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.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Paul Fabretti

    I totally agree with you here Neville. That said, I do think there is a place for editorial teams.

    I think that from a purely practical point of view, there is a good case for an editorial team to assist the content creator. By this I do not mean for them to create the content, but in terms of tagging, linking out, finding content to link to and ensuring that the content is “web” optimised.

    The underlying article content and tone of voice remain the same though.

  2. neville

    Thanks for stopping by, Shel. I should have mentioned in my post that I couldn’t actually watch the video: it stops and starts when I try and play it. Trying it again now, I get more stop than start. Maybe a Fast Company server issue at the moment.

    In any event, I’ve edited the post.

    Quite an admission by Bob Lutz, who I constantly hold up as the exemplar corporate blogger. I don’t see any mention on the Fastlane blog about this. What a pity.

    Paul, I wholly agree with you on roles communicators should play in corporate blogging, eg, editorial teams as you suggest plus monitoring the blogosphere.

    But not ghost writing.

  3. Sallie Goetsch (rhymes with "sketch")

    And even Sallie Goetsch isn’t in favor of using a ghost for blogs that are supposed to reflect an individual’s personality, rather than a company’s expertise.

    But I am curious–had anyone noticed anything different about Bob Lutz’ posts? Because if not, his ghost is worth hiring.

  4. Paul Fabretti

    @shel I saw a lot of the aggressive “commentary” you got about the video. A lot was totally uncalled for.

    That said, the comments from the video did seem to centre more on the quality that the actual revelation itself – which for Bob, may actually not be a bad thing!

  5. Shel Holtz

    FWIW, I was able to watch it without any problems, no stop-start issue. And I was too interested in what Lutz was saying to pay much attention to production values.

  6. neville

    I’ve now been able to watch the video, in IE7. Clearly something not right with FF3.

    Anyway, I think it’s a great interview. Shel (the other one!), you did a great job. As Paul mentions, I’ve seen all the criticism in blog comments, etc, yet the experience was just fine.

    Did I miss it, or what, but I couldn’t find anywhere in that interview where Bob Lutz actually said that other people write his posts? He does mention that some texts are run by others for comment before publishing, but that’s a different thing.

    I’ve downloaded the video and will take a look at it again.

  7. DS

    What about bylined executive columns in employee newsletters that are written by corporate communications? It’s never admitted, but somehow everyone knows. Isn’t that the same thing (only with a different, possibly smaller audience)?

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