How long will it be before a parade of CEOs and other top execs turn their backs on blogging with a dismissive 'Been There, Done That?' It's the rare CEO who has the time and energy and openness to blog.
I fully agree that it's hard to imagine many CEOs keeping up a decent blog for long. Not only do they not have the time, but the natural voice of the boss is fundamentally incompatible with the voice of the blogger, at least as regards their own company affairs (which is why I don't write much about Wired here).
But it's a huge mistake to equate executive blogs with business
blogging, just as it's a huge mistake to see the world only through the
economic and culture lens of stars and hits (what I call "headism").
The best business blogs come from the employees, not the bosses. They
have more time, and are less prone to marketing gobbledygook and gnomic
platitudes. And those kind of blogs are on the rise, not the decline.
[Definitional update: I'm using "business blogs" here the same way Baker did--blogs from within a company that are largely about that company and/or its products. I'm not referring to blogs about business generally. Other terms for this are "corporate blogs" or "company blogs".]
The most successful business blogs are peer-to-peer: engineers, designers and managers within a company blogging about their own projects for the engineers, designers and other customers outside the company who use those products or care about that project.
Traditionally corporate messaging is directed up through the management structure within a company until it is released via an executive speech or press release, at which point it is supposed to be picked up by the press, filtered again, and trickled down to the public and ultimately the customers. But now that sort of top-down messaging is losing its effectiveness as consumers vote with their browser to go directly to the unfiltered voice of people like them.
Simply put, we're starting to trust what executives say less and what employees say more. And if given a choice, as is the case with companies that let their employees blog, we'll take the word of an articulate engineer in the belly of the beast over the double-speak of a press release any day. As institutional credibility declines (from Enron to the White House), individual credibility is taking its place.
Markets are conversations, not speeches. People want to hear from real people, not remote authority figures. Abstract institutions are turning transparent to reveal communities of regular people. And as that trend continues, consumer attention will shift from the institutional voice of the management to the human voice of their peers in the rank and file.
In a speech last week at the m-squared marketing conference, I called this the power of "ants with megaphones". What's great about company blogging below the executive level is that it's impedance matched to blogging about the company from outside. Robert Scoble and Dave Weiner debating in public is a conversation of peers. Reading a New York Times account of a Bill Gates speech is not.
Scoble himself expands on this in a great post that ends on the right note:
So, CEOs, if you don't get blogging, that's OK. It gives guys like me who are seven levels down from the CEO something to do.