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CEO and corporate blogs: Can they cut through the clutter?
ZAHID H. JAVALI  14th Feb 2015

Suboto Bagchi.

elivering wisdom, one blog post at a time. That's the stated credo of blogs by CEOs and company founders. It's also the newest trend in the world, prompting American author and entrepreneur Seth Godin to not do "boring, selfish blogs" and even came up with a list of qualities that a CEO blog should have. We spoke to author Guy Kawasaki, who also runs his own graphics design firm, was previously an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and the chief evangelist of Apple. Joining him is Subroto Bagchi, business author and the founder-chairman of Mindtree. We ask both of them the same set of questions and get quite diverse answers.

Q. What have been the positive outcomes of having your blog for so many years now?

Guy Kawasaki (GK): Staying on the radar of many people. However, social media has now taken the place of blogging for me. LinkedIn, Google+, and Facebook have replaced blogging for me. It's much harder to drive people to a blog than to a social-media account. The difference between blogging and long-form social-media posts is like the difference between building a store in the middle of nowhere or going to a mall.

Subroto Bagchi (SB): It is an important real estate for sharing my thought process, views and ideas with the extended stakeholders of Mindtree.

Q. And the lessons learnt from blogging so far? Image 2nd

GK: Blogging requires at least one new post a week, and that is hard to sustain. I couldn't do it for more than a couple of years. This is partly why I switched to social media where curation is as accepted as creation; more power to anyone who can blog consistently. One very tactical tip: add a picture to every blog post that looks good when posted to Pinterest because Pinterest is the new Google for bloggers.

SB: It is like owning a cow; you can't occasionally feed it.

It’s much harder to drive people to a blog than to a social-media account. The difference between blogging and long-form social-media posts is like the difference between building a store in the middle of nowhere or going to a mall.

Q. Where do you see this trend of CEO blogging headed? What is lacking in them today?

GK: I don't read any CEO blogs. Most, if not all, CEO blogs are polished by PR people and cleansed by legal advisers. By that point, why read them? He doesn't blog per se, but the social-media posts of Richard Branson are interesting and entertaining. The core issue of mediocre blogs and social media is that companies do not play to win, they play to not lose. If one million people like a post but don't say anything, 100 people say something positive, and five people say something negative, brand and their agencies push the panic button. They'd much rather share posts that don't get read — and they have achieved that goal.

SB: People often think it is a PR piece; it isn't. It is an extension of the CEO persona and people must respect the reader as someone invested in knowing your mind and not your propaganda.

Q. Do you have any favourite corporates whose blogs you follow?

GK: One of the best corporate blogs is from Buffer. It is a constant source of great content about social media. I am the chief evangelist of Canva, full disclosure, but the Canva design blog is an outstanding educational service to teach people about design. What makes both these blogs good is that they provide value to readers by providing information, as opposed to promotion. You can actually learn things by reading them. This makes them eminently re-shareworthy which generates more branding for both companies.

SB: No, I don't follow anyone else's. Just don't have the bandwidth.

Q. Who should and who should not blog?

GK: I'm pessimistic that any corporate honcho whose blog would be worth reading has the time, inclination, or skill to write a good blog. The blogs of corporate honchos are over-thought and cleansed — and therefore, not interesting or valuable. Large brands have teams of marketers, lawyers, writers, and copyeditors to write 140-character tweets. How long do you think it would take to get a blog post through this gauntlet? What good writing could survive such a process?

SB: (chooses not to answer)

Q. What is your opinion of CEOs/founders using ghost writers? Is it ethical?

GK: Ghost writing is okay if the ghost writer can (a) capture the voice and perspective of the person and (b) have the freedom to write something useful. Is ghost writing ethical? Is it ethical for speech writers to put words into the mouths of politicians? It's okay — even necessary to use ghost writers and speech writers; that's just the way things are. But this is why few corporate blogs are interesting. I'd be happy to be corrected. Maybe your readers can point me to good corporate/CXO level blogs in the comments.

SB: People always love to hear the voices of living people but sometimes, when the living cannot communicate, voices of ghosts are probably better than no voices at all.

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