CEO Blogging

30 Jul ’06

There’s a long piece in the NYT today on CEO blogging, generally commenting on the dearth of CEOs who blog: “All the Internet’s a Stage. Why Don’t C.E.O.’s Use It?” For my part, I’ve generally wondered why any CEO of a company of any real size would blog. I know this idea is anathema to blogging evangelicals, but with very few exceptions, the CEOs I know are fanatically busy, and live lives of utter dedication to the company. Except for rare occasions, they are “always on” – always working. I’ve never really understood why anyone who must make that kind of commitment to his or her work would take on the added responsibility of finding extra hours to keep a blog.

I made that point to Liberal leadership Michael Ignatieff in a blogger’s meet-up some weeks ago. Ignatieff was being asked whether he himself would blog (of the leadership campaigns his has been perhaps the most active in adopting web 2.0 technologies to reach the base) or leave that to campaign workers and others. My reaction was that, given the rigours of the campaign trail I simply couldn’t imagine a candidate finding time to ‘feed the beast’ – the voracious appetite of readers. And once started, blogging would consume increasingly more time – the more conversations that are started, the more there are to complete – and divert attention and resources from more deserving activities.

There simply isn’t enough of a CEO to go around, generally, and the task is usually to find out how to do less, not more. I still don’t get claims that CEOs should blog.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

George Tsiolis August 1, 2006 at 01:09

Rob, case in point (from NY Times article)

“In contrast, Mr. Schwartz has posted his thoughts, very much on the fly, five times a month for two years. Over time he has earned credibility by his willingness to put in public view his unfiltered ruminations on a regular basis.

That credibility was needed last week, when he sought to put a positive spin on Sun’s quarterly earnings, his first as chief executive….
After the earnings release, Mr. Schwartz itemized on his blog the many positive developments that he sees in the company’s business. Viewed alone, it would be easy for unhappy investors to dismiss. But read as the latest installment of candid self-evaluations of the company’s strategic initiatives and performance, Mr. Schwartz’s optimism exerts a tonic effect.”

1:Many Communications

The article also raises an advantage of blogging that we have been stating from day 1 through our web-based IR system. Specifically, the advantage and efficiency of 1:Many vs 1:1 communications.

Best,
George

Reply

George Tsiolis August 1, 2006 at 00:54

Hi, Rob. 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

Reply

Rob Hyndman July 31, 2006 at 06:17

As I recall, he didn’t really answer directly, except to say that time would be in short supply. I checked the campaign’s site, and he is attributed as author on some posts, but they are essentially press releases and what look like canned bits released on significant days (Canada Day, Jean-Baptiste Day, and such-like).

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Joseph Thornley July 30, 2006 at 22:54

Hi Rob,
Your post says that Michael Ignatieff was being asked a question about his own intentions re blogging. Did you catch his answer? If any political leader has the writing tools necessary to blog, it would be Ignetieff. How did he respond to the question?

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Mark Evans July 30, 2006 at 08:07

rob,
i’d also add that sarbannes-oxley is another huge blogging obstacle facing CEOs, who head publicly-traded companies. the idea that every comment has to be carefully processed and scrutinized by PR and IR folks and lawyers before it could even see the light of day on a blog is daunting. Even if a CEO is willing to oh-so-carefully navigate their way through these issues, there is only so much he/she can really discuss in an open and frank way (and there’s your point about time). At the end of the day, why bother?!

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