Being a CEO is a tough enough job without having to worry about blog traffic on top of it all (ask me how I know…) A corporate blog could be a tremendous publicity tool, though, if properly executed. On the other hand, it could end up being a PR disaster if you say something that harms your or your company’s reputation. I think maybe a combination of lack of time and fear of posting something dangerous is behind many a CEO’s apprehension toward company blogs. The reality of corporate blogging, though, is that it doesn’t take a lot of time, and the success stories far outnumber the horror stories.
Take Jonathan Schwartz, for instance. As the CEO of one of the IT industry’s intellectual blue chips, he’s attracted widespread attention for his corporate blog commentary on industry current events and company and product news. Originally he intended to foster a method of communicating with the IT marketplace — his customers, partners, competitors, and fans (yeah, even a behind-the-scenes company like Sun has fans in the computer technology world) as well as the more than 32,000 Sun employees as well. In one of the tech blogging world’s most innovative moves, Schwartz also offered a free $5000 Sun server to bloggers who wrote the most compelling reviews of the machine’s performance — positive or negative. At the time, the claim was that the Sun T2000 “Niagara” server was the fastest on earth, and certainly had the most performance per watt of electricity consumed. In order to get the word out about this new machine to as many people as possible, he didn’t spend millions on a traditional advertising campaign. Instead, Schwartz posted the offer on his blog, then had his salespeople send out free servers to tech bloggers and other interested potential customers for a free 30-day evaluation. If you didn’t want the machine at the end of the 30 days (and you didn’t win the monthly contest to be the blogger with the most compelling T2000 benchmarking blog post), all you had to do was box it up in its original packaging, and Sun would pay return shipping. In essence, if you wanted to play with the machine, you had nothing to lose. Schwartz rationalized on his blog that the cost of the free servers he gave out — even to people who didn’t win the contest and wouldn’t send the machines back to Sun — was negligible considering the value of the press and blog coverage he got as a result, and he reported on his blog a few weeks later that this effort was especially effective.
Another interesting CEO blogger success story is Steve Spangler. As the founder and CEO of educational toy cataloger Steve Spangler Science, Steve expanded his business though non-traditional marketing methods. His online science experiment videos and blog posts about teaching science to kids has elevated his fame to new heights. Gradually, Spangler found himself on local, then national television talk shows and news programs such as the Ellen Show, teaching people to see the world through an adventurous scientific lens. He even got chosen as one of only 204 nominees for Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” of 2007. Steve credits his blog for a lot of this online buzz and media attention. Aside from having a lot of fun, what do you suppose all of this has done for sales at SteveSpanglerScience.com? Let’s put it this way: Steve’s blog accounts for 12% of online sales!
Still not convinced? Here are some of my own reasons for having a CEO blog:
- Search engines — Google in particular — love blogs. So anything you have to say or sell in your blog will rank better in the search engines, all else being equal.
- If you have a good blog, you can get readers hooked and coming back for more. What better way to burn your brand into the minds of potential customers, thus increasing the likelihood of repeat purchases?
- Having a blog helps get you links. If you are a blogger, then other bloggers think of you as “one of them.” As such, they will be more likely to link to you and to give you favorable coverage on their blogs. It is also more likely that you will be on their radar because bloggers are more apt to follow your company’s movements by subscribing to your blog’s RSS feed than by subscribing to your email newsletter or periodically visiting your site.
- Having a blog helps get you press from the mainstream media. Journalists read blogs, and are more apt to solicit interviews from you if you have a popular and/or interesting blog.
- A blog builds your credibility and can position you as a “thought leader” in your niche. For example, a blog about stamp collecting (with interesting trends, news tidbits, insightful commentary, etc.) would position an e-commerce shop selling collectible stamps as a credible, trusted expert source for stamps.
- A blog can help you get invited to speak at conferences and to author articles. Speaking engagements, even when they’re not paid, are a huge opportunity for networking and publicity.
So what are you waiting for? If you want to get started with a corporate blog, get your IT department to look into WordPress, b2evolution, Compendium, Movable Type, Drupal or whatever blogging software looks interesting to you. If you’re on a shoestring budget or don’t want to make a significant investment into corporate blogging, you could look into a free or cheap hosted service like Blogger.com, TypePad, or WordPress.com. Be aware that you should own the domain name that the blog is published on, however. If you don’t you’re wedded to that URL and blog platform forever — or at least until you decide to pull the plug and start over from scratch with a new URL and ZERO link popularity (since with these hosted platforms you won’t have the luxury of installing a 301 redirect to your new URL).
Good luck and good blogging!