A Royall Juggle

Weekly #2: A Clear View from the Top

Posted on: September 29, 2010

If a CEO asked for my advice about starting a blog, I’d first…

1) Applaud

And start off the conversation by saying “Congratulations, you have already taken the first step by expressing your willingness to join the conversation!” Yes, I know it sounds a little like the opening line at a weight watchers meeting, but it’s true. Many CEOs think they are “too important” and have hired “a team of experts” to bring them the information they need to make the best management decisions. Lord forbid they reach out to their market directly or get into the weeds of the business!

A CEO that wants to start a blog is saying, “I have something important to contribute to the conversation and am ready to participate.” This is worth a pat on the back.

2) Start Grilling

Once you give them a high five, it’s time to start asking questions. The first one is the most obvious, but many times the one we forget:

  • What is your interpretation of a blog? Vision for your blog? It’s always best to NOT assume your definition of a blog is the same as the CEOs. Even Scott Rosenberg, an expert on the history of blogging and author of Say Everything, had a difficult time nailing down a definition, from “an unedited voice of a person” to simply “a reverse-chronological list.” Before enrolling in this Social Media class, I thought the comments box (as seen on the majority of blogs these days) was part of what defined a blog. Now I know better; a renowned political blog, Instapundit, has never allowed comments (although that trend is becoming rare). Regardless, it’s always best to start off on the same wavelength.

Other questions to consider in your initial conversations:

  • What is your motivation for starting a blog? Purpose? Then close your eyes and pray the CEO doesn’t say “to make more money.” Yes, that is always a positive outcome of any new initiative, but it should not be the primary motivation for starting a blog.
  • Are you going to be the one writing the blog? Participation level? All too often, CEOs and others at the top assume they will have a ghostwriter and all they’ll have to do is sign off on a piece of paper. This is all well and good in traditional media formats such as press releases and even opinion editorials, but the market will catch on if the CEO’s human voice is not portrayed in a blog and will stop reading. They crave the internal and honest thoughts of people, especially credentialed experts. According to the 2010 Edelman Trust Barometer, in a volatile year, informed publics value guidance from credentialed experts over a “person like me,” AND trust in a CEO as a company spokesperson increased by 9% since 2009. If the CEO only wants a minimal participation level, you could suggest that he or she goes the route of participating as a guest writer in an established industry blog instead of starting their own.

3) Some Words to the Wise

  • Set expectations upfront – Be open and honest with your first blog post and let your market know what they can expect from you (i.e. weekly insights into our business priorities, strategies and what’s driving them) and also what you expect from them (i.e. feedback on the strategies that can help craft future plans).
  • Don’t use the blog as just another PR or sales push – There are plenty other channels from where that came from, and this is not one of them. A blog is your opportunity to truly engage your market and win their trust. But remember, trust is fragile and must be handled with care.
  • Let your personality shine – Even though the blog may be for business purposes, the line between business and personal is blurring. Your market has a life outside of the office too and they would enjoy seeing a glimpse into yours every now and then. Don’t cross the line, but don’t be afraid to crack a joke or incorporate a story about life outside the office or life before you were the CEO – it makes you seem more human.

4) Assemble Your Troops

It’s important for a CEO’s blog to depict their own voice, but let’s face it; they ARE pretty busy and important people. I’d suggest that the CEO assemble a blog force – a group of individuals that can work together to implement, moderate and even contribute to the conversation. This group can consist of other executives in the business, board members and/or front-line employees. Before you start a blog, it’s always important to make sure you have resources armed and ready to support it.

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