Web Strategy: The many Challenges of Writing a CEO blog

So often do I meet clients that instantly want to check off the “CEO Blog” inventory for their marketing mix, little do they realize that the CEO blog may be the most difficult to create an maintain, and will likely be under the most scrutiny of any other employee. I’ve met and worked with many Fortune 5000 companies on the topic of social media, and think it’s time to release this list of reasons why CEO blogs are so difficult.

I know many CEOs that blog, and I hope they chime in and perhaps share what they’ve done to overcome these challenges.

The Many Challenges of Writing a CEO blog:
While not every CEO blog will be afflicted with the following, here are of the common diseases I’ve seen.

Time
Probally the biggest challenges that all CEOs have are the limited amount of cycles they can spend on communicating. As we know blogs are conversational tools, they are not press releases or memos, they often require dialog, reading responses, even if you don’t have comments enabled. Blogs that don’t abide by rules simply become irrelevant.

Legal Scrutiny
John Schwartz, CEO blogger of Sun has his legal team read and watch his blog, he often is recommended to add safe-harbor provision, boilerplate statements to prevent from lawsuits. With increased legal eagle monitoring and the potential of saying something that could backfire, the CEO blogger has to be very careful in what they say, and may not be able to give strong opinion.

Not Authentic
Large companies (and some small ones) are afraid to make mistakes, I’ve heard of a few cases where the CEO blog was started by the CEO then handed over to the communications group to write. Although these things are absolutely traceable and timing can be watched, we’ve got to wonder what’s the point of maintaining this blog, perhaps the team should pour the efforts into another tool.

Abandonment

Clare Hart was Factiva’s former CEO and active blogger. She reached out to me when I talked about her product (I was a customer) and has since moved on to a bigger position at Dow Jones. Sadly, her blog is now a ghostly figure, I’ve been up close for this too as there are Hitachi blogs that have been left unattended too.

See, I’m cool too
Far too often, I hear tacticians (not strategists) suggest they want a tool without realizing the business reason to use it, it’s possible they saw this list of CEO blogs, saw a competitor doing it, or just decided to jump on the bandwagon. Coupled with the need for image freshening; for some CEOs, they may want to shed the yacht club reputation and have realized a great way to tap into the latest trend is to join the conversations of customers. Deploying these tools to join the ‘cool’ revolution is never a great idea, people see through it way too quickly.

The Party Line/Rogue Blogger
This has to be one of the worst diseases of CEO blogs, when you see a CEO announce his own product, shout out the marketing line, in an attempt to boost the latest release. While we love enthusiasm for one’s passion, when it comes from the chief, deep down, we filter out some of the hype. On the flip side, a rogue CEO blogger who speaks his mind and shares his beliefs that the corporation may not agree with could potentially damage deals and client relationships, a true PR nightmare.

Should be doing other things?
Shareholders and disgruntled employees may not understand the benefits of communication tools and may be asking themselves and others; “Shouldn’t the CEO be doing something else besides blogging? Like running the company?” While the strategic CEO blogger incorporates these tools for internal and shareholder communications, when things go south, criticism will go up.

Long term commitment
Many bloggers, CEO or not, fail to realize there is only one exit strategy from blogging, and that is you stop. Unless the return on investment is clear, if blogging becomes a task and not a passion, the dreariness will also cascade into the writing.

Boring
Last and worst, many CEO blogs are carefully written, sometimes reviewed, edited or polished, thus removing the humanness that we know. Often, CEOs are media trained not to say things that will be used against them in public or private. The world, as I know it, is not polished, but rough, bumpy, and I’m ok with that. Often, the job of Corporate Communications is to remove any jagged edges, thus removing the humanity of a natural human blog.


Keeping it Real

Please don’t think I’m down on blogging, in fact, I’m one of the biggest advocates of joining the conversation. I really want you to think about the ramifications of CEO blogs before you start, this post is intended to help you. If you’re wanting to think about other tools, I’ve often though video is great for executives.

Talk Back

If you’re still inclined, be sure to respond to me from your own blog or in the comments on 1) the benefits of CEO blogs and 2) how to overcome these challenges.

For more info on business blogs, read Shel Israel Co-author of Naked Conversations, Debbie Weil author of Corporate Blogging, and the Business Blogging Summit. Alternatively, I give advice to clients, my contact info is public.

Update: Seth gives a few requirements for CEO blogs.