What matters about a CEO blog

Is blogging good value for the C-suite? asks Urs E. Gattiker writing in the Financial Times yesterday.

It’s a good article that explores some important points about planning an executive blog, being clear about why you’d want to do one, considering what ROI there might be, and whether blogging offers good value for the CEO.

One point that Gattiker makes leaps out of the FT piece:

[...] The only thing that really matters about the CEO blog is the content and if it meets the target audience’s needs.

I agree that, broadly speaking, a blog is all about content. Yet there’s something that I think is at least as crucial, a matter that goes to the heart of any relationship a C-suite exec wishes to develop through his or her blogging activity.

Authenticity and trust.

Yes, the content itself is key, but only if it’s clear who writes that content. If a blog post has the name of the author, you’d better be sure it actually is written by the person named, not ghosted by someone else and that fact not disclosed.

Why is that important? Think about it – you as a CEO or other executive write a blog, others read your content, perhaps leave comments or write their own posts linking to yours, and so a connection develops that over time may lead to an actual relationship.

People will connect to you because it’s you they’re connecting to. It’s your commentary and opinion they read and form their own opinions about.

Imagine how the deck of cards will come tumbling down if it turns out that your commentary and opinion isn’t actually you at all but someone who writes and publishes in your name.

For instance, what would you think if you found out that the blog posts by a CEO or other C-suite executive who you have been reading for a while have actually been written by someone else? Bob Lutz at GM, for example? According to Shel Israel, that’s been happening. As noted by Shel Israel in a comment to this post, Bob Lutz admits as much in a Fast Company video interview with Shel. What a disappointment!

If you do succumb to the temptation of ghost writing – as suggested in Scott Adams’ perceptive Dilbert cartoon, above, which first appeared early last year – disclose that fact.

Otherwise great content matters little if the reader feels duped about who actually wrote that content.

Yet if you go that route, what’s the point in having a blog at all under the name of the C-suite exec?

Not everyone agrees with my views about ghost writing blogs, about which I’ve written over the past few years. Indeed, people like Sallie Goetsch make compelling arguments for the value of ghost writing.

But I’m firm with my recommendation: don’t blog if you can’t write the posts yourself.

PRs and other communicators do have a role in C-suite blogging. That role is about communication not about blogging, and definitely not about ghost writing a blog.

What matters are authenticity and trust. Then comes content.