Session Notes: Corporate & CEO Blogging

These are my notes from the Corporate Blogging panel at BlogWorld Expo.

Debbie Weil, moderator:

Executing a corporate blog takes work. Policy, lots of decisions to make.

Technology is the easy part. A balance of creative and strategic. How do companies speak to their customers?

We’re in the early stages of a revolution.

FEAR – of being criticized, of losing control. Biggest block to adoption. Actually, a blog is a way of increasing control, not losing it.

Very few CEOs have the skills and disposition to blog. Hence ghostblogging.

Kodak blogger (Jennifer Cisney):

Kodak started a corporate blog (A Thousand Words) about a year ago. PR / CorpCom lead the charge. They host the blog offsite & focus on content. It is NOT a CEO blog, it’s mostly about photography and people who love it. Minimal editing after content is submitted. Every post has a photograph in it. Also a connected photo gallery. Lots of storytelling, very powerful, not a lot of product focus.

A Thousand Nerds – a newer, more commercial / technical photography blog.

HP Blogger (Pete Johnson):

HP IT is a showcase for their customers, so they are hosting internally. Large numbers of internal blogs – around 50. Very distributed approach. “Anyone who can make a business case for a blog can have one”. Describing different things people at HP do with their blogs – ranging from why HP is not in Second Life to templates you can download for your inkjet printer. Working with the HP standards of Business Conduct — proprietary information disclosure, proper crediting of information quoted, dealing with requests for support.

Cisco “Blogger in Chief” (John Earnhardt):

About 2 years since they started blogging. Started with the government affairs group – small team trying to increase their reach. It was hard to keep going so they started talking about issues a little beyond their scope & eventually it got notice. Currently 15 official corporate blogs. They are trying to do CEO blogging with video since Chambers is “more of a talker than a typer”. PR is attached to each blog to stay on top of it although they do not vet content before publishing. They have requirements for bloggers to make sure blogs are sustained once started. They treat key bloggers like reporters and treat them similarly in terms of outreach and support.

Southwest bloggers (Paula Berg, Brian Lusk):

They knew there was online conversation about Southwest and wanted to get involved. “We’re not afraid to take risks.” It is a major time commitment & took a while to get the balance right. Been great for getting notice from journalists. It’s a virtual focus group, they get immediate and passionate feedback, as many as 700 comments. The miniskirt issue was blog crisis management but they feel they did not do a good job managing it. They have some limits to their comment policy — no swear words, no personal attacks, no “where’s my bag from flight X?” — but try to be not too controlling. They try to do a blog post consecutive with every press release in order to give customers a place to comment. They run every blog post by an exec before it goes live.

Some common themes: blogs are generally an extension of PR not advertising. Try to drive individual customer support issues towards the proper channels. CEO blogging is hard and probably not the best way to go. Some comment moderation is appropriate. Be upfront about the grund rules and what customers can expect from the blog to avoid issues down the line. Comment moderation – everyone does it, but it’s about 50/50 between allowing comments to go live before moderation and screening all comments before they go live.

Notes from the Q&A:
Company culture comes out in a blog. If you have a lousy company culture do not expect that you’ll be able to paper it over in a blog.

Traffic is a metric but not the only one that defines success.

“The Ghostblogger” raises the issue of blogging and authenticity. The panelists didn’t like it that CEOs are ghostblogged – he defended the practice. General consensus seems to be that blog posts should not be scrubbed and crafted because that’s “inauthentic” and just like regular PR. Blogging should be different.

5 thoughts on “Session Notes: Corporate & CEO Blogging”

  1. CEO blogging never really made much sense to me. I guess a few CEOs have it in them, but I’d guess it’s pretty rare to be both a good blogger and a good CEO.

    That made me wonder if I actually read any corporate blogs, and then I realized I subscribe to a few of the ones from Google’s different product teams – they’re about tips, tricks, and new feature announcements. They’re a bit like proactive customer support/service – the content in them isn’t something the average CEO could write – it’s more specialized…

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