Why CEOs should blog

I’m going to do something I don’t usually do, and that’s disagree with my friend and fellow meshconference.com organizer Rob Hyndman on the subject of whether CEOs should blog or not — sparked by the New York Times article on the subject. Rob says that he doesn’t see how a CEO could possibly have the time to blog, since most of them are fanatically busy, and that he “doesn’t get” claims that CEOs or political candidates should blog.

I can totally see the point that many CEOs are extremely busy trying to run their companies or put out fires of various kinds, or simply trying to understand the various forces acting on their businesses from day to day — and Mark Evans, in a comment on Rob’s post, also makes a good point when he says that CEOs have to be aware of Sarbanes-Oxley and other legislation that ties their hands when it comes to disclosure. All that said, however, I still believe that there is a place for a blogging CEO.

Obviously, not every CEO is going to be Mark Cuban, nor is every one going to be Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz or Edelman head Richard Edelman. And I don’t think anyone would expect a busy CEO, or political candidate for that matter, to blog religiously or obsessively. But I think the direct conduit that a blog — even a sporadically updated one — offers between a CEO and his customers or clients, or even his own employees, is a very valuable thing. Surely a few minutes here or there could be found by just about any CEO to try and keep that conduit alive.

18 thoughts on “Why CEOs should blog

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  5. After a CEO discovers what blogging means, then he will surely find 15 minutes/day to do that. It’s one of the most powerful PR tool I’ve ever tried.
    Luca, CEO – Abbeynet

  6. Still disagree, Mathew. As to your points, clearly it takes more than than “a few minutes here and there”. If it’s going to be done credibly, it’s going to take time.

    And saying it’s a valuable thing doesn’t make it so. Why is it valuable? CEOs have people to do these things for them. If CEOs want to know what people are saying, they can read what others bring to them, after passing it through filters to ensure the CEO’s time isn’t wasted. And if the CEO wants corporate messages to get out, there are many ways to do that, short of blogging. Companies already do that well.

    I haven’t seen one credible argument as to why CEOs should blog – most of the rah-rah writing is from people who’ve already drunk the blogging Kool-Aid saying “Come on in, the water’s fine”, of from consultants who want to sell their services ….

  7. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree about this one, Rob. I agree it takes time, but I think in many cases (not all) it would be time well spent. You are right that CEOs have other methods to get their views out, but speaking as a business journalist (and in some ways the media may be part of the problem) I think none of those other ways are as direct or as immediate, and therefore they are inherently less credible.

  8. I’m with Mathew on this one. Even a once a week update on a CEO blog is fine. It isn’t about becoming an uber-blogger it’s about engaging in conversation. I know that Bob Lutz has other people read and reply to comments (I also know he leaves comments sometimes as well).

    For a CEO having the ability to just post via e-mail would deal with the time issue. The issue isn’t drinking the Kool-Aid, it’s seeing the changing face of corporate communications. Sure, it’s early days, but CEOs need to get used to having a more public face.

    I bet that when today’s crop of bloggers become CEOs (we know some will), the CEO blog will just be an accepted part of a company’s public persona.

  9. hi Mathew,

    I could not agree more.

    At the end of the day the CEO has a busy job because consumers buy the product(s) the CEO is selling. If the users are not interested in buying the product(s) then the CEO has no job. Similarly a politician has a job because the people voted for him. Again if the people do not vote for the politician he would be out of job as well. It is the people that vote with their wallets or ballets and some people would appreciate an open communication forum where they can interact and discuss with those in charge.

    Thank you,

    Lina Papasotiriou

  10. Hi, Mathew. Given the fact I may be the one with the most experience on point here through Agoracom, I can definitively state that blogging/direct communications by CEO’s is invaluable.

    Why?

    Investors are savvy people and they know when they’re being fed a canned message. For the most part, they’re OK with that because they understand that a CEO needs to spend mos of their time selling widgets and creating shareholder value. However, nothing builds long-term loyalty better than direct communications from a CEO that genuinely wants to build a long-term relationship with shareholders. That can only be accomplished when he/she walks out from behind the desk, rolls up the sleeves and shares real moments with them. In a world of firewalls and Chinese walls, investors are hungry for it.

    Trust me, investors know the difference and appreciate it. It truly pays dividends during the tough times when a CEO requires and requests faith in his command, which shareholders will provide thanks to credit built over time.

    In response to the issue about time requirements, it is true that a blog takes a great deal of time but shareholder expectations can be managed by letting them know there will be times when business prorities prevent regular posting. Even 1 post every 2 weeks will more than suffice, while anything more frequent will simply be a bonus.

    We’ve built a pretty robust business out of providing the investment community with direct access to executives of micro-cap companies, so I hope my input has helped shed some valuable light on the topic.

    Best,
    George

  11. Hi Mathew, I agree that most people even CEO’s can and should find the time to blog and if they do it well it most probably will benefit many people, but isn’t it also about how inclined to writing someone is? I believe that it’s not given to everyone to be able to be a good blogger and/or coming up with something worthwhile reading. How many people reading your articles will agree with you and yet themselves not have a blog or not be proud of it…

    Regards,

    Michael

  12. Thanks for the comment, George. Those are good points. And Michael, I agree that blogging is something you have to feel comfortable with and interested in, whether you’re a CEO or a politician or just a regular person — not necessarily that you have to be a great writer, but you have to have a desire to do it. There’s nothing worse than a canned blog that you know the CEO or politician wasn’t really interested in doing.

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  14. I agree with your idea that “direct conduit” is a valuable thing that should be encouraged more in the C-Suites. However, I personally don’t expect to see a big surge on CEO blogging trend any time soon.

    I think the biggest dilemma, at least for me as a chief executive and representative of a business is not the lack of time (one can always find the time to do anything that one deems WORTHWHILE to himself), but the fact that a CEO’s uncanny, casual whispers on a blog can be like thunderclaps in cyberspace, especially given the scope and influence of the internet medium. I find this to be true especially for publicly tradesd corporations.

    Thus, we pay tens of thousands of dollars to PR firms, erect Marketing subdivisions and assistants vice presidents to write carefully crafted communications.

    One thing never changes. Secrecy is the soul of business.

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