“An old-fashioned manager sends a newsletter, a modern manager blogs”, I recently heard someone say.

Perhaps that goes for middle management, but to be honest I have not seen many successful internal executive blogs yet. Of course I have seen many enthusiastic attempts to start one, but I have also seen that they often died after a few months.
One executive that I have known started off fine, with very interesting subjects that nobody knew about and those posts received many responses, even if some were just “How interesting, thank you for sharing!” But the more standard posts about the quarterly earnings, or a “very inspiring visit to our R&D lab” generated less interest. The lack of response reduced his enthusiasm. So, when the publisher’s name changed into someone from internal communications, everybody knew the end was near.

I have also seen a couple of very nice blogs:

A project blog.
When we were optimizing our assortment, we did this in close cooperation with a large customer. Every week many documents with figures were produced and shared, and many presentations uploaded. It was quite hard to see the status or progress without crunching the numbers :-) .
Until the project manager started a blog and shared her experiences from the meetings with the customer. How their eyes lit up when they saw the new packaging; how they kept bringing in new employees to the meetings to learn about a constructive collaboration project, how they did not like one of our proposals, and why not, but kept being positive about it. Suddenly the other team members realized that they were not only optimizing the assortment but also innovating our relationship with this customer, which made the project so much more than just a set of dry numbers.

A VP’s blog.
Every Sunday (!) he wrote a long post, starting with the things he had done in the past week. It could have been a meeting with analysts or with external peers, or the introduction of a new company initiative. He always added background and reasons, which helped every reader to understand why the company did this. Very often, he provided extra information that was not given in regular communication messages. |
He always ended with some information about his family and about sports. And when he skipped a Sunday, he apologized beforehand or afterwards. His blog was a hit with many employees and as far as I know, he has been writing for several years now.

From both examples it was also clear that they liked writing, and were quite willing to spend the time to create a nice story and share their experiences.

This leads me to some possible reasons why your executives are not exactly standing in line to get their own blog:

  • Too busy. Those of you who blog will know it takes time to come up with a nice blog, to rewrite, find a catchy title, a suitable picture, and rewrite again. Your executives are busy people, and may have no time to sit down and write. Didn’t they hire a communications team to do their writing for them?
  • No writer. Your executive may not be a person of written text. He or she may not like having to think carefully about their words, creating a good structure, or checking typos. They may not want to run the risk of being exposed as a not-so-good writer, even if they know their employees would forgive any mistakes, as long as it shows that our executives are human.
  • No priority. My manager could write very well for purposes important to him or our team, but he could not be bothered to write a regular blog for all employees. (And that was a great opportunity for me! :-) )
  • Can not write. I do not mean that your executive can not read or write, but she or he might be dyslexic. It often happens that people start a company because it allows them to focus on the things they are best at: networking, negotiating, selling etc. while it allows them to leave the reading and writing to others. I do not think this will be the case in large organizations, but I know of smaller companies where this is true.

For those executives, an audio blog may be a good solution. I have known an executive who recorded a message with his Blackberry every week and had it posted to the intranet. They called it “John’s weekly podcast” which made them all feel very modern. It was quick, easy and his employees liked it.
Video blogging is another option that I have seen used, although this will take more effort.

With my limited experience of succesful internal executive bloggers, I would conclude these are two success factors:

  • You have to add something new to the mix
  • You must enjoy writing and sharing your thoughts

There are more success factors mentioned, as well as reasons for failure. And you can even learn from celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. :-)

But even if you are not an executive, you can start blogging and improve your career chances!

If you have any successful examples from your own experience or interesting articles, please share!

(Title inspired by the song “A good heart these days is hard to find” by Feargal Sharkey)

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