People choose to blog for a variety of reasons, ranging from having a creative outlet to aiming for direct business and marketing objectives. A C-suite executive has business insights (hopefully) that many will find interesting, and if he or she can put those ideas into consistently engaging posts that educate, inform, and inspire readers, then it could lead to a successful blog.
Executive blogging can take one of two angles: either a personal opinion and branding blog or a company-specific blog. The former would be akin to Mark Cuban’s blog maverick in which the outspoken CEO rants on everything from innovation to social media, politics, and sports. The latter could be similar to George Colony of Forrest Research’s blog. Colony keeps his posts focused on CEOs and decisions-makers.
Personal blogs can also serve company marketing purposes. Look at Inc.com, which has guest bloggers from across the C-suite write on topics not always directly related to their business, but often on leadership, management, and company culture. The positive press of this media is a value to these companies by presenting their executive’s knowledge and passions to a wide audience.
The largest risk faced by an executive member blogging is that even if they post from a personal website and not the company blog, C-suite members are often identified by their professional title more than as an individual. This means what you say could be used against you by the press, competitors, or even the SEC, should you violate any regulations.
The other thing to remember is that a blog, particularly from a C-suite member, is a very tempting target for angry customers and political activists. Former Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn found out the dangers of blogging when he refuted a Forbes article in early 2012. Dunn’s post amassed hundreds of negative comments in the hours after posting, leading to even more negative press and more readers of the critical Forbes report. (Dunn’s post has since been removed.)
Here are some good tips for any CEO or executive leadership looking to blog:
Be candid but not overly critical. If a blog reads like a press release, you won’t gain an audience. At the same time, keeping a positive tone helps you sound like someone with answers and not just someone who points out faults. If critical of a market trend or decision, be sure to offer solutions.
Get an editor, but not a censor. Similar to the above point, you want to make sure your grammar and spelling is correct for obvious reasons. Be careful, however, about losing your humanness by having your posts go through rings of marketing revisions and rewrites.
Take risks, but don’t be careless. If you have an opinion, share it. Risk is a part of business, so it must be a part of your blog. But beware of getting into arguments in the comments section, and remember to always be polite, tactful, and level-headed.
Have a goal. Do you want to promote your company, do you want to speak to investors and media-types, or do you want to promote your business philosophy and new book? You need to focus your writing on an objective. Over time, when you see what posts generate views and discussions, you can adapt your strategy. See what works and continue to pursue it.