Warren Buffet ropes to skip: C-level blogs FAQ #2

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2008/06/19 · 2 comments 1 views

in c corporate blogging,d business Fortune 500

    CEO blogs, c-suite blogs or executive blogs that are:being candid,
    addressing timely matters,
    being controversial from time to time, while
    targeting a specific audience

    can be a real help for your corporate brand regardless of the size of the company.

    This means micro firms may benefit as much as an FT500 corporation if their CEO blog follows the above guidelines. Nevertheless, success does not come easy.

    We have tried to outline some of the mistakes to avoid when writing a CEO or c-suite blog below.

    Feel free to pass these tips around

Recently we have posted about blogging in corporations using Southwest Airlines, Delta and JetBlue as examples for illustrating our points. We outlined three mistakes that your blogging CEO should definitely avoid:

Mistake 1 – expecting users to install program to get full enjoyment
Mistake 2 – expecting to have control over social media
Mistake 3 – having no clear focus, thereby getting your target audience confused

We explained this here: social media – ropes to skip – c-level blogs – FAQ #1

Today we bring you two more mistakes your blogging CEO wants to avoid from making. Go ahead read on and gain new insights.

d) type of corporate blogs

I tried to list some categories below – have a look.

Type of blog




Corporate c-level blog

usually hosted on the corporate domain

– usually one person (e.g., Jonathan Schwartz – Sun Microsystems)

– sometimes several executives writing posts for the blog

– opportunity costs are hard to define and assess

– may write against corporate mantra

– may not come across as interesting or personable

Corporate blogs (e.g., management & professionals)

usually hosted on the corporate domain

– often written by one individual

– what happens to this blog when individual leaves

– liability and compliance issues

Corporate team blog

most likely hosted on the corporate domain

several voices (e.g., Siemens)

May appear faceless or impersonal to customers

Career blog

Usually hosted on the individual’s own domain or at a service, such as typepad

– most often one individual

– sometimes guest bloggers posting

Can help corporate brand (Jeremiah ) but also poses risks when person leaves, etc.

We talk about the other blogs besides the c-suite or CEO blog at another time.

Today however we address the CEO blog. So if you are in the process of making a C-level blog (Chief Executive Officer – CEO, Chief Finance Officer – CFI, Chief Information Officer – CIO, Chief Operating Officer – COO) you have to make sure that the voice is authentic.

All else considered equal, it is probably easier for the CFI to address issues pertaining to finance and investor relations, instead of talking about R&D.

Mistake 4 – being authentic while forgetting the target audience: You may be funny and witty, interesting and provide value. However, unless your subscribers perceive the content the same way you do they will get bored.

My blog is targeting our current and possible future clients. Hence, whatever I write focuses on matters that are very likely to be of considerable interest to my target audience.

This is, of course, far more difficult if you are blogging for a listed company as Jonathan Schwartz does for Sun Microsystems. Nevertheless, he manages this challenge quite well. Do you agree?

e) blogging does not mean your CEO engages

Having a corporate blog can mark the beginnings of engagement. Nevertheless, it is a constant attempt to carefully balance between what:

– the firm needs to learn about, and

– the opportunity costs for this exercise of learning

Opportunity costs is the risks that the corporation’s brand may be tarnished if it fails to get into the conversation. For instance, going to most search engines and typing

Nestlé corporate blogs

brings up a few sites, all suggesting that one should be boycotting the brand. Do the same for Berkshire Hathaway:

Berkshire Hathaway corporate blogs

and the results are quite different.

Neither one of the above two firms have a CEO blog. Nevertheless, many download Warren Buffett’s annual shareholder letter. In fact, most financial analysts read it as soon as it is available for downloading. Financial analysts may have the newsletter as the main topic when having lunch with their peers:

Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letters

While Warren Buffet may not have a conversation going with all his investors, he seems to have begun listening to them a long time back. At that time, it was surely not en vogue to do this. Today it has become the norm if not the buzz on the web.

Warren’s approach demonstrates that engagement and listening does not require a blog. In fact, his annual newsletter to his shareholders refrains from using color and glossy pictures/graphics. Nonetheless, it explains important issues before others have even read the writing on the wall. For instance, the importance of independence of corporate directors, better risk management and control systems were issues he began talking about in 2003 or earlier when barely anybody else felt these mattered much.

Mistake 5 – believing that if the CEO blogs then the company is engaging and listening: The challenge is to let those people who want to be heard know that they are being listened to. Accordingly, it is as much a matter of perception as it is of actual listening.

Unfortunately, some clients or users may not ‘feel’ listened to. Hence, they just bark louder. Here blogging can help amplifying the voices of customers and facilitating the firms efforts greater transparency. However, do not be fooled. The effort needed to achieve this objective is substantial and time-consuming, while it takes much patience.

Bottom Line

Stop for a minute – identify your target audience. Thereafter, check if the content is serving them appropriately. Finally, make sure that you are engaging and listening to your audience.

Assess if you are reaching your objectives and do this regularly. This is a process of continuous improvement (see Warren Buffett). However, as we will discuss in an upcoming post, a successful CEO-blog requires a long-term commitment and continuous effort for improvement, thereby helping in justifying the opportunity costs.

Stay tuned.

need to read as well please:
follow us on Twitter be the first to know – subscribe
My.ComMetrics ranking your social media efforts
test drive the social media race course If it is good enough for Warren Buffett, what about you?

Previous post:

Next post: