Monday, January 17, 2005

CEO Blogs: Polish Them Up Please

In the course of perusing current CEO blogs, I noticed some recurring errors, problems, and deficiencies.

Let's consider these flaws and how they can be fixed.


CEO Blog Errors:


1. No profile or "about me" page.

Don't assume that everyone knows who you are. CEOs, as a group, are often perceived by the general public and customers to be somewhat arrogant or detached from consumer concerns.

Consider having a nice, warm and fuzzy, "regular guy" (genuine, and not a pose) profile page with appropriate photo (dress or casual, depending on specific situation).

A "Welcome to My Blog" post is not enough. That post will get buried in the blog archives, and as months go by, it will be so buried, few will notice or read it.


2. No photo of CEO, or not a very good one.

Like I said, but want to emphasize again, consider including a really good photo of yourself. Ask employees, colleagues, family, total strangers, what they think of the photo. Use their reactions to judge the appropriateness of the photo in line with your objective.

Consider special photo opportunities, you at a company picnic, inspecting your products, observing the manufacturing process, talking with employees, involved in community service, speaking at a conference...

...instead of a stock, bleak, grim, dull background, corporate annual report photo. Jazz it up a bit.

How casual can you afford to look, without compromising the trust-inspiring professionalism required for your market and audience?

Let others get to know you as a normal person, and not some hard, bottom-line obsessed, insensitive machine.

3. CEO's company is not mentioned.

You'd think this was an obvious item to include on a blog, but guess again.

CEOs cannot assume everyone already knows the company you are heading up.

Most people probably pay little attention to the CEO's name, but plenty of attention to product quality, veracity of advertising, and customer service.

Present upfront mention of company name, and describe what your company does, slogan, tagline, what it's product lines are, what its quality and service standards are, its ethical guidelines, goals for the future, market position, distribution network, global reach, and what makes it unique.

If your company is well known, such as IBM, Microsoft, General Motors, Proctor & Gamble, Boeing, General Electric, Hewlitt-Packard, Sun Microsystems, Sony, or Time-Warner...

...consider saying something original about it, your personal comment on what your company is really all about, fascinating but little-known facts about it, how you came to head it up.

4. No blogroll, i.e., list of external links of blogs and web sites of potential interest.

A blogroll list of external sites of relevance is standard blog practice.

You need a list of external links, maybe marketing blogs, or industry blogs that you read and like.

Show people you're an active member of the blogosphere, not just "doing a blog" because you think you should, or because your competitors have blogs.

Not having list of other blogs/web sites could tend to make you look a bit isolated, self-centered, unfamiliar with relevant blogs, or disconnected with the larger playing field.

Listing other blogs and online resources helps form the perception that you're open to new ideas, that you're part of the blogging culture to some degree, rather than merely attempting to exploit an emerging trend.

Use bold sub-heads for categories within the blogroll, like "marketing", "technology", "PR", "advertising", "web design", and distinct subdivisions of whatever industry you're in. Think about adding a few personal interest or hobby sites that make you seem less stuffy.


5. No comments functionality.


Your blog, since it's reaching out to a target audience (customers, prospects, media, suppliers, distributors, investors, general public) needs user-generated content via comments enabled. Let users post comments. Let them interact with you, form a candid conversation with you.

There exist a variety of ways to minimize or eliminate spammers, abusers, and off topic comments.

Enabling users to post comments prevents your blog from appearing to be another monlithic, alienating, one-way message dissemination. Unilateral communication is now giving way to grass roots level, two-way interactive communication. Don't lag behind with archaic communication approaches and outmoded vehicles.

A CEO should welcome feedback from the audience. It's how you form a community of shared interests, and gain valuable insight into customer desires and perceptions.

(Learn about the benefits of "content attractiveness dynamic loops", "member loyalty dynamic loops", "critical mass of transactions", and "dynamics of increasing returns" in NET GAIN: Expanding Markets Through Virtual Communities, by John Hagel III and Arthur G. Armstrong, Harvard Business School Press, 1997.)

6. No link to the corporate web site.


Let's think like a marketing strategist, or a sales manager, for a moment.

If a customer or prospect likes your blog, maybe they will also feel friendly toward your corporation. They might even be in the mood to buy something. Potential investors may be inspired to purchase stock in your company.

Be sure to provide a prominent link on your blog to your ecommerce site or corporate web site.

Consider including links to distributers and to positive media articles mentioning your products and firm.

7. Not scannable.

The blog text is too dense. Break the text into shorter paragraphs. Use bulleted or numbered or asterisked lists once in a while.

Make your text easy and quick to scan, skim, and skip over irrelevant points, for users in a hurry.

Some users may be looking for a certain word, phrase, product comment, etc. and don't have time to wade through oceans of text to find it.

8. Not personal enough.

A CEO Blog should not be merely a re-hash of a PR release, mission statement, annual report, or corporate brochure.

Be yourself. Be simple. Be candid.

Don't fill your blog with boring fluff about how great your company is, and all the new products in development.

Get real. Provoke responses. Provide value. Respect your readers' limited time.

How do you break away from boring corporate fluff writing?

Read blogs by other thought leaders and CEOs, and when they touch you deep within, make you like the author and believe in his company or vision, ask yourself what is causing this. Read the publications that cover your industry, notice how they speak about it.

Here are some topics you might discuss, in a friendly, yet dignified, conversational tone:

What books are you reading?

What key concepts drive your company?

What kind of employee does your company seek to attract?

What do your employees enjoy most about working for you?

What is your corporate culture, work environment like?

What are your biggest challenges as a company, and how will you meet them?

What other companies or CEOs do you admire? Who were your mentors?

What were some of your mistakes, what did you learn from them, how did you correct them?

What style of corporate leadership do you endeavor to exemplify?

What do you wish your target audience could somehow understand about your corporate aims, history, vision, accomplishments?

What specialized information do you possess that could help others?

What trends do see emerging in your industry--and how are you attempting to lead them?

9. Not focused.

Be very certain and deliberate as to what you want to accomplish with a CEO Blog. Have a set agenda.

Don't "blog just to blog." Don't start a blog just to appear technically savvy or trendy or people-oriented. Set a definite goal or list of objectives you want to accomplish with the blog. Periodically assess your progress in achieving these purposes.

Do internet searches on your name, and your company name, to discover what people are saying about you.

Read other blogs by people you admire, perhaps marketing blogs by respected authors and practitioners.

Study successful blogs, according to link popularity rankings in such trackers as Technorati, Blogstreet, and Daypop. See how these effective blogs reach out to readers and gain their trust and loyalty.

10. No contact information.


Provide an email address or contact form. Write email address as: something[at] something[dot]com--to prevent spambot email harvesting.

Provide all other contact channel info: physical address, corporate phone number, fax, service and order tracking info.

Be approachable, open to suggestions, questions, complaints, praise.

Let people know how they can get in touch with you.



BLOGS vs. WEB SITES

What's the difference between a web site and a blog?

A blog generally tends to be:

More interactive (comments enabled).

More dynamic (frequent updates or postings).

More "up close and personal."

More relaxed, casual, conversational.

More focused.

More user-community oriented.

Blogs enable you to react faster to both good and bad news about your corporation in the media.

If you're a CEO, President, VP, Director of Communications, Chairperson or other corporate spokesperson, your blog needs to be a clear reflection of your standards of professionalism, integrity, and customer satisfaction.


CEO BLOG CHECKLIST


A CEO Blog should incorporate the following:

* immediate visual impression of professionalism, authority, integrity
* authenticity (real voice of CEO, not paid ghost-blogger, or simulated blog with fictional persona)
* honesty, candor, transparency, credibility
* relevance and practical value to target audience
* defined purpose, strategic focus
* description of company, products, mission
* links to corporate web site, other corporate blogs, dealer outlets, distributors, ecommerce site
* photo of CEO, plus photo gallery, with shots of happy employees, products in use solving problems, facilities, various assets that inspire trust or awe
* simplicity
* high level literacy
* easy usability
* good readability
* conversational writing style
* some personal details to convey human qualities, interests, hobbies
* upfront contact information (with internal servicing, not outsourced to external fulfillment service), or contact form (email message template, with hidden email address)
* brevity
* upfront privacy policy, terms of use, webmaster feedback
* interactive functionality
* timely responses to user comments, within the comment threads, not just in posts
* external linking strategy, relevant and useful blogroll
* searchable, categorized archives
* frequent updating
* hyperlinks to reputable, relevant external resources
* compliance with web standards
* compliance with basic accessibility


For a list of CEO Blogs, refer to The New PR/Wiki:

http://www.thenewpr.com/wiki/pmwiki.php/
Resources/CEOBlogsList

5 comments:

Joe Clark said...

And Web standards and basic accessibility, please.

steven edward streight said...

Thank you. My imperfections plague me and won't leave me alone. I'll add them to my list.

Merely Human said...

That was a GREAT list. I get the feeling my blog lacks the "personable" qualities that define a really good blog. In your opinion should all blogs excercise brevity? Under what circumstances could an exception be made, and still thrive?

steven edward streight said...

Are you pulling my leg or what Merely Human?

Vaspers the Grate is an "abnormality" in the blogosphere.

It's not really a blog, it's a minimalistic web site of instruction material, a portfolio of web usability articles and white papers, disguised as a "blog".

My posts are much longer than most blogs.

I can't write short, brief posts. I've tried, but I just am not good at brevity blogging, except when it comes to conversing with my wife or explaining why I need another CD by Morton Subotnick or Iannis Xenakis.

My blog posts are long, because they are written for people who want definitive, authoritative, credible, aggressively stated treatments of vital topics.

I suggest writing what you know, with posts as long as you feel is required, but not so long that people will tire of scrolling endlessly.

Super super important: break paragraphs up into little bite sized chunks. Use bold subheads (this is difficult for me, and I usually add the subheads into the text once I'm all done writing the post).

Blogs with dense paragraphs or endless blocks of text are a drag to read.

Best wishes to you. I'll visit your blog and comment on it at your blog.

steven edward streight said...

"Merely Human" has a blog? Where? Nowhere.

Merely Human stats:

On Blogger since May 2004.

Posts Written: 1

Words Written: 2

Words Used: "hey you"

Profile Views: 4

This is not a blog. MH really was pulling the leg of VTG. But my advice is still good, right?