Why are good executive blogs so rare? I’m also talking about senior manager blogs in the b2b space-most are weak at best and production is erratic.
It doesn’t take a business consultant to figure this out: The CEO doesn’t have time or the inclination to blog. They have other matters to deal with, like running the company. Senior managers are equally busy.
Many companies complicate matters by giving a little training and support, throwing up a blog and hoping/wishing/praying these folks will jump in and start posting. Who wants to anger the CEO, right?
You’re better off being honest about it and providing the right editorial support. That’s why I suggest an executive communications approach based on tried and true speechwriting processes.
I’ve worked on executive communications programs for companies like Sun Microsystems and Cisco and consulted on social media with enterprise companies the last five years. It’s obvious to me that we need to create a stronger framework for our corporate blogging programs for the senior level types, just like we do with other executive communications.
This is basically a publishing model, one with more personalized services than I suggested last week for your regular corporate bloggers. That means working with them every step, starting with the blog angle and research and through the final written post. You’re going to make it brainlessly easy on them to blog, and ultimately, put in their own voice.
(I’ll use the term “executive blogger” very loosely: I’m referring to vice-president level and up, plus other senior level managers who represent very high-level subject matter expertise. That might be a senior technologist or head of a major initiative).
This provides a systematic approach, direction and clarity. Once you approach blogging like you’re managing another speech, the mystique melts away-for the executive blogger and their team.
Here are my five steps to executive blogging-all are essential.
#1 Build a publishing framework: start with an editorial support program like I outlined last week.You must have a publishing framework, including an editorial calendar and regular meetings to keep the blog on track (minimum one post a week for starters). Otherwise you’re back to hoping and praying.
#2 Build a strong relationship with the exec team. Start by building a strong relationship, if needed, with communication managers, technical assistants and others who closely support the exec-the surrounding team. These can be your best allies. Oh, and don’t forget the administrative assistant–they’re often the ultimate gatekeeper. Ignore them at your own peril.
#3 Build the senior manager relationship: This is critical; developing a personal 1:1 relationship will make it immensely easier to get inside the executive blogger’s head. That means earning the trust of the senior manager through editorial counsel, active listening-and performing. The final product should be a well written blog that truly reflects their views, in their voice.
#4 Keep it simple. Pick clear, compelling, relevant topics. Don’t try to boil the ocean; find a clear angle and stick with it. Think like a speech writer and organize for clarity. You can even use the time-tested speech framework like:
a. Major theme/argument.
b. Key point #1, supporting material
c. Key point #2, supporting material
d. Key point #3, supporting material
And so on.
Also streamline the number of approvals to a select group, no more than two or three people if possible (note I said “if possible”). It’s hard to focus on a single key point when all the product or other people are jumping on with their own messages (”baggage”).
#5 Make it the blogger’s voice. Avoid trying to dominate the content; let it naturally flow from your discussions with them (this is why the relationship and regular meetings are critical). Steer them away from marketing speak or corporate talk as much as possible-this is the default line at many companies. And work with them to personalize the blog-what do they really think? Note how NetAppliance chairman Dave Hitz talks about buying his first Kindle reader device.
The trick is to balance the usual corporate cheerleading with the executive blogger’s real thoughts, ideas and interests–this is what draws in readers. Bill Marriott’s corporate blog does a decent job of this, mixing in personal observations, book reviews and promotional posts (such as feedback from Marriott forums). Most, however, default back to marketing speak-that’s where you come in to steer the ship back.
Last, keep in mind: You’re not really writing a speech and you’re not trying to cover every base, as you might with a letter to shareholders. You want to focus on a topical issue, make your key points and get out of there-blogs can be short and sweet (”…what I learned from that last customer visit…”) You’re also seeking feedback/comments (more on specific executive content later) That means putting up with the heat when the negative comments arrive-and they will. That’s part of what social media is about.
(note: this blog is being redesigned and currently can not accept comments. Email me any comments. I’m sorry for any inconvenience).