How Top Management Uses Blogs To Increase Business

By: Danny Wirken

Top management executives at corporate giants like Sun Microsystems, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, General Motors and Hewlett-Packard have ventured into the blogging arena. What is prompting these busy executives to take time out form their hectic schedules to join in the conversations in the blogosphere? Simple, it is the desire to promote a new atmosphere of openness with employees, shareholders, customers, prospects and the general public in the process not only increasing business but, more so, giving a human voice to the company.

Bosses - Why Blog?

"What began as an experiment has become an important means of communication for GM. It has given me, personally, an opportunity to get much closer with you, the public." These are the words of General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz. The blogosphere, the press, and most of GM's constituents are tuned into his blog which gets more than 5,000 visits and 13,000 page views a day.

In its simplest terms, a blog can be an online and very public journal. It is an effective medium used by top management to communicate directly to its market segment, business associates, stockholders and employees. Blogs serve as channels for management to explain to these people that the directions and actions and views that management is taking are in the best interests of all parties concerned. Through a blog, the CEO or any high level executive has the opportunity to converse with his target audience on a regular basis. The executive is in a unique position to set the agenda, steer the discussion and shape the views and opinions. In a way, top management executives would seem to be the logical persons to blog in behalf of the company. Nobody can represent a company and a product or service brand better than top executives especially the CEO. They are in a good position to comment on certain issues.

Blogging provides management with a fast and cost-effective means of conducting two-way communications with the company's audience. Management and customers, industry peers or the public all have the opportunity to respond either in the comment box or their very own blogs. Management wants to find out how the public views the company so it can improve its products or services. Listening and engaging the blogging community can turn out to be a highly effective way of discovering what your targeted audience thinks about your company. Top management can use feedbacks, good and bad, to their advantage. These feedbacks are used to improve products or services and systems. The immediate and open communication achieved thru blogging can enable a company to gain a high position in its industry. Corporate executive blogs also provide a fast and direct method of managing research on customer experiences, company perception, commentaries on policies and agenda.

Unfavorable comments are not filtered out. Management evaluates these inputs and responds accordingly. GM vice chairman Bob Lutz emphasized it is extremely important to run the bad with the good comments or else credibility will suffer. In the blogosphere, credibility counts the most. Once it is gone, the blog is useless. Filtering out the unsavory remarks takes away the essence of a real conversation. It completely eliminates the likelihood of any wrong perception about your product or service being corrected.

As a whole, top management executives use blogs to help generate sales thereby increasing business. Blogs help them develop a human voice that customers, prospects, shareholders, industry peers, employees and the general public can relate. Giving a human voice to the company is significant as people basically do business out of relationships as they do out of prices and benefits. Blogging promotes a two-way communication about what is important to companies and communities - dialogue that more often than not builds a working relationship.

Effective Executive Blogs

It takes a combination of passion, personality, expertise in one's field, wit and wisdom, writing proficiency to make an executive blog worth reading. An executive blog is not just a summary of company press releases. For a blog to be efficient, avoid having posts that read like a press release. Blogging is more informal and thus easier to bring readers into the conversation. Executive bloggers are advised to get personal while taking into consideration that a certain level of propriety is necessary.

Blogs are perfect for executives in as much as the focal point is on a subject matter that are an expert. An effective blog allows the executive to deal with business concerns and expound on major industry or company issues. For an executive blog to be successful, it should at all times reflect the conviction and voice of the executive, not the PR or legal department. This can be quite difficult as an executive blogger has added responsibilities to watch what he says, keeping in mind securities, disclosure rules. The best executive blog is one written by the executive himself. It is hard to be transparent when another blogger is posting opinions on industry or company trends that he has nothing to do with.

An effective blog uses short but concise and periodic entries rather than long and boring white papers. In fact, some of the outstanding blogs are those that have only one or two sentences with links directing readers to related articles.

A good executive blogger just focuses on two or three vital points. It is then scanned and proofread by a blog-savvy staff member. He also should organize the content of his blog. Arranging the corporate and industry issues he plans to tackle over time is recommended to build cohesiveness. Categorizing entries with relevant keywords can result in higher search engine ranking. New entries should be posted regularly, at least two to three times a week. There is nothing worse than visiting a blog that has not been updated.

Some executives hire the services of public relation firms to draw up blog strategies and at times to help them maintain the technical side of blogging. Others have in-house communications staff to handle logistics for them. Some executives write entries on their BlackBerrys or e-mail them. More importantly, executives claim they write their own blog personally with the slightest or no editing from the public relations or communications department.

Finally, to earn credibility in the blogosphere, an executive blogger should also take comments, favorable or not with a grain of salt. It also means owning up to bad news about the company. As Seth Godin, marketing guru and best-selling author emphasizes, an executive blog works best when it is based on candor, urgency, timeliness, pithiness, controversy and utility,

With the deluge of readers visiting blogs, expect more top management executives blogging to increase business.

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