If I had to pick a CEO (chairman, Top Dog, whatever) whose personality is a perfect fit with blogging, I’d choose Ted Leonsis. Former vice chairman of AOL (now chairman of Revolution Money), Ted, 51, started blogging in January 2006.
He’s been consistently prolific ever since, usually blogging several times a day in a conversational style and in short Twitter-like bursts. I’ve heard him speak in public (he’s Washington D.C.-based) and he’s warm, engaging and unpretentious. He has the same voice on his blog, Ted’s Take.
Ted’s in the category of celebrity businessman (he’s an almost-billionaire, a philanthropist, a professional sports team owner, a film producer) whose blog brings him down to an approachable, genuinely-nice-guy level.
It also gives him a platform to promote – in a low-key fashion – whatever he’s currently most involved in. He does it with a nice, easy touch. No controversy here.
What’s high on his agenda right now? The release of Nanking, the first movie he produced, on Dec. 12, 2007. The Washington Caps, his ice hockey team, doing well so far this season. Voting for Mark Cuban on Mark’s quest to win Dancing With the Stars.
He has cleverly aggregated online info about himself in the left-hand column, including Why am I doing a blog, Google me, Wikipedia bio and Technorati search. I love his 101 Things (to accomplish) list – it’s about 80 percent complete.
Take it away Ted…
Ten Questions for a CEO Blogger
1. Why are you blogging? I’ve read that you wanted to control your Google search results and that’s why you started.
Answer: I state very clearly on my blog why I wanted to self express and join the blogosphere. The page rank and Google rankings was just an outgrowth of being a good netizen – and caring so much about my blog.
2. How much time do you spend weekly on your blog and when/where/how do you write (i.e. blackberry, laptop, longhand, dictate)?
Answer: I blog two to three times per day – from my PC – and my laptop; from home, from office and from the road. I blog directly without any company or PR department intervention; what you see is what you get. If a blog isn’t authentic and real; if it is corporate speak – it will be not be respected and read.
3. What has been your most difficult moment as a CEO blogger?
Answer: I have had no difficulties with my blog. For every 99 positive or smart comments, there is one cuss word or angry person. But that is a small price to pay; keyboard courage by consumers is something you should not fear.
4. Why don’t more CEOs blog? Lack of time? Fear? Inability to write well?
Answer: Lack of appreciation of the power of listening to consumers; fear of being put out there in the blogosphere and (third) a lack of prioritization of activities. Blogging takes time and commitment and something has to be eliminated out of your schedule to do it.
I have insisted on conducting fewer meetings with formal Powerpoint decks; it has been very liberating. Powerpoint decks steal time and are mostly inwardly directed. Blogging is outward expression.
[Ed note: Go Ted! 10 extra points for stripping PPT out of your communications strategy.]
5. What is the measurable ROI for your blog?
Answer: You should not blog for ROI reasons. Blogging is a personal journey – a way to communicate to your constituents. It is an honor to be able to reach out to folks in a real time manner; this platform is for personal expression – not for sales.
6. How important are Comments left by readers? Do you measure the success of an entry by number of Comments?
Answer: Comments are part of the interaction but I don’t blog to generate comments. If I get comments – good. I do look at uniques – and pageviews consumed. And is it growing in levels of interest; that is a fairer barometer of your success.
[Ed Note: Ted wrote in a separate email that the most traffic he’s gotten to his blog on a single day was 40,000 unique visitors. It was a post he wrote about AOL’s AIM.]
7. Jonathan Schwartz has said that blogging will become mandatory for CEOs and senior execs, just as email has. Do you agree with that?
Answer: Yes – digitize or die – find consumers and employees to touch them in a way that they control; and where they are. Blogging is like oxygen – get used to it :-).
Ted Leonsis on why blogging will become mandatory
“Digitize or die… blogging is like oxygen – get used to it.”
8. Does a CEO need to use Twitter or Facebook or any of the other social networking platforms?
Answer: I am on Facebook. I now have 564 friends. I find it a nice way to keep in touch with people; but email and IM and phone and face-to-face are still more utilitarian ways for me to keep in touch with close friends and family.
[Ed note: Ted and I exchanged several messages through Facebook to wrap up this email interview. He seems like a very active user.]
9. Is an open corporate culture a prerequisite for a CEO to blog?
I don’t know – I am not fearful. Ted’s Take is NOT a corporate blog; it is all mine. I write it. I do whatever I want on it. It isn’t approved by anyone. It is what it is. Why would anyone be afraid of the truth? Why wouldn’t you want to hear from people?
You just need to make sure that the people that comment aren’t on a fringe. In some posts perhaps 5K (five thousand) to 10K people will read it – and I will get ten comments. Is that a representation of the audience at large? That is for you to decide as a reader of the comments.
Former AOL vice chair Ted Leonsis on ghostblogging:
“Do it yourself; don’t be handled. Don’t have someone write it for you; you can’t fake it.”
10. What are your top three tips for writing a really successful CEO blog?
1. Do it yourself; don’t be handled. Don’t have someone write it for you; you can’t fake it.
2. Write from the heart and share what you know. Is the blog a representation of your true self? If not, don’t do it. It needs to be “warts and all”. Who cares if a post is not well received? I usually say, “OK, then go and blog daily. Put yourself out there – dazzle me.”
3.Blog for the right reasons: self expression – sharing knowledge – having fun; creating a forum of exchange of ideas with friends, customers and the public. Don’t do it as a business requirement or if you have thin skin.The positives far outweigh the negatives; go for it.
Make dust or eat dust.
[Ed note: Thanks for a great interview, Ted. Boy, you were fast. I sent you these questions at 7:30 AM this past Saturday. You replied in a stream of 10 emails before 12 noon.]
Washington Examiner Power Profile of Ted Leonsis (Oct. 8, 2007)