Senior manager blogs: a paradox in the “now” era?

August 4, 2011

This is part 3 of a 3-part series on senior manager blogging inside the enterprise. Part 1 “Pseudo senior manager blogs“. Part 2: Senior manager blogs: reality check.

Out of synch?

So, is it really a question of time? Or is it a communication problem? The biggest paradox of a blog is that it is supposed to be the “voice” of the blogger, yet we are dealing with the written word.

In spite of the apparent informality of a blog, when you are CEO or a high level manager in an organization, it matters what you say and how you say it. People will pay close attention to the words used. Yet, blogs require a personal, spontaneous style in order to be credible to readers.

This kind of writing is not a natural skill for most people, especially senior managers. Senior managers are used to writing strategy papers, communicating with their peers in meetings and giving more or less formal presentations to staff. Most of their direct “output” has been invisible to most employees. Today, in the world of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, there’s an expectation for a new style of communication. One that is direct, informal and open.

Expectations in the “now” era

We are in the “now” era, regardless of which generation we belong to. CEOs and management teams need to adjust but it is not obvious how.

A social media manager told me that he is concerned about senior management in his organization because they are out of synch with new communication channels. It was not a big deal as long as corporate communication was handling their page on Facebook and their channels on Twitter and YouTube. The nervousness started when they set up similar tools inside their company. At that point, many senior managers were unable to “express themselves” on these channels.

A social media manager in another organization says their CEO is simply not comfortable blogging and prefers face-to-face communication. That’s all well and good, but in most companies today, face-to-face has its limits, both in terms of geography and reactivity.

Constraints in the “scrutiny” era

It will be interesting to see how things evolve as management teams become younger. At the same time scrutiny of what organizational leaders say and do is increasing. We know that email is considered to be evidence in legal issues. A senior manager’s blog posts would certainly fall in that category.

So we are in an era where people in positions of responsibility must weigh their words carefully when they “speak” – on paper, in email or anywhere else.  At the same time we expect them to communicate with with employees in a natural, spontaneous voice with messages that have not been carefully crafted by a speech writer.

Are we asking too much?

 

How are you going about resolving this apparent paradox in your organization? I’m sure there are some good stories out there. Can you share yours?

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Comments

Jane McConnell

James, not sure I understand what you mean by vacuum. Can you say a bit more?

James Dellow

Blogging in any context is a skill that can be learnt, with the right support and process. However, I’m not sure that ‘blogging’ internally is any more risky than any kind of internal (electronic) communication. Its more about the context; a CEO blogging into a internal communication vacuum creates risk because of that vacuum, not the blog.

Jane McConnell

Thanks Martin for these wise words and interesting example.
Don’t you agree however that the potential risk of liability created by a CEO with an unwise statement on his/her blog is much greater than that of a “normal” employee (if you will pardon the expression).
The very definition of the CEO job surely carries much more potential liability.

Martin White

Three excellent posts raising some very important issues. If I can tackle the legal evidence issue first, it is not an issue of who is blogging but what they are writing in the blog. Someone who has joined the company just a week ago has the same responsibilities as a senior manager. Always make the assumption that what you write might be considered evidence and ask yourself what your defence might be in court. Better to be safe than sorry.

As to senior managers blogging, I think that we expect them to be brilliant bloggers without any training. I know of a company (which has to be nameless) where the new CEO wanted to do a daily blog. They started out just blogging to the Board and then to a senior management group, and finally to a small group of employees. This process, over a period of around three months, enabled the CEO to find their voice, to realise that daily blogging was not sensible, and encouraged other senior managers to start blogging. They also made it very widely known that if they could not write their weekly blog post themselves then there would be no blog that week.