by blogging? If it’s a skill that they’re willing to learn and not just hand over to marketing, then the CEO should. But if they don’t do it well, they’ll only hurt the company.

  • Good points, Brett, but let’s forget blogging for a minute and turn the table on one of the points you made in your response to Armin: “PR is not interactive.” Do you really believe that???

  • Robert,

    What a great question… PR is not about customer relations directly, but about media relations. PR folks don’t aim to have townhalls with the consumer, but with journalists. They deal with intermediaries, so they are interactive that way, but not with consumers.

    A blog cuts out the middle-man. It’s direct to the consumer. No PR people, no journalists necessary. I hope that explains my point better.

  • The NYT article was a sales pitch indeed. It’s simply a PR promo placement for Debbie Weil’s new book, “The Corporate Blogging Book.”

    Okay, here’s a more realistic and exact review: Sometimes when a girl says “yes,” it is completely obvious she means “no.” Debbie’s “How To” ironically does more to say “If You’re Smart, Don’t!!” See http://www.strumpette.com/archives/156-When-a-Girl-Says-Yes,-But-Means-No.html .

    Now if you decide to buy this corporate-blog stuff or Debbie’s book, I might also suggest the “Flaming Swords Corporate Juggling Manual.” Other similar Amazon buyers have gotten the “How to Give Yourself a Lobotomy” handbook, and the “Beirut on 10 Bullets a Day” travel guide.

    – Amanda

  • Uh-oh: s/he/it is baaack.

  • Interesting question, Jeff. You seem to be asking, “OK who’s got the most to hide — and therefore would risk the most by having to reveal stuff in a a blog?” I think a more pertinent question is, what CEOs have interesting stuff to tell us and can write well and would be worth reading? I don’t have the answer to that (at least not an offhand answer).

    Randy Stross (the NYTimes columnist) and I spoke at length on the phone about CEO blogging. Very thoughtful guy – a fun interview. We debated back and forth on whether Bill Gates could/should blog. I say “no” in my book (I have a chapter called “Should the CEO blog?”). But I wrote that chapter before Gates announced he was stepping down to concentrate on his foundation. I think Gates could in fact blog about the foundation and what he wants to do with it, specific success stories, details of his trips to Africa, etc. Apparently he’s quite a good writer. And blogging on that topic would be unlikely to affect MSFT’s share price.

    Oh and it’s spelled A-MAN-DUH, get it?!

  • Brian O’Connell

    It’s hardly surprising that the Amanda pr collective is against disintermediation in this area. They’re not much different from liquor or auto retailers in this regard.

  • Debbie,

    Always the ad hominem… always. It’s so weak. Seems to be a particular trait among the PR blogging evangelists. It certainly doesn’t make a strong case for your book. Quite the opposite.

    Here, this is a depiction that isn’t a personal attack but does address you and the issue: http://www.strumpette.com/uploads/july06/snakeoil.jpg .

    Get it?!

    – Amanda

  • Amanda,

    Actually, the most delicious part of the piece was a PR blogging evangelist trumpet “one to many thousands” communications. So much for one-to-one.

  • ronbo

    I must have missed the part where CEOs learned how to write. I understand the value of transparency and interactivity, but a badly done blog doesn’t add value at all.

    Here’s an example from the CEO of a successful public relations/investor relations agency. Decide for yourself if he has anything useful to say on his blog.

    Footnote: I know this guy and he is very intelligent. I haven’t spoken to him about his blog, but perhaps he is simply taking the blog format for a test drive so he has a better idea what he is talking about when he recommends it to clients. I hope so.

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  • Personally I’m never sure about CEO’s blogging. Shouldn’t they be running the company or something!