Full disclosure: Edelman PR is sponsoring the China Blogging Tour, my upcoming trip to Beijing and Shanghai to mark the publication in Mandarin Chinese of my book, The Corporate Blogging Book.

Taking a page from Guy Kawasaki’s Top 10 approach, here’s a ten question Q & A with Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, on the topic of CEO blogging.

Richard has been blogging continuously for three years, since September 2004. He posts a new entry – typically 750 words – once every week to 10 days. He writes about issues both public and private, usually blending the two. For example, observations from his business travels to the Middle East, the global village, what he’s talking about in public speeches (his father and Mike Deaver) and his mother’s struggle with manic depression.

Ten Questions for a CEO Blogger

1. Why did you start blogging?

Answer: I started blogging because I wanted to set an example for clients on how social media can be an important communications channel to discuss insights and to connect with all types of people. If you do not do as you say, you lose all credibility.

2. How much time do you spend weekly on your blog and do you write at 6 A.M.?

Answer:  I spend about 45 minutes each week on my posts. I do wake up early. Some days the muse is with me at that hour, other days I do better later. One thing I never do is write late at night because I pass out around 10:30 PM or latest 11 PM.

3. What has been your most difficult moment as a CEO blogger?

Answer: When I discussed the New York Times article about the Pentagon delivering “storyboards” to a PR firm in Washington, D.C. in order to prompt placement of articles in Iraqi media. I called the practice “utterly unacceptable behavior,” and I was suddenly on every conservative’s radar.

4. Why don’t more CEOs blog? Lack of time? Fear? Inability to write well?

Answer: CEOs are scared off by legal counsel, by concerns about misstatements
alienating stakeholders and by lack of time. Mike Critelli, now
chairman of Pitney Bowes, has joined the blogging ranks so don’t

5. Is there a measurable ROI for your blog?

Answer: My ROI is number of people reading each week (around 9,000), the chat
value around the Edelman firm and the speaking engagements that have
come as a result of my blog, including Forrester in mid-October.

6. How important are Comments left by readers?

Answer: Comments matter to me because it is my reader feedback. I also get to be part of a bigger conversation. On my recent post on prostate cancer, I found a guy who has just been saved by a PSA test, so in fact this comment becomes a public service.

[Ed note: scroll down to the comment left by Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications. Mark writes that after a similar “routine” test, his biopsy results were positive and that he has just undergone a radical prostectomy. He urges other readers of Richard’s blog to get a PSA test at 50 or earlier.]

7. As we enter the age of Engagement and Transparency, will blogging become mandatory for CEOs?

Answer: No. Blogging isn’t for everyone. But some form of consistent communication to employees and customers will be, because CEOs will benefit from the feedback as well as the uncontrolled dialogue that occurs when they engage audiences directly.

8. Does a CEO need to use Twitter or Facebook or any of the other social networking platforms?

Answer: However a CEO feels most comfortable. Just as long as he or she jumps into the pool; choice of stroke matters less. I do not use Twitter.

9. Is an open corporate culture a prerequisite for a CEO to blog?  Conversely, does an engaging blog written by a frank, thoughtful CEO create an open culture?

Answer: I don’t think an engaging blog by a smart CEO is sufficient to create an open corporate culture. You have to do so many other things, including regular town halls, creating programs that allow one to give back to society, push diversity and insist on qualitative not just quantitative performance measures.

10. What are your top three tips for writing a really successful CEO blog?

Answer: Tell personal stories, convey serious expertise and be frank about what you see.

Useful Links

Richard Edelman’s 6 A.M. blog

Loic Le Meur’s video interview with Richard

Shel Israel’s interview with Richard

Social Media Index by Edelman’s David Brain

Link from Edelman Asia Pacific chief Alan VanderMolen’s blog