Friday, April 17, 2009

employee blogs v. CEO blogs: which is best?

A commenter on this blog wants to continue the discussion from this week's IABC-Washington session on corporate blogs, with these questions:
IABC discussion last night on Corporate Blogs centered on getting the CEO to do it well (or at all). In the military, we have a limited number of leaders blogging ("General Van" at the Corps of Engineers is a great example), but we have HUGE numbers of followers blogging. The "milblogger" community is prolific, talented, and incredibly net-savvy. The question I have is this: which is better? If resources are limited, when/why should we lean toward employee versus employer blogs? Is there a measure of candor that comes across simply because a blogger is NOT in a position of authority? Or do listeners/readers/lurkers need to hear it from the top to believe it? What's been your experience?

It's always tough to generalize about questions like this one, so I'm glad this commenter added the context about a military environment, where "milbloggers" are indeed prolific--not just members of the armed forces, but their families, military analysts and more. Blogging's given them all a great outlet to observe and express their thoughts about the military experience. Some branches of the military, the Air Force in particular, have embraced transparent and easy-to-understand policies on use of new media (see this post and video from the official USAF blog) and this post from Social Media Today, which notes:

Considering that over 70% of their Airmen are active in social networking through Facebook, MySpace and other public sites they're ahead of the curve in understanding that "all Airmen are communicators," and they're taking a smart approach to unleashing the power of their employee base for the good of the service.

With those specifics in mind, here are some thoughts on CEO vs. employee blogs, from my perspective:

  • People like to hear directly from the top: That's the one advantage that CEO blogs have over any other employee blog. It's a big advantage, when it works.
  • That advantage can be lost if the CEO doesn't really want to blog. Once you start discussing ghost-writing, infrequent posting and other dodges, you need to face facts: Your CEO doesn't want to blog and therefore should not. Lack of enthusiasm will show.
  • There's plenty of power in letting employees blog, unfettered. Microsoft is said to have some 30,000 employees who blog about the company--and no policies about blogging. Their only guidance: All the existing policies (about disclosure, product releases, SEC guidelines and more) apply. And check out Zappos.com, where employees are encouraged to Twitter and their posts are shown on the company web site--along with the CEOs posts. Aside from the morale boost, this tells your employee you trust them, and tells your audience you're committed to transparency.
  • Audiences can hear authenticity. So if your CEO can blog with an authentic voice, her blog will work. If your employees can do the same, their blogs will work. What works for the audience is the sense that they're not hearing spam, spin or sputtering, but something real.

So, if times and budgets are tight, I'd choose the bloggers who want to blog, have the support to blog and can work out a plan that makes that happen. I've helped several clients map out editorial plans for their blogs, train teams of bloggers, and establish core editorial topics and departments, just as you would for a publication. Email me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz if you need help getting your blog off the ground.

No comments: