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CEOs As Brands…

Washington Post reports on the rise of the CEO blogger with this observation:

Since blogs became the next big thing, an increasing number of companies have come to see them as the next great public relations vehicle — a way for executives to demonstrate their casual, interactive side.

But, of course, the executives do nothing of the sort. Their attempts at hip, guerrilla-style blogging are often pained — and painful. By Amy Joyce, Washington Post Staff Writer, Saturday, March 19, 2005; Page A01.

While it’s a subject for a much longer post, I’ve long held the view that Execs can benefit from thinking of themselves as brands, and managing themselves as such. That doesn’t mean they are brands – although some argue that a person is as much a brand as a product, especially one so much in the public eye as a Steve Jobs. There’s no question in my mind that blogs (depending on execution) can either enhance or detract from the Executive’s brand. She gives a couple of good examples of how in one instance the communications appears painful, and in another, hip, cool and wired.

Plenty of quotes from Jonathan Schwartz, COO, Sun Microsystems. He gets at the core issue of communicating via blogs – and in fact, of building any brand – authenticity. "Authenticity is fundamental," he said in an interview. "Blogs get pretty dull if you just blog your products. There has to be something personal."

Tip for communicators:- when assisting Execs with their entry into the blogosphere, focus on authenticity. While they are communicating on behalf of the company, it’s them doing the communicating. Their blog can’t be a marketing vehicle or alternate news distribution mechanism to PR Newswire. It’s a place for them to engage in conversations with the market, and for us all to get a better feel for who they are and what they care about.

[update: Some great comments by Elisa over at the Worker Bees Blog. I agree with her that some of the criticism leveled by BW is a little unfair. I really like Lutz’ blog – the fact he welcomes comments (something most "corporate" blogs don’t do) earns him big brownie points.

3 Responses

  1. By Giovanni Rodriguez on March 19th, 2005 at 11:19 pm

    Reminds me of one of Ron Ricci’s central tenets in “momentum management”: in technology, businesses rarely can sustain a brand — the technologies morph too quickly — but the CEO is a sure stand-in.

  2. By Andy on March 20th, 2005 at 12:50 pm

    Great comment. I have huge respect for Ron and really liked his book. Executives can be an incredibly stabalizing force in any fast moving industry. This is why – for me – Jobs is so powerful at Apple. He is the uber-brand, bringing consistency and dimension to the ever-changing product portfolio. Chambers is the same at Cisco. Michael Dell the same at Dell…

  3. By Shawn Lea on March 22nd, 2005 at 6:43 pm

    One problem with the “authentic” CEO voice is that they generally write very little, especially in larger businesses. They have admin assistants that write letters, etc; PR departments that write letters to the editor, quotes, statements, etc. – if you have not written a lot in your past it could be painful (for you and your readers) to find your “authentic” voice by blogging.

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