Senior manager blogs: reality check

August 3, 2011

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

Blogging ethics

Blogging ethics are based on three fundamental principles: authenticity, transparency and interactivity. Posts are not intended to be internal press releases carefully crafted by a corporate communication director. They are not intended to be one-way, top-down communication tools. They should be the “voice” of the blogger. Readers should be able to comment, ask questions and even respond to other readers’ comments. Ideally, the blogger gets involved in the discussion.

A blog that is truly the voice of the CEO or very senior person is a powerful communication tool. It may be the most direct, human contact employees have with the senior person, especially in very large organizations.

A question of priority

I’ve spoken with a number of enterprises that have senior manager blogs and asked them how it was going. About one third said it was tough going and several said the blogs had not lasted long. Sometimes it was a concern about how to handle negative comments, but mainly it was a question of time. The blog was not a priority for senior managers.

However, I did speak to one enterprise where the CEO has been blogging for over a year. He does his own posts and gets a lot of comments. The communication department (who is not directly involved in the blog itself) feels it has been good for employee engagement.

The blog fatigue factor

However, even when a blog starts well, it may be hard to keep up the momentum.  One intranet manager said: “None of our senior managers write their own posts or read and respond to comments. Then they wonder why the participation is low. Usually they don’t get past one or two blog posts before the novelty wears off.”

A few companies are experimenting with co-blogging. They hope it will solve the blog fatigue factor. They have rotating senior manager blog and encourage executives to take turns at blogging. In one case, the effort has been a great success, with some of the posts being among the most widely read articles on the company’s portal. However, it takes time to help the senior people develop their communication skills, which leads me to the topic of the 3rd post in this series: should senior managers be blogging at all?

 

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Comments

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Samuel Driessen

Nice series of posts, Jane! Curious to read the last one.

Good comments by Jonathan as well! I’d like to add: pay attention to the comments on blogposts as well. I know of managers who blog but never respond to comments. Blogging is about conversation! The conversation will stop if you don’t talk back. Just like in real-life…

Blog fatigue is an issue. One of the things that I advise new bloggers is to set up a list of posts that you would like to publish. If you can’t write down a list of 10-20 blog topics, don’t blog. Use microblogging instead. When the list does have 10-20 blog topics make sure you add topics to the list.

Jane McConnell

Agreed that a bad blog is worse than no blog.

I’ll be very eager to see your response to part 3 in this series that I’ll publish tomorrow where I raise the question of whether the CEO or CEO equivalent should even be blogging!

Thanks for your comments. Yes, why not re-post. I’ll come over and comment!

Jonathan @DigitalJonathan

(looks like I’ve written a blog in response to your blog! — I may copy this eventually and repost)

Jonathan @DigitalJonathan

Executive blogs have the potential to be a genuinely powerful communication vehicle, but in my experience from my own and countless other intranets, they seem to frequently miss the mark.

Observations from failing blogs

* Executive blogs tend to be ABOUT the execs, but rarely BY the execs resulting in a loss of important credibility. Readers need to believe that the words come from the purported author.

* Executive blogs tend to be an extension of other internal communication routines resulting in them covering somewhat similar materials to internal news briefs or worse, press releases.

* Executive blogs can read like a diary which is unsurprising given that’s often how they’re created. The result is that they often read like your children’s holiday report back (“on Monday I did…. On Tuesday I met with …”

Blogs like the ones above tend not to be read by the employees and so attract poor web stats. A good CEO will ask how many employees read their blog missives and could conclude from the stats that employees don’t want to read their blog and can be tempted to stop. It’s cyclical: A poor blog attracts fewer readers which means the writer is less inclined to write; frequency and quality drop.

Observations from successful blogs

* They’re honest. They sound like the executive, because they’re written by the executive. They have the mannerisms, spelling errors, tone and written accent of the exec in question. They have credibility for it; they’re believable and likeable.

* The blog content is distinct from other communication vehicle. It’s not a rehashed press release, nor is it a brief of a calendar. Discussions around what it’s like to be a CEO or some humanising stories work really well

* Sharing the blogging responsibility is good. It changes the voice, the materials, the tone. It creates variety for the readership and it reduces the burdon on any one exec

Finally, I lay this challenge down: Is a bad blog worse than not doing a blog at all? I think so. If your exec can’t blog well, have them comment on other employee blogs instead. How powerful!

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