A Randall Stross column (subscription required) in yesterday’s New York Times revealed that only two, count ’em two, of the Fortune 500 chief executive officers maintain a blog. Of the two, Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems and John Mackey of Whole Foods, only Schwartz blogs with any regularity.
Even though he is alone in his convictions, Schwartz could not be more adamant about the importance of blogging in a CEOs life. "My number 1 job is to be a communicator," said Schwartz. "I don’t understand how a CEO would not blog if committed to open communication." In fell swoop, says Schwartz, he simultaneously reaches shareholders, software developers, and current and prospective customers. He says a single blog saves him countless hours of time that would have been spent composing individual e-mails to these very same groups.
So, why don’t more CEOs blog? It’s not because, as some suggest, blogging is a passing fad. It’s because CEOs fear the loss of control that comes with blogging. Unlike a letter in an annual report, a prepared speech to an industry trade group or a print advertisement, blogging demands open, two-way communication. And, for an authoritarian, top-down manager surrounded by sycophants, that concept is way too scary.
But, as Schwartz pointed out in a Harvard Business Review article, one day all CEOs will blog. They’ll wake up to its efficiencies and its ability to create new and different relationships with core constituents. It may take a few years, but I totally agree with Schwartz. Why? Because market competition and good ol’ peer pressure will force the CEO to adapt or die. Once Schwartz’s competitors realize how his blog pre-empts the types of traditional relationships they’ve been trying to nurture with the same prospective customer base, you’ll see them pick up the keypad and start banging away.
There was one other key point in the Stross article that I wanted to share. Schwartz says he’s dead set against ghostwritten CEO blogs. I totally agree. My good friend and competitor, Ken Makovsky, has gone on record as disagreeing, saying a ghostwritten blog is no different than a ghostwritten speech. Conceptually, he may be right. But, the blogosphere has its own rules and regulations. Bloggers want to have direct, one-on-one conversations with one another, and not have to deal with a designated member of the corporation’s palace guard. As a result, ghostwritten blogs get deleted faster than those unsolicited requests from Ethiopian widows looking to deposit $15mm in your bank account.
So, here’s a virtual tip of the hat to Mr. Schwartz for having the brains and the guts to go where no other CEO has gone. Let’s hope future text books and manuals on business acknowledge his visionary act.