There is no template for executive blogs

A story in the Financial Times earlier this week (title: “Why executives should steer clear of the blogosphere” – paid sub needed to read it) took a critical look at a few blogs by senior company executives, and mentioned a senior HP exec with a blog that I hadn’t seen before.

The FT commented (some unflattering opinions; snippets from the article in quotes) on Randy’s Journal by Randy Baseler, VP of Marketing at Boeing Commercial Aircraft (“Randy is new to the blogosphere, and I’m afraid it shows. The point of blogs is that they are personal and fun to read; his is a tarted-up press release.”); Speak Up by Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman PR (“This entry bangs on and on. Alas, no one is listening” – comment on a recent post); and posts on the GM FastLane Blog by Bob Lutz, GM Vice Chairman (“And now, finally, the executive who does get blogging.”).

What grabbed my attention in particular, though, was the mention of Rich Marcello’s blog, by Rich Marcello, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Business Critical Servers, at Hewlett-Packard (“At least he has got the idea that a blog should contain personal reflections.”).

A quick jump over to the HP blogs portal lists Marcello’s and the blogs of two other senior HP executives – Dan Socci’s blog by Dan Socci, Vice President of HP Services, Technology Services Marketing; and Yale Tankus’ blog by Yale Tankus, Vice President of Partnerships & Alliances, Management Software Business.

These three exec blogs started quietly just recently (Marcello’s in January and the other two in February). Not much there in the way of volume of posts, but a lot there in the way of HP insight and opinion. Plus personal expression – this from Dan Socci’s first post on 14 February:

In my first blog I’ll comment on the concept of reinventing support services, how HP is contributing to that reinvention, and also share a few thoughts on how this relates to what you can learn when using snowshoes for the first time.

None of the HP blogs has commenting or trackbacks enabled, though, but all offer RSS feeds. All very much one-way communication, but it’s a start.

I have a different example of executive blogs – those by members of the executive board of SAP, the German enterprise software vendor. The SAP blogs portal (you have to be registered on the website as an SAP community member in order to access this) shows four executive board members – Shai Agassi, Léo Apotheker, Claus Heinrich, and Peter Zencke – with blogs.

These SAP blogs are more like discussion forums; you can comment but none has trackbacks nor RSS. If you want to keep up with new posts, your only options are to keep coming back to the website or sign up for alerts by email. Nevertheless, judging by the range of comments there, they may well be getting towards at least part of their stated goal: “These blogs are a platform that facilitate learning and the sharing of best practices. […] And they encourage you to submit comments so you and other members can share thoughts.”

What all these executive blogs have in common is their differences. Each reflects its company’s personality, so ‘behaves’ differently in terms of content, how it’s presented and what you can do (inter-relate) with it.

At this point, I’d cautiously say that I don’t think that really matters. I could argue that those blogs that don’t enable visitors to easily and spontaneously leave comments, trackback to posts or sign up for RSS feeds are missing quite a few tricks in the relationship-development department where compelling content and building connections to create value from that content must be a key business objective (why have the blogs otherwise?).

And I do believe that some of these blogs are indeed missing those tricks – specially Randy Baseler’s blog. The FT calls it a “tarted-up press release”; a more polite description could be a “brochure blog.”

But at least these companies do have senior business leaders with blogs. Individual personalities show through in the posts. And they are trying to generate some interaction with their customers and whoever else is their target audience (well, except for Randy). Whatever subjective opinions anyone might have about those blogs, they all represent a great attempt to join the conversation.

And that has to be a good thing, however they’re doing it.

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2 thoughts on “There is no template for executive blogs

  1. I’m wondering if the emerging CEO bloggers might set new directions for their blogs.
    Are we attempting to confine them to the model of the Personal Trivia Vanity Blogs or Plogs?
    I strongly agree that a CEO blog should be a candid conversation with a target audience, perhaps customers, suppliers, public, etc.
    But what if some CEOs choose to do something different?
    Is a blog *only* for candid communications? I wonder.
    I happen to like Richard Edelman’s blog. I also use my blogs, not for community building or communication, but to display my expertise and writing skills. Is this “wrong”?
    I just wonder about these things. I don’t have any solid answers yet.

  2. It’s good to wonder, Steven!
    Hence the title of my post – there is no standard template that you apply to every executive blog.
    While there is the ‘purity definition’ of a blog – chronological content, updated regularly, writer’s personality, links, RSS, etc – there’s also what I might call the ‘reality definition’ from the corporate viewpoint, which realizes that implementing a blog in the corporate environment may not include all of these attributes.
    Does that make it not a blog?

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