Many of us who are principal investigators of academic research laboratories operate essentially as CEOs of our little empires. Therefore, I throw out to the Terra Sig readership a very interesting Sunday morning story entitled, “Bloggin’ Bosses”, by Frank Nelson of the Raleigh News & Observer.
Of course, true CEO bloggers have to contend with somewhat bigger issues and must always use their real names:
Angry customers swarmed Burt’s Bees in November as soon as the all-natural cosmetics maker announced plans to sell itself.
Critics consider the buyer, bleach maker Clorox, to be far from environmentally friendly.
So Burt’s Bees CEO John Replogle knew he needed to defend his Morrisville company’s decision. He wanted to reach out to skeptics, read their fears and respond directly and conversationally to their objections.
He decided to blog.
“We need to meet people where they are, and where they are is online,” he said.
Of course, others remain with their heads in the sand for the wrong reasons:
“Most of my stakeholders tend to be local or institutional shareholders,” said Grant Yarber, CEO of Raleigh-based Capital Bank. “I don’t think that’s how they want to communicate.
“I’m a face-to-face person, and failing that I’ll talk on the telephone,” Yarber said. “That way people can hear the inflection in my voice and understand what I’m trying to say.”
Hmmm. I’d think that people who put money into your bank who aren’t shareholders per se might be interested in what’s on your mind.
Nelson notes that about 10 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs blog. What are the barriers for the other 90 percent? Nelson says:
One challenge is that not all CEOs are interesting or effective writers. So not all executive blogs are created equal. And executives who can engage stakeholders in gainful conversation must sometimes wrangle with legal and PR departments to get a message out unadulterated.
Ah yes, legal and PR – those folks charged with making sure you file six layers of paperwork just to visit the restroom. But if one uses the power of being CEO to do what one would like, here’s some good advice:
[D]one right, blogs project openness and transparency in an age of mistrust. That can encourage readers to share substantive feedback, said Debbie Weil, a corporate blogging and social media consultant in Washington.
For an executive blog to succeed, it must come straight from the horse’s mouth, not a corporate PR machine. Further, it must include critical feedback from readers. Otherwise it’s just more propaganda, said Weil, who wrote “The Corporate Blogging Book” (Penguin Portfolio, $17.96).
The N&O also had Weil post some blogging tips for CEOs on this sidebar.
However, some companies still don’t get it:
Some companies go so far as to filter reader feedback that has embarrassing or critical remarks.
That can seem like sanitizing, and it’s also disingenuous and defeats the purpose of starting a dialogue, said Tim Flood, a professor of management communication at UNC-Chapel Hill.
“The blog is a counterculture vibe that gives executives a chance to be regular people. It personalizes and humanizes the corporation,” Flood said. . .
. . .”You don’t want the perception of information control, because that flies in the face of the blogging mentality,” Flood said.
The rest of the article gives a few examples of the positive and negative outcomes of corporate blogging and has nice examples of CEOs blogs and their content, so it makes for a good read.
As a sidebar, Nelson provides a nice, concise description which bloggers can give to friends and family when asked, “What is this thing you call a ‘blog’?”:
A blog, short for Web log, is an online journal that is frequently updated and usually intended for general public consumption. Some corporate blogs are aimed at a specific audience, such as employees.
Blogs are defined by their format: a series of entries posted to a single page in reverse-chronological order. Blogs generally represent the personality of the author or reflect the purpose of the Web site that hosts the blog. Posts sometimes include philosophical musings, commentary on timely issues and links to other sites the author favors, especially those that support a point being made in a post.
The author of a blog is often referred to as a blogger.
And this blogger thanks Mr Nelson for some very nice reading early on a Sunday morning.