The trend of blogging CEOs and other high level executives has been taken up with such fervour that an international CEO Bloggers’ Club has been started especially for such corporate bloggers. And a comprehensive list of weblogs authored by CEOs is certainly not short on names or continents.
In a sense, CEOs would seem to be naturals for blogging. They tend to have strong opinions about things - and should not be afraid of blogging them. There is immense value in the knowledge they have accumulated over years in business, and the value to readers of making that knowledge accessible shouldn’t be underestimated. As Sun Microsystems COO Jonathan Schwartz says:
There’s no fundamental difference between giving a keynote speech in Shanghai in front of 30,000 people and doing a blog read by several million people.
A CEO who blogs gives a human face and voice to their company, and can quash the perception that the voice of the company is in fact a fabrication made up of lawyers and spin doctors.
But it’s not just big companies who stand to benefit from a blogging CEO: Small-to-medium sized businesses can reap great rewards from blogging – it gives them greater visibility and levels the playing field with the big boys, allowing them to establish credibility and thought leadership.
Even when the blogger is a CEO, blogging still involves two-way communication: The blogger talks, and customers, industry peers or mere observers all have equal opportunity to talk back, either in comments fields, emails or their very own blogs. Organisations pay a lot of money to find out what people think of them so that they can shift more products or sell their services better. Eavesdropping on and engaging the blogosphere is a much more valuable way of approaching customer relationship management (CRM), and a CEO blog can be highly effective in finding out what the people who matter to your business actually think about you.
And if markets are conversations, then what’s the business case for using other peoples’ media to have your say, but not conversing via your own medium? Sun’s Schwartz gets this all too clearly, if the way he has used his blog to circumvent the traditional PR machine is anything to go on.
But the talk-back element of blogging and the network of blogs and blog readers is often an unexpected bonus to what some may originally have viewed as merely a way to broadcast messages. Thomas Nelson Publishers President and COO Michael S Hyatt told tBBC in an interview:
I got into blogging when I heard a couple of college kids talking about it. I simply Googled the word ‘blog,’ fell down the rabbit hole, and woke up in a whole new world: the blogosphere.
Groove Networks’ CEO Ray Ozzie echoes this, saying:
I feel as though there’s a conversation - many conversations - going on out there. It lets me feel like I’m part of that conversation, and when I get calls and e-mails, there’s confirmation that I’m part of the conversation.
As Hyatt and Ozzie clearly understand, yes, the software that drives blogs is revolutionary, but it’s how the network allows you to disseminate ideas and make connections with people that is truly mind-boggling. Five Across CEO Glenn Reid put it this way in an interview with tBBC:
My take-away is that you can’t predict or control the network effect…
Internal networks shouldn’t be ignored, though. A CEO who blogs in an authentic, human voice to employees is no less valuable than blogging for the consumption of customers and industry peers – especially if a company has a problem with a dissatisfied workforce.