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Recent Blog Posts
- Want to See How Viral Marketing and Social Media Works?
- Should corporate blogs use ghostwriters?
- Bill Marriott is the latest CEO To blog
- CEO Bloggers Getting Personal, When is it OK?
CEO Bloggers Archive
I just came across The Break Up viral video ad skit, by way of Doug Karr at The Marketing Technology Blog. I think this video, the story it tells, and how it is now being told, and distribued is a brilliant living example of the power of viral marketing and social media.
The film is called The Break Up and it was produced in a collaboration between Geert Desager's team at Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions and Openhere, a Belgium based ad agency. Bravo Geert, what's great about this little spot it that it puts all the buzz words like 'conversation marketing' and 'social media' and my favorite 'the customer is in control' into context. Thanks to you and Microsoft for moving the conversation miles forward.
According Geert, the "film" was inspired by a Business Week article by David Armano titled, It's the Conversation Economy, Stupid. The article is another credible mainstream source that puts the shift in consumer behavior into context.
So you’re interested in corporate blogging and think your company should have one. Only problem is there is no one in your company who has time to blog. Should you hire a ghostwriter for your blog? Bryan Person brought up this topic on a recent episode of the FIR podcast.
My advice is look for a way to blog for your business in an open and transparent way. I’ve got two main reasons which can be summed up like this. 1.) The old Sir Walter Scott line “oh what a tangled web we weave… applies here. Ghostwriting is one of those little white lies that can easily spin out of control and backfire. 2) Blogging could be a waste of time and money for your business if it’s not willing to embrace the concept of what it means to participate in social media.
Ghostwriting a blog is a slippery slope. While it may be acceptable in the book publishing world, it’s not ok with many bloggers. And, bloggers are known for having an innate ability to detect shills and other forms of BS. How far are you willing to go to perpetrate in the illusion?
Let me just list a few ways in which a seasoned blogger can start to catch on that the writer of your blog is really not the listed author. The writing style, cadence and voice does not match other published writing samples. What if someone puts the named author on the spot in some sort of public setting about a past post or comment dialogue? Who responds to the comments, the ghost or the person who’s supposed to have written the post? Part of blogging is commenting on outside blogs, whose name is on those comments? It’s very easy for a blogger to look at an IP address and establish where the comment is coming from. If that comment has
not been written from a contradictory location then there’s your proof. It just becomes one big lie wrapped up in a riddle. For an example, see John's Cass' post about how a person from Alaska Airlines was caught "annonomusly" sniping Jeremy Pepper's coverage of the incident.
The social media space is quite new and the natural tendency that most people have is to apply their familiar model to this new channel for communication. Education needs to happen so that the person considering the ghost writing option understands that there is a certain set of blogging best practices. In a nutshell, the blogosphere is very welcoming to honest dialog and engagement. Many of the people that you will want to influence or appeal to as you blog are people who care deeply about this culture and the sanctity of their particular blogging community. You best believe that they will feel obliged to call you on it (especially if you’re a big fish). It’s not because they’re mean spirited. It’s because they’re trying to preserve what’s great about social media, which is the idea that people trust other people more then they trust the corporation. Once the blogosphere becomes just another venue for the company spin and speak it will loose all of its value and usefulness to the consumer. Bloggers are going to fight like mad to preserve the “purity”.
As blogging consultant, the mere mention of ghost writing makes me start to question whether this company is really ready to engage in social media at all. That’s not because I’m a blogging purist throwing down the gauntlet about what blogging is and isn’t. I think that companies can contribute to the validity of social media without eroding it at its core. As the owner of a blogging service for companies, I feel it’s very important that our first clients
to produce exemplary case studies of what successful corporate blogging can really mean. We have three active clients (Spherion's The Big Time is the only live example at this point, but we have two other client blogs that will be launching in the next two months) for Scout at this point and all have found a way to leverage internal resources to write their blog posts. Rationally, it makes the most sense to work with companies that are ready to embrace the concept of transparency and engage under the new rules.
I’ve found that some companies are ready and willing to embrace social media and I think it really helps when someone at the top actively reads other bloggers in their industry or has read books like the Cluetrain Manifesto or Naked Conversations. If they don’t read blogs or haven’t been “clued in”(as some like to say), that's not a show stopper if they’re open-minded and express willingness and the ability to change a few things about their company culture. On the other side of the spectrum are companies that have interest in the virtues of corporate blogging but are strongly attached to the old command and control mentality. From my narrow point of view, these cases represent a longer selling cycle, before and after the sale, and have a lower likelihood for success due to the fact that part of our job will be changing an entire company culture. (Here are some factors to consider before you start to blog from the recent Blogging Success Study we conducted with Northeastern University)
One final thing, ghostwriting is not a black and white issue. I’m sure that there are cases where the choice is ghostwrite now or no blog. I’m not going to judge anyone who decided blogging is important enough to hire a ghostwriter or their PR folks to do the job. The main idea that I’m trying to present here is that in the long run the transparency approach will produce better results with lower risk. The closer that you can get to that ideal before you lauch your company blog the better.
Correction 8:29PM Stephen T. corrected typo.
ghost writers to one word - ghostwriters.
While we are on the subject of CEO bloggers, here's some news ... John Willard "Bill" Marriott Junior can be added to the list of high profile CEO bloggers. Check out the Marriott On the Move blog and read Neville Hobson's post, Marriott CEO blogs to engage with customers. Thanks for the news Neville!
Where should CEO bloggers or business bloggers draw the line when revealing personal information? This question recently created some “hub bub” over at the Jobster blog when CEO, Jason Goldberg wrote a post about the music on his ipod. Jason found it interesting too, so in the midst of the kafuffle, he conducted his own poll of his readres which asked "What should a CEO blog be?". The resuts showed the majority believed that a CEO blog “Should be whatever the CEO-writer wants it to be” and “Express the CEO’s personality”. There are so many cool aspects of this little situation. The first thing that I would like to point out is how savvy I think Jason is in the way he used social media to not only share conversations with his audience but engage with a quick poll to continue the discussion. In a follow-up post, Jason commented that “it’s important that a CEO's blog reflect the CEO's personality, but at same time it is also important that such a blog maintain a level of professionalism.” I definitely agree with that.
Here’s a metaphor / exercise that might be helpful in understanding how you can achieve your goal in creating deeper connections with your audience without harming your business or loosing respect from the customers and stake holders that depend on you.
I’ve never been on a cruise ship, but I watched The Love Boat enough to know that it’s customary for the captain of the ship to dine with the ships guests almost every night. It’s an honor for the guests, and an opportunity for the captain to meet and connect with the people he's responsible for carrying safety and enjoyably from port to port.
When the captain sits down for dinner with passenger guests, is it ok to bring up what’s on his ipod or his favorite food websites? I think it would enhance the guest’s experience to hear some personal tidbits about the captain that are not on the resume. Actually, I think it would be a rather dull dinner if the conversation was confined to ship related topics. However, as a passenger, crew or cruise line stakeholder, I would expect the captain to maintain a certain level of decorum that is consistent with the business's brand culture, and have the discretion not to make the guests or crew uncomfortable or insecure with him being at the helm.
Now the practical folks out there are probably thinking that it makes sense for a captain to have dinner with the guests and to get a little chatty, but why should a company CEO take the risk of rocking the boat? How does this chitchat translate into a CEO enhancing a company’s bottom line? Think of the special guests at the dinner table as people who can influence your target audience’s perception and goodwill towards the company. This intimate experience of breaking bread, connecting on various levels enables the CEO to probe his audience for common ground. It’s relationship building 101, it puts the guests at ease, and provides the captain with valuable insight into how to make his guest’s experience even better while on board.
The internet has broken down barriers and empowered the world to connect, but it has also made it all too easy to keep our distance. A number of companies and CEOs have started blogging. What I find most exciting about blogging are the far reaching aspects for positive business impact. A genuine corporate blog or CEO blog can provide so many practical benefits for both the company and audience.
Blogs can enable people from companies to connect on a more human level with their audience without having to physically be in the same room or even be conversing at the same time.
The time and effort that goes into facilitating this dialog can be leveraged to provide a number of additional business benefits such as, rapid communications, thought leadership, brand awareness, pr, higher search engines rankings, traffic and ultimately business leads.
One of the basic rules of marketing is you can't be all things to all people. There’s plenty of room on the company website for corporate speak. Letting the true personality come through is part of what makes a blog credible. The more editorial review a blog post has the worse it’s going to be. Some readers will like it and some won’t. The art is in knowing your audience. Jason’s blog is a great example of a blog that shares and listens to readers. I think Jason intuitively knows that the core of his audience appreciates the personal nature of his commentary and observations. But he also takes the time to use surveys to prove it. To some, his sharing may seem out of context, but I believe he’s really saying, I care about you therefore I want to share something with you and hear what you think.