Open Letter to CEO Bloggers

IStock_000003828532XSmallIt takes a lot of ego to rise to the CEO spot.  You need to be confident and charming, smart and articulate.  These are excellent qualities in a blogger, too. 

I can understand why you’d be interested in “joining the conversation.”  It’s an interesting conversation – after all, it’s a conversation about topics of interest to you and to your company, and the people you’ll interact with will self-identify themselves as being interested in what you’ve got to say. 

Done well, you’ll get both personal satisfaction and bottom-line results from your foray into blogging.

Ha!!  Caught you.  You were nodding in agreement all the way through my li’l speech.  Well, sorry to burst the bubble, but you should have raised a quizzical eyebrow when I used the word “foray.” 

A “foray” is nowadays thought of as an experiment; more tellingly, the word’s archaic meaning was “to ravage in search of spoils.”  Is that what you want to do?  Are you hoping to exploit the blogosphere?  (Good luck with that!) 

Too many would-be CEO bloggers treat their new toy as little more than a weekly newsletter.  They expect that simply because they are the CEO, naturally people will be magnetically drawn to their words.  And then they are crushed to see “Comments (0)” after each post, and are mortified to see a wan, unbudging Technorati ranking… 

And then they give up, poo-pooing the ballyhooed Blogosphere as they munch on some sour grapes.  Because they couldn’t tame the blogosphere, they lost interest.  Now, all other blog-related projects at the company become suspect – after all, if THE CEO couldn’t hack it, who dares think that they could do better?

And thus a company loses a golden opportunity to engage with their customers & prospects.

But you’re not like that?  You truly want to engage?  Cool.  Start by NOT blogging. 

Don’t blog for at least one full month following your decision to start blogging.  Instead, spend that time finding OTHER blogs in your industry.  Read them.  Comment judiciously.  Leave your “agenda” on the coat-rack.  Just get to know a few folks.  Introduce yourself. 

As the CEO, you’re probably accustomed to being noticed when you walk into an industry function.  You may even have handlers to squire you to the centers of power in a conference hall.  But, you wouldn’t presume that level of recognition and clout if you walked into a block party in a new neighborhood, eh?  You’d hang back a little, insert yourself mildly into a wedge of conversation, ingratiate yourself.  You’d be a gentleman.

And yet there might still be moments of awkwardness.  All the neighbors know each other.  There are cliques.  There’s context, politics and in-jokes to figure out.  You wouldn’t expect to be the life of the party right away.  But, you knew that going in… so, to help grease the skids, you brought some nice bottles of wine and some of your killer BBQ ribs.

Same with blogging, Chief.  Think of it as an extended block party.  You’re certainly invited, but please don’t expect to be Mr. Popular right away.  Giving freely of your attention in the form of commenting & linking liberally to your peers’ blogs is the equivalent of handing out your BBQ goodies.  It could take YEARS, but sooner or later your neighbors will come to respect, expect and love your contributions.

Up for it?  Awesome.  Cover up the keyboard, lay aside your ambitions, start reading, and join the fun. 

Posted on: December 12, 2007 at 7:27 pm By Todd Defren
13 Responses to “Open Letter to CEO Bloggers”


  • Arseny Tseytlin says:

    Todd, this is a great post! I will definitely recommend it to all folks proposing CEO blogs to our clients.

  • Useful tips on CEO blogging…

    Blogs have many uses and guises, ranging from online diarists who talk about anything and everything that interests them, to more business oriented applications such as CEO Blogs. I came across a very interesting blog post recently Open Letter to

  • Todd,

    Great post. Another point here is that the PR department or VP of communications needs to counsel the CEO, that’s one reason we’re there.

    Blogging can be a great too but it can also be a humiliation or unleash the hounds if we’re not careful.

    Be wise, what more can I say.

  • FLOG says:

    The new BIG BOSS of T-SYSTEMS, Reinhard Clemens, is doing a good job as a blogger. He is updating regularly and interacting with his readers (intranet only). I just wrote a post about his activities:

    Hope he doesn’t need to stop blogging for one month to think about his really good initiative.

  • Much has been written about whether CEOs should blog. In an earlier posting, I offered 10 Reasons Why They Shouldn’t:

    10: Your CEO heads up a start-up and wants more people to pay attention to his or her company.

    9: Your CEO heads up a Fortune 500 company but wants to stand out from the pack.

    8: Your CEO thinks he or she should because his or her employees are blogging.

    7: Your CEO thinks blog ging is less expensive than hiring professional PR and marketing teams.

    6: Your CEO does not have the time to write his or her own postings.

    5: Your CEO is not a good writer.

    4: Your CEO is not comfortable with candid feedback or criticism.

    3: Other CEOs are blogging and he or she doesn’t want to cede a competitive advantage.

    2: Other CEOs aren’t blogging and he or she wants a competitive advantage.

    1: Your CEO thinks he or she should.

    Ultimately, CEOs should avoid the trap of whether they should. It’s rather a question of whether they want to because they have a passion for their subject and for conversation.

  • Loved the comparison to an extended block party and how a CEO would-be blogger can’t expect to be Mr. Popular right away. Thanks for the engaging perspective. Will include in in my “Blogging 101″ class with my PR students.

  • Great advice. Dear CEO, perhaps this is one of the times when your executive assistant might well be better qualified than you are..
    Just an idea!

  • Todd Defren says:

    Hi MD – nope, not an inexcusable overlook, I did think about either making my “letter” to a “she” or, making it more generic…

    But the latter would have just weakened the writing in order to avoid the P.C. battle.

    And re: the former (making “he” a “she”) – it would have simply felt wrong based on my experience. Even though we have many clients with female CEOs, the would-be CEO bloggers I’ve dealt with to-date have all been men. (And many have faced the issues raised in the Letter in stereotypically “manly” ways, i.e., if they can’t nail it quickly, they get grumpy about it!) ;)

  • MD says:

    Great post, Todd. The only problem I would cite is that you keep on referring to this generic CEO as “he,” “gentleman,” and “sir”… either its an excusable overlook or recognition that female CEOs are more prudent in taking the time to create useful and welcomed blogs!

    Not trying to pull the feminist card here… just an observation :)

    In all though- great blog. Read it every day.

  • Great post, Todd.

    The best words of wisdom I’ve yet seen about CEO engagement with social media (which includes blogging) come from a CEO blogger.

    Tom Glocer, the CEO of Reuters, says:

    “I believe that unless one interacts with and plays with the leading technology of the age, it is impossible to dream the big dreams, and difficult to create an environment in which creative individuals will feel at home. This does not mean that the ceo needs to program a third-party app on Facebook, but I believe it is ultimately more useful in understanding business concepts like viral marketing, crowd-sourcing or federated development to use a live example rather than wait for the Harvard Business Review article to appear in three years time.”

    His full post:

  • Dan Schawbel says:

    Unless you’re Jonathan Schwartz from Sun Microsystems, you shouldn’t blog as a CEO!

    It’s about commitment, authenticity and writing skills. CEO’s typically don’t have time to blog, would use ghost writers and aren’t genuinely interested in doing it.

  • Jason Falls says:

    Fabulously done, Todd. I have already had one instance of having to say, “Blogging may not be the right path for you, sir.” This will help bolster that argument.

    Thanks for the knowledge.

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