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The Pitfalls of Executive Blogging

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on October 11th, 2010 by Team Pi

Executive blogging is good, right? After all, it’s what all the social media experts say, and on top of that it makes perfect sense. The more a corporate executive is connected to his customers, the more of a human being he becomes in the eyes of the world at large. People trust other people, not designations and chairs. But corporate blogging is perhaps not all the sunshine and roses it’s made out to be. Just a few months ago Oracle CEO Larry Ellison blasted executive blogging in general and one blog in particular when he said

Really great blogs do not take the place of great microprocessors. Great blogs do not replace great software. Lots and lots of blogs does not replace lots and lots of sales.”

Ellison’s ire was pointed at SUN Microsystem’s former CEO Jonathan Schwartz, one of the more prominent CEO bloggers of the time. Unfortunately, even as Schwartz was gaining praise for being one of the first CEOs to personally reach out to his customers, his company was on its way to losing $2.2 billion in one year. Ellison even called Schwartz’s blogging habits “a silly distraction”.

Harsh words, surely, but not entirely untrue. The fact remains that executive blogging is a difficult proposition at best, and certainly doesn’t make up for poor management decisions. However, there’s another reason why executive blogging can be a bit of a pain. Jason Seiden explains it best :-

“It’s more difficult for executives to be genuine, because they operate in a more narrow range of behavior than their employees. Look at it this way: people in an organization look up for cues on what acceptable behavior is… this means that leaders must somehow set a consistent example for hundreds or thousands of employees, each of whom judge that executive from different perspectives. That leaves executives with very few degrees of freedom; the sad truth is that all those overlapping perspectives leave executives very little opportunity to show off their personality without risking offending someone… and when people in power offend their followers, bad things can follow.

So in theory, even though blogging is supposed to shed light on the person behind the designation, that doesn’t always happen, because the executive is too restricted by the implications of his words. While this certainly doesn’t mean that all executives should stop blogging en masse, this particular activity may not be for everyone. And when the company is going down in flames, perhaps the CEO’s concentration should lie elsewhere.

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