Business blogging: should CEOs maintain blog?

Should businesses blog? Should a CEO be blogging?

Natural questions that come in the minds of people in top rungs in big companies. Let us find answer to question-2 in this post, though it will also partly answer question-1. However, I have talked about the benefits of business blogging separately and would request you to visit that post in case you would like to discuss that. 

Someone who has not applied his/ her mind to the question why a CEO should blog will perhaps give a straight answer, 'NO'. And there would be many reasons for that, e.g.
  • Blogging is a sheer waste of time. The time you would spend on your blog can get you much better gains if you invest it in your business/ career.
  • People in higher positions cannot afford to indulge in gossiping or writing a diary or a low-level hobby such as blogging.
  • Blogging does not serve a business interest, not definitely in my area of work.
  • Blogging is for people who have too much time in hand and no productive work to do, maybe lifetime chairmen of large corporations.
  • Maintaining a blog is boring. You cannot sustain it.
  • My web and social media officer advises me not to be on the web except for promotion of the company and its products.
  • I have not seen many CEOs or Chairmen blogging. The few old guys who blog have lived their life and use the blog for sermonizing.
  • Blogging would hurt if I (a senior officer, not CEO) showcase my talent and ideas on the blog and the bosses don't like that. It has the potential to damage my career and reputation if accidentally something unwanted gets posted.
So, why indulge in something that gives no earth-shaking dividends and is a recipe for accidental disaster?

Well, if you applied the same amount of skepticism to many other things you do, including networking, hunting for the next job, socializing in after-office hours, making presentations and speeches, etc, you would find them even more risky. Since you are likely to get direct results due to such activities, the risks are worth taking. That's why you are not scared of them, right?

Let me show you that blogging is even more paying, some of it indirectly. Let me show how it acts as a multiplier of other actions that you take for career promotion, building a personal brand, creating a fan following, improving employee relationships and so on - formidable assets for senior managers, CEOs and thought leaders in general.

Let me begin with an article by Peter Aceto, ex-CEO of Tangerine Bank. He has made this beautiful observation about blogging by CEOs:
But perhaps we're asking the wrong thing—whether CEOs should "blog."
Instead, how about this question: As leaders, are we reluctant to see the value in transparency and embrace it?
If you're thinking this is about social media, you’re wrong: This is about finding a better way to lead, to govern, and to do business. It's about transparency.
I tossed this question around and got another remarkable argument about blogging by top managers:
Blog if your competition is not blogging. That will keep you ahead as a leader with content. Blog if your competition is already blogging. And do that right now.
As a senior functionary or thought leader who is not blogging yet, I would request you to please take a walk with me, slowly, step by step. And then decide whether blogging is worth it. 

leadership blog by top CEO, Bill Gates
Bill Gates blog: global leadership, social good

What type of blog should CEOs maintain?

I am talking here mainly about a professional blog, which can be part of the company portal or a stand-alone one (better). The blog can have a personal section or (if you already have a big following, e.g. you are Chairperson/ CEO of Facebook, Apple, Infosys or GE) you can sometimes share your personal experiences for others' benefit.

I am also talking about a personal blog not directly related to your company. It can be an extension of your thinking side, sharing side, human side.

CEO blog must be sophisticated and awe inspiring, is that right?

Not at all. A CEO blog - or a leadership blog by any other person - can be a free blog on Blogger or Wordpress (Amitabh Bachchan, 78, runs a blog on Tumblr, a platform reported to be more popular among juveniles. He writes a post daily on the blog!)

However, it is better is to have a standalone, 'self hosted' blog, not on Tumblr, Wordpress or Blogger. Maintaining a Blogger blog and mapping it to an independent URL costs just $10 a year; maintaining a Wordpress blog in the same way costs $25 a year or so. A self-hosted blog costs $30 a year onward. Active politicians who want to have a personal website with many sections need to open a self-hosted blog with a costlier plan, but others can manage with smaller blogs.

As far as its design and sophistication are concerned, the blog can indeed be very simple in structure, and much of its secondary data can be automated so that it does not need much maintenance.

Any type of blog can easily be integrated with social networking accounts such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

How frequently should a CEO/ leadership blog be updated?

Not too frequently. Once in a week might be good enough. Even lesser.

What type of posts suit a CEO blog (or a blog by senior functionaries)?

If you are the top guy, you should write posts with meat -  articles that people would refer, articles that give insight into the industry, posts that give direction to the future.

Your articles (called 'posts' in blogging parlance) should usually be on professional matters. Once in a while you can think of sharing a personal experience.

You could sometimes be announcing a new thinking or development within your company.

Your association with company's social activities could also be shared once in a few months.

If you are in the middle rung of the ladder, a personal blog would suit you quite well. Participate on the company's internal blogging platform/ internal social network/ intranet, if available. Write progressive articles and avoid sharing any information or thoughts that your bosses will not like.

If you already are a thought leader, sky is the limit for your blogging. Sometimes write on the society, national economy or such topic of wider appeal. But do not make the blog a loud-speaker or a place to sermonize. Rather, share ideas.

Why have own blog? Is internal blogging in the company not good enough?

Having one's own blog (whether on company's portal or separately) is much better than the routine, customary messages you broadcast to employees from the top. Even if you want to limit yourself to the company blog, have a special section for yourself and encourage other top functionaries also to blog on the portal. That is a good way to communicate on managerial and professional matters and/ or connect with employees.

Effectively done, CEO blogging with employees in focus can help develop a trustful and participative corporate culture. It can help reduce tensions, factionalism and mistrust if already there.

Remember that internal blogs have limitation in terms of what you write and who all read it. If you want to expand your horizon as a thought leader or a human with ideas worth sharing, stand-alone blog is the answer.

Does CEO blog make sense when I am already on so many places on the web?

I came across such questions while doing research for this blog post: My company website has a Chairman's section, and I have a social media team. My social media team sends me draft articles for special occasions, which get published. My messages are all over our company website. I write for the annual report and for souvenirs. Is that not enough?

Most CEOs seem to be satisfied with their official communication or that generated by their web/ social media/ PR teams on their behalf.

But why should your thoughts - beyond those compiled by a ghost-writer - remain un-shared? Why should you not provide thought leadership in your industry? Why should you not contribute your original thoughts to nation building? Why should you not throw your force behind positive social actions?

However, even as the top functionary, if you have decided that your online personality should remain limited to official communication, so be it. At least be informal and write the stuff yourself (or re-write the draft submitted to you) so that it shows your own thoughts and perspective.

Is a LinkedIn account not good enough for business networking?

LinkedIn is supposed to be the social network of choice for professionals, and LinkedIn itself now allows you to post articles. However, since a stand-alone blog is a much more valuable property, I propose that you write posts on your blog and post their extract on LinkedIn (or any other business communication network that you use), and then link the two.

There also are business blogging platforms, enterprise social networks and  industry forums that promote sharing of progressive ideas. You can think about being active on them. It always helps to treat the blog as the hub and disseminate thoughts from it to other social media entities.

Do CEOs actually blog?

Most top executives have some sort of online presence including those of Fortune 500 companies. However, very few of them maintain a blog. When they do, their blogs tend to be uni-directional and dull. Uni-directional in the sense that the top guy talks so that others listen and follow, and there is no conversation. Dull in that the talks do not inspire, they do not come from a thought leader... in most cases the boss's post looks like the Director's Report at GBM or a press release.

Yet, a good number of CEOs and senior functionaries maintain a blog, and their blog inspires. I give here a small list of top company executives and sundry thought leaders who maintain a good blog and post regularly:
  • Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, maintains a very resourceful blog, gatesnotes.
  • Matt Mullenweg, the founder and CEO of Automattic, the company that runs Wordpress, maintains a personal blog.
  • Kevin Roberts is the founder of Red Rose Consulting. His blog KR Connect is a free blog on Blogger!
  • Tom Glocer is ex-CEO, Thomson Reuters. He started blogging when he still was CEO of the world's largest news agency. His blog: Tom Glocer's Blog
  • George Colony's blog: an example of a CEO writing regular posts on the blog section of his company Forrester's portal: The Counterintuitive CEO.
  • Reid Hoffman, the co-founder of LinkedIn and now a Partner in Greylock, maintains a blog.
  • Richard Branson, head of Virgin group of companies, also writes a blog regularly on his company's portal.
  • Bill Mariott, Chairman of Mariott International, maintains a blog, Mariott on the Move.
  • Larry Gaynor is President and CEO of TNG Worldwide. His blog: The CEO's Blog
  • Matt Cutts, the head of Google's US Digital Service explains technical matters and developments relating to his company and else, in his blog, Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO. Though he blogs only once in a while, the entire SEO community looks forward to his next post.
  • Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway, very regularly posts on her personal blog.
  • Amitabh Bachan - voted as the actor of the century, he finds time to publish a post every day on his blog, Bachan Bol.
  • Dharmesh Shah, co-founder and CTO of HubSpot has a blog on startups and related matters, OnStartups.
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi used to have a thoughtful blog till he became PM. Now his blog is part of his portal: Narendramodi

blogging for business
Dharmesh Shah blog: serious industry talk

Advantages of CEO blogging: a sum up

There can be different scenarios, and one size does not fit all. The type of online presence you should have depends on company's and your personal expectations from such a presence. As the list above shows, even very busy CEOs can blog if they decide to, and their blogs can be quite insightful.

Again, your goal would decide whether you should write about personal thoughts and experiences or on company and industry matters. You might have sensed that there are advantages of both, in different ways. So, it is your call to choose one of them, or - if you have so much to share and can get time to compose posts - you can choose both!

The above discussion would give you a fair idea that blogging is useful in more ways than one, for the officer/ manager/ CEO as well as the organization he/ she is part of. Let me sum up the benefits that the top brass and his/ her organization gets by blogging:
  • If you are the top functionary, it gives your organization a face. You, the head, talking with the people your company wants to address makes a direct contact and high impact. Your explaining a difficult situation or preparing staff/ clients for a new development is much more genuine and carries much more weight than a press release, even a press conference.
  • Your blog becomes a great communication channel for you and your organization. And for you, it can remain so beyond your narrow official position.
  • Blog, inherently being a refreshing web entity, gets good search engine optimization (SEO), thus helping in web-discovery of your company.
  • Nothing beats a blog - not a Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter account, nor an occasional speech on the company website - in establishing you as a leader, an expert, a brand. Over a long period, the blog can multiply your potential as a thought leader in your field or in general. You can make your blog the fulcrum of your brand-building and integrate Twitter etc with it; that way, you leverage the best qualities of different media.
  • The blog acts as a repository of wisdom, as against information. If you can think beyond the topline and bottomline in the balance sheet, you would know the importance of such an invaluable resource.
  • Contrary to the general impression among professionals and senior officers about blogging, it has been found empirically that blogging can boost one's business and career in many ways. The space here is not enough to show the surveys and studies, or go into the arguments. I have given a full chapter on business blogging in The Manual of Blogging (Forgive me if it looks like promotion of the book, but the chapter is really relevant for those undecided about the importance of business blogging.)
  • Blogging, let me repeat, need not be a burden on your time and energy. It should be a natural extension of yourself. You can blog once in a while or everyday depending upon your busyness and your creative urge. If it is part of the company's blog, be regular. Never forget to acknowledge good suggestions and feedback; never take offense to criticism; yet, never allow people to take you for granted.

When you - the CEO or a senior officer - should NOT blog

Blogging is likely to be counter-productive:
  • If you think of the blog merely/ primarily as an instrument for PR or career progression.
  • If you would use the blog for one-way communication, i.e. use it as an additional channel to make speeches or send routine messages to employees.
  • If you do not have a commitment towards your company.
  • If you are not prepared to be authentic.
  • If you would depend upon others to write posts on your behalf.

Blogging best practices for businesses

Blogging needs patience. It needs self-discipline. It also needs, especially when it is CEO's or a senior officer's blog, restraint in sharing information and making commitments. It also needs that you shed a bit of your ego and sometimes share your defeats, pains, achievements and special moments of happiness - especially on personal blog.

Well, blogging also needs a bit of time and resources for sprucing it up. The second part - resources - is the least important. Your company will sure take care of it if the blog is on company portal. For personal blog, you can invest a few dollars a year on it, can't you?

a top CEO blog
Richard Branson blog: as bubbly as it can get, yet thoughtful

This article on Forbes has some good ideas on how to make posts that make an impact, so instead of copy pasting them, let me give a link to the original article: The 17 Rules of CEO Blogging

This is another good article, telling how CEOs should carry out blogging effectively, on OrbitMedia, telling how to blog as CEO.


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