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Mar 10, 2004

Comments

Jeremy C. Wright

Fantastic advice. Definitely going in my list of things to remember.

Josh Jacobs

Great post, thank you. Our company has been discussing this all week, and this post states everything we are striving for (but haven't said as well). I'm curious about 13 though. www.joelonsoftware.com seems to be a great example of the kind of blog a CEO can write without putting his company at risk, do you think this is the exception?

jn

good question, it might be an issue of scale. Generally, I'd stick with the rule that the CEO should not be blogging, but like any rule there is going to be exceptions. But I do think the scale of the company is the key variable. By the way, this is no ding on Joel, I really enjoy reading his stuff.

jn

I thought a little more about this. I think that scale of the company may be a variable, but more significant may be the kind of technology company it is, apps vs. tools. At any rate, a CEO or similar executive can't just 'tell it like it is' without first filtering through their CEO perspective. It's an obligation really, because the CEO carries several duties related to confidentiality, loyalty, etc. so without first thinking about "what this means for the company" a CEO cannot just say it like it is, and if they did it would be irresponsible to the employees, customers, partners, and most importantly, shareholders of their company.

I'm not suggesting the blunt honesty at all costs is a prerequisite for blogging. I sometimes write things and take a second look, say to myself "I should not say that" and pull it. A CEO can easily blog without hitting on subjects too close to home, but then you get into an area where you have to question the value of the effort relative to other things the CEO can be doing to create value. Anyway, just my .02 cents

Josh Jacobs

I guess my question on the value of CEO time is that blogging feels to me like one of the best ways for a CEO to speak to their customers, and potential customers, about the vision of the company, the challenges the company is trying to tackle, and to create a forum for communicating ideas to customers where they can directly respond on a much larger scale. While the CEO may not want to comment on future plans, they can add a lot of depth to the companies positioning (which tends to be designed for quick understanding, rather than nuance for experienced users). Especially for smaller companies, I think there is also significant value to making it clear that insiders are people, people who love and use the same products as you, and have a burning desire to address the very problems that drew the reader to the company in the first place. This type of engagement and connection seems very much in line with the responsibilities of the CEO; to their customers, but also in establishing the tone of the company for all employees.

jn

agreed, but that is the kind of communication that the company as a whole should be doing, you should read this link about how Macromedia got started in blogging.
http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,52380,00.html

I don't think that having a CEO blog is the *right* way for him/her to be reaching customers. In fact, if that is what is determined to be the only effective way to do it, then I think you have a bigger problem to deal with. Blogs can be a good vehicle for staying close to customers, but at a much lower level.

Trust me when I say you are opening yourself up to huge legal liability issues when you have a CEO communicating at this level. It's only a matter of time before a lawsuit shows up with "Mr/Ms. CEO said such-and-such in the following blog, yet the company did something in conflict with that that caused harm to this party," or "the CEO made these commitments but reneged on this contract which could be construed to include the aforementioned commitments". It's just not worth the risk for negligible value it brings.

There are examples of where CEO's do straddle the line, JoelOnSoftware being one, Ross Mayfield at ross.typepad.com being another. But nonetheless, it would be my recomendation on any company I participate in that the CEO not do this unless there is a compelling reason to do so.

Josh Jacobs

Thanks for the response. This post, and discussion, has been really helpful to me in shaping my thinking on our companies approach. I appreciate it.

Josh Jacobs

Thanks for the response. This post, and discussion, has been really helpful to me in shaping my thinking on our companies approach. I appreciate it.

Robert Scoble

Excellent post.

I wrote much the same things in my "Corporate Weblogger's Manifesto" a year ago. http://radio.weblogs.com/0001011/2003/02/26.html#a2357

By the way, Microsoft's blogging policy is "be smart."

jn

thanks Robert, I was remiss in not crediting your Manifesto with influencing me. I've read it before, and linked to it here.

Microsoft has really taken a leadership position in it's hands-off policy to blogging, and the long, long list of Microsoft bloggers is evidence that it works.

kirsten

Very smart and helpful post. Ironically, I have been contemplating that same issue on re:invention's blog (only in a different voice and vein). Appreciate the recommendation and suggestions.

Thought you needed a little gal to chime in here!

rikk carey

Just curious what approach you recommend when bloggers that are attacking or flaming you? We have been practicing the approach that you describe above for some time now (i.e. common sense), but it gets a lot more complicated when the blog posting is inaccurate or nasty. It's easy to appear defensive when someone accuses you of being a child molestor (for example).

jn

my first instinct would simply be to post a courteous response in an effort to correct any misinformation. Most people writing online content never expect the target of their spear to actually confront them, and when it happens they often turn into paper tigers. Perhaps I am naive, but I also assume that most people do not deliberately misstate the facts, and when mistakes are made they will make a prompt effort to correct it. If the individual is flaming you with another agenda, their credibity will take a hit when it becomes evident that they are not interested in dealing with you legitimately, in effect, they end up silencing themselves. Just remember that your objective is to minimize any damage from a flame, not to eliminate the reason behind the flame, which often cannot be achieved at any price.

If more than one site is attacking you, and they do not appear to be connected, then you may have a bigger issue that may require specialized assistance. There are PR firms that specialize in crisis management situations and that kind of help may be what you need.

Finally, if the criticism is legitimate, however inappropriately it is communicated, then it's always a good idea to listen to it and respond with an honest statement of what you will and will not do.

ichi

Here's a site that gives a pretty good view of the pros and cons of joining LinkedIn. If you want, the
the author will invite you to join LinkedIn.
http://www.luhman.org/gl/article.php/20040918000256936

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