Thursday, January 27, 2005

Corporate blogs: the rise of the CEO blogger

It seems that there is some peer pressure to join the CEO bloggers club going on among our captain of industries. The senior executives of Jupiter Media, Sun or HP have all taken to blogging and the trend is moving to other industry sectors.

Last month, General Motors became the first large scale, non-technology company to get senior executives blogging, thanks to Vice Chairman Bob Lutz and other GM corporate management. See FastLane

Last week, Randy Baseler, VP of Marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, has started Randy's Blog. His latest post, commenting on the launch of the A380 ends up with an open question: how do you want to fly?

Unfortunately, this is a question that will be left unanswered, as there are no options to post any comments on his blog. There are no links to outside sources either.

Monologues (or monoblogs?) are a common trait amongst corporate blogs as PR departments face a real dilemma when senior execs decide to open their own communication line.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

First, there is so much limitation as to what the highest custodian of a public limited company’s interests can write on, both from a legal and competitive point of view that CEO blogs make for some rather dull reading. They tend to turn into another version of the monthly motivational email or echo corporate brochures.

If you don’t invite comments, people will think that you are afraid to hear what your stakeholders really think and many will accuse you of mistaking a blog with a letter to your shareholders. If you invite readers’ comments, you could fall into a minefield and spend too much time defending your positions to inquisitive bloggers. Some could accuse you of devoting too much time away from the business. If you get someone else to write your blog, sooner or later someone will find out, it will leak to the media and it will backfire.

Finally if you don’t blog, or at least announce that you plan to, you will be unfavourably compared to your more technology conversant and customer centric competitors.

To blog or not to blog?

Blogs offer up-to-the minute opinionated comments and information. Do it only if you have a genuine motivation, can commit the time and if you can fit within a blog format and tone. A CEO is a company’s ultimate salesman and there are plenty of interesting topics to comment on such as products innovations or where you see your industry heading to. In that respect, both GM and Boeing are doing a good job.
The press and industry analysts will be among the keenest readers, which mean that your blog will be one of the first points of contact in time of crisis. This is where you can use blogs’ personal feel and speed of publishing to your advantage.

As to inviting comments, one option is to warn your readers that for obvious reasons, you cannot reply to every enquiries and comments. Unless you have the resources, the stamina and it is done in close collaboration with your communication department, readers postings on a CEO blog are not essential. But I would recommend leaving a communication channel open and clearly state how these comments or queries are handled if not by you.

You are now one step closer to the CEO bloggers club.

No comments: