The CEO as Chief Blogger

If you were going to make a recommendation to your CEO about being a blogger, what would you recommend?

There is so much talk lately about how a learning function or human resource organization should use blogging. Questions abound, such as:

• What strategy should the learning and human resource department have regarding blogging?
• What guidelines should be in place pertaining to how your employees blog?
• Should the CEO have a blog? Should it focus externally or internally?

These are some interesting questions to ponder as more companies begin experimenting with social media to develop trust, improve communications and increase vehicles for employee development. But it seems some larger questions should be addressed, such as:

• Does your CEO know what a blog is?
• If your CEO has a blog, has it been
reviewed in the blogosphere?
• Do your top three competitors’ CEOs have blogs? If so, what are they blogging about?

To date, just 58 of the Fortune 500 companies have blogs. But in most cases, these are maintained by corporate communications departments rather than CEOs penning their own blogs.

But there are notable exceptions. Two CEOs come to mind who blog regularly. One is Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Sun Microsystems, who posts on a regular basis about his interactions with customers around the world. In fact, as I write this column, I’m also glancing at Schwartz’ latest post, “Transparency and Making Choices,” in which he writes about what makes him proud to work at Sun and how he communicates this to clients and customers around the globe.

Another model is Mark Cuban, owner of Dallas Mavericks and CEO of HDNet. He frequently posts long blogs on basketball, business, media and whatever other topic he happens to find interesting. Though Cuban often is brash and controversial in tone, he regularly offers truly interesting and insightful perspectives that suggest an active and informed mind.

As you continue to research which strategy to adopt and create a set of guidelines for company blogging, I recommend looking at research findings from Clearswift, a content security firm. The survey, conducted among 939 corporate decision makers on matters related to corporate blogging and wikis, highlighted the following:

• 20 percent don’t have a policy governing appropriate use of the Internet, including social media sites.
• 39 percent of IT and business decision makers consider social media to be relevant to today’s corporate environment, while 36 percent do not see social media as relevant to their businesses.
• 13 percent of organizations are not aware of social media and have no policy on it.

If you were going to make a recommendation to your CEO about being a blogger, what would you recommend? Here are three considerations to address:

1. Decide whether your CEO blog should focus internally or externally. Clark Kokich, CEO of Avenue A/RazorFish, an interactive marketing services firm, decided to launch an internally focused blog as a vehicle to create a common voice and share the culture and values among the company’s employees in multiple countries. In a recent interview, Clark was asked whether he enjoyed blogging. He said, “It’s a constant pressure to say something interesting and relevant to our 2,300 employees, but I see this as an increasingly important part of my job as CEO.”

2. Partner with corporate communications. As you develop a strategy, it should ideally combine the benefits of blogging as a communications tool with using blogging as a vehicle to share the corporate culture and values as demonstrated above by both Schwartz and Kokich.

3. Use the learning staff. Corporate learning and talent development personnel often are called upon to be the “pioneers” in using the latest social media as the company develops its strategic goals for social media use. In this case, you should have learning professionals work with the CEO to figure out the best ways to engage the audience.

Above all, it’s important that blogging serves your strategic goals while being consistent with your company’s standards for corporate security. If you have been through this process on developing a strategy for blogging, please send me a note, and I will incorporate this into my next column.