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January 24, 2007

Can A Big Company Really Blog?

Filed as Features with 4 comments

There’s an interesting article in The Economist about CEOs attending the Davos World Economic Forum being encouraged to blog (the theme this year is “The Shifting Power Equation”). On the face of it, this makes about as much sense as the CEOs being encouraged to slam dance at the raging party that Google guys Sergei and Larry are going to throw.

But, to get back to the question, is blogging really a suitable activity for a company boss? Seth Godin, author of business books such as “Small is the New Big”, and “All Marketers are Liars: the Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World”, is sceptical. Blogs work, he says, when they are based on the values of “candour, urgency, timeliness, pithiness and controversy (maybe utility if you want six)”. As he asks, “Does this sound like a CEO to you?”

Candour, in particular, will surely strike most bosses as a reckless risk in the liability-laden world of corporate America after Sarbanes-Oxley.

The notion of CEOs blogging grew out of the world of small business, in particular the online start-up, where having a blog is now as obligatory as having a an AJAX-laden homepage and a domain name that is either a misspelling or a made-up word. In the start-up context, a CEO blogging makes all the sense in the world, because the CEO and the other handful of team members ARE the company. The company hasn’t taken on a life of its own yet. There are shareholders, but most of them are the people blogging, so they are looking after their own interests. More importantly, there is no Sarbanes-Oxley threatening to send the CEO or other executives to jail if something they publish “spontaneously” to their blog runs afoul of SEC regulations.
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