Pitfalls and Advice

By Jack Santos  |  Posted 2008-03-21 Print this article Print

Many senior IT and business leaders are taking to the blogosphere, but finding limited success. Here are a few tips and examples of what makes a great executive blog. 

Are there potential pitfalls to blogging by the CEO? Yes there are.  Take the case of Whole Foods CEO’s blog.  John Mackey’s blog ends with an entry in July of 2007; it was at that point that the government launched an investigation into Mr. Mackey’s other Internet activities in which he anonymously made comments about the company; as a result, his blog was also carefully scrutinized. To date no action has been taken. Mr. Mackey apologized to shareholders for his anonymous comments in other Internet media.

Finally, no discussion of executive blogs would be complete without mention of the blog of Bill Marriott, chairman and CEO of Marriott International. His blog entries are entertaining and on-point—focused on the Marriott brand and reputation. It significantly encourages brand loyalty—and it works.

The entries are dictated (audio file is available), then enhanced with pictures. There is not much that is provocative, and no real dialogue with responses—but there are plenty of responses, which are monitored and edited. Marriott’s approach works for the global hotel company, and should be considered by other retail/consumer companies that wish to establish and retain consumer loyalty. In this particular case, there is a direct tie to revenue, because blog readers are inclined to be higher value customers for Marriott than non-blog readers, per Marriott's in-house research.

If you are a senior executive that would like to stand out from among the crowd, engage your target constituency (whether customer or employee), and find effective ways to communicate company direction and philosophy, blogging is definitely an option worth considering.

Making a commitment to blogging requires rigor to ensure that regular, timely updates are made and that a process exists for reviewing and monitoring comments. You also have to be comfortable writing and reviewing your entries—or install a review process, while making sure that the thoughts and writing reflect your personality. The best blogs also allow for interaction with comments. Although this can be the dark side of blogging for an executive, the occasional attention paid to an exemplary response would earn many future benefits for you and your blog.

The nature of blogging makes it a perfect enhancement or replacement for internal company newsletters, or the convivial CEO newsletter that is the hallmark of many a company catalog or customer newsletter.

Some simple recommendations as a result of this review:
•    Write from the heart, on topics that interest you. It comes through.
•    Create entries on a regular, scheduled basis.
•    Promote your blog through other means—internally to staff, or externally via news releases or other Internet media. Use traditional (“Enterprise 0.0”) technologies (newsletters, customer letters) to promote the blog.
•    Engage your audience. Depending on time and interest, respond to exemplary comments if possible.
•    Most of all: keep it simple. Shakespeare wasn’t a CEO.

The effective executive will take advantage of blogs to communicate messages to appropriate audiences. When done well, the potential for success is enormous.

Jack Santos is CIO Executive Strategist with The Burton Group’s Executive Advisory Service, a Utah-based technology analysts firm, and a former CIO of several large enterprises.

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