Caution: this is a really long post. I prepared it originally for the iaoc blog where I’m hosting a discussion this week on CEO blogging. I may come back and add some stuff later. I know I haven’t covered every wrinkle. But in the spirit of instant publishing… oh, and chapter 5 in my new book is titled “Should the CEO Blog?”
Talk about opening a can of worms with the first two questions I threw out (you’ll see comments and the full discussion when you click through):
1. Is it OK to ghostwrite a CEO blog?
Suffice it say that there does *not* appear to be agreement on these two questions. The writer/copywriter types over on the iaoc blog generally weigh in on the side of, “Of course it’s OK to ghostblog; that’s what executive speechwriters do.” Those who are not writers, per se, but who work in a corporate environment (see comments here) disagree. If the CEO doesn’t write it, they say, then it ain’t a CEO blog.
I tend to agree with the later. But am willing to stake out a middle ground where the CEO gets editing help. How “heavy” that editing is gets stickier…
Question #3: What should the CEO blog about… or not?
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. What can’t CEOs and other senior execs blog about?
– proprietary company information (which could range from new products or strategies to competitive intelligence to unkind gossip about colleagues or employees)
– financial information (forward-looking statements, anything the SEC would frown on)
– anything he/she doesn’t want to reveal
The topic/style of a CEO’s blog seems to be driven by the CEO’s personality, writing ability, size of the company and nature of the business. Some of the best CEO bloggers, so far, run privately-held companies. Their approach seems to be I’ll write about whatever the hell I want to – it’s my company and my brand dammit.
Private Company CEO Bloggers
GoDaddy founder/CEO and blogger Bob Parsons is deliberately provocative. He likes to circumvent the media by telling his side of things (about GoDaddy’s rejected Superbowl ad, for example). Doesn’t mind being politically incorrect (see my interview with Bob shortly after he blogged about the use of torture in U.S. interrogation techniques).
And is happy to tell us about the newest Go Daddy Girl (“sexy, hot and blazing fast”). Clever blog title as (well sex always sells, right?) it attracts readers and Danica Patrick is in fact an Indy car racer .
He also writes about business. A recent entry is a long and detailed explanation of why Go Daddy withdrew its IPO filing.
As to whether Bob actually writes all this stuff himself, I have no idea. He told me he did (that was over a year ago). But his blog postings seem to have slowed down a lot since then. Anyway, his blog is fun to read, well written and he often gets hundreds of comments in response.
So there’s one side of the scale for a CEO blogger.
Also in this category is Alan Meckler, CEO of Jupitermedia and Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Both good writers, they post frequently and provocatively.
Zane Safrit, CEO of Conference Calls Unlimited, and one of my favorite CEO bloggers, probably also fits in this category. Zane isn’t outrageous but his postings are always thoughtful. He writes about a bunch of stuff that interests him from current events and health care policy to the challenges of running a small young company and things that make him laugh.
His blog has a new tagline which is spot on: Thoughts from running a small company in a rapidly changing industry.
Public Company CEO Bloggers
At the other end of the spectrum are public company CEO blogs. There are fewer of them. The worst is probably Whole Foods’ John Mackey. His last blog entry, as of this writing, is dated June 26, 2006.
The best, hands down, is Sun Microsystem’s Jonathan Schwartz (the first Fortune 500 CEO blogger). He’s a terrific writer with a light touch and seems to have an uncanny knack for taking really techie stuff and turning it into something meaningful for us non-geeks. From a recent entry:
As I mentioned, Thumper (sorry, the x4500) is built atop a 2 socket
Galaxy server, it leverages Solaris/ZFS (but doesn’t require it –
Thumper runs Microsoft SQL Server quite well, too), and has 24
terabytes of serial ATA disk inside. So it’s part server, part
application platform, and part storage product.”
But then he writes:
“Customers pay only one price, but in the pursuit of transparency, how should we categorize the revenue? – as server, storage or software product? It obviously contains all three. Going forward… The more we open up, the more you’ll see we’re built from common components and infrastructure – which complicates answering the question, “how much revenue do you generate from x, y, z.”
More later but please dive in and add your two cents (or more) on what CEOs should blog about – or not – and why.