Executive blogs have the potential to be a genuinely powerful communication vehicle, but in our experience from countless intranets, they seem to frequently miss the mark. Here are a few observations which will help you improve the impact of blogging in your organisation. Thanks to @neil_jenkins for additional materials.
Observations from failing blogs
- Tend to be about the execs, but rarely by the execs resulting in a loss of important credibility. Readers need to believe that the words come from the purported author.
- Often an extension of other internal communication routines, resulting in them covering somewhat similar materials to internal news briefs or worse, press releases. Blogs are unique vehicles and should carry unique materials.
- They read like a diary (unsurprising given that’s often how they’re created). The result is that they often read like your children’s holiday report back (“on Monday I did…. On Tuesday I met with …”)
- They never ask for feedback from the employees. Lacking feedback loses one of the main contributors to a successful blog. A CEO’s blog is a virtual conversation with employees and we all know conversation is a two-way street.
Blogs like the ones above tend not to be read by the employees and so attract poor web stats. Further disconnecting the employees from the CEO and vice versa. A good CEO will ask how many employees read their blog missives and could conclude from the stats that employees don’t want to read their blog and can be tempted to stop. It’s cyclical: A poor blog attracts fewer readers which means the writer is less inclined to write; frequency and quality drop.
Observations from successful blogs
- They’re honest. They sound like the executive, because they’re written by the executive. They have the mannerisms, spelling errors, tone and written accent of the exec in question. They have credibility for it; they’re believable and likeable. Don’t be tempted to over-polish.
- The blog content is distinct from other communication vehicle. It’s not a rehashed press release, nor is it a brief of a calendar. Discussions around what it’s like to be a CEO or some humanising stories work really well.
- Sharing the blogging responsibility is good. It changes the voice, the materials, the tone. It creates variety for the readership and it reduces the burdon on any one exec.
- They focus on a specific topic or issue – either the blog series as a whole, or a particular post. Especially useful if you want to demonstrate thought leadership. Keep the individual post focused on one topic and don’t stray.
- They’re provocative, either by giving an opinion or asking open-ended questions to open a dialogue. Use your executive blogs to challenge employees, spark conversation and to test the mood.
- They respond to dialogue. It’s pretty engaging to know that your CEO has read what you have to say and has taken the time to respond to it. In short, s/he cares what you think. Responses should be prompt so that the conversation can flow.
- They’re not War and Peace. A couple of paragraphs is sometimes all you need. This also helps lessen the perceived burden of writing.
- They don’t publish to a standard timetable, they publish when there’s something to say. If you had a set routine — publishing every 2 weeks lets say — it can appear that your CEO is writing just for the sake of it. Throw away the timetable.
Finally, I lay this challenge down: Is a bad blog worse than not doing a blog at all? I think so. If your exec can’t blog well, have them comment on other employee blogs instead. Work within the limitations of your exec and encourage participation on the intranet. A CEO that is transparent and involved in conversations both in the boardroom and on the intranet can connect to employees more than any all employee briefing. How powerful!