Jonathan Schwartz , CEO of Sun Microsystems and avid blogger
This post resulted from a series of email exchanges between Ivan Chew, Kevin Lim and a couple of other media socialists. The basic idea is whether it makes sense for people in positions of authority to blog, and if so, what benefits or drawbacks do they bring.
As a publicist, I have been involved in profling both my organisations and CEOs for the longest time. People are always interested to hear from the top dogs. This includes usual stuff like their vision, key thrusts, 5-year plans, ideas to revolutionise the industry, management style, to more personal details like favourite food, hobbies etc. They can also change an organisation’s course for the future. This can apply to something as macro as a country’s destiny, to one as micro as a product line’s bottom-line.
Increasingly, at least in the Western world, more and more corporate chieftains are blogging. Prime examples are Bob Lutz of General Motors, Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban, and Sun Microsystem’s Jonathan Schwartz. More recently, Vice President of CSR in McDonald’s Bob Langert has jumped into the fray, and so has Bill Marriott of Marriott Hotels.
In Singapore, the only CEO blogger I know of is Tan Kin Lian. Unfortunately, he had retired as NTUC Income’s chief so that will bring our total score to zero for now. I hardly hear of any senior management bloggers out there, though I am quite sure Mr Wang isn’t just a junior flyboy. Most tend to be consultants or trainers, with the occasional tech-related entrepreneurs.
There are a couple of politicians who blog though – Foreign Minister George Yeo (who blogs at Ephraim Loy’s blog as well as Beyond SG), and the P65 MPs. More recently is lawyer turned Nominated MP Siew Kum Hong who has attracted fans with his candid and transparent approach towards politics.
I wish more captains of industry would blog though. Blogging helps to demystify what your corporate culture is all about. It makes you more directly accessible to your various publics while drawing them closer to you. Some of your customers may also be keen to hear what goes on behind the scenes, and be involved – if not in helping to create the next product then at least in voicing their frustrations and complaints.
Blogging head honchos can also connect more directly to their employees. Your colleagues would certainly be interested to know your thoughts on various matters so that they know how they can better work with you (or under you!). Certainly, blogs are more informal and friendly than your regular staff conference or corporate newsletter.
Another benefit I see in blogging is what it does to your personal and corporate brand. Blogs certainly provide an added dimension to one’s brand identity and positioning. It tells people what you and your organisation’s values are, and helps to shape public perception in a more direct, conversational manner with a figure that they can identify with and trust.
In a way, blogging helps to humanise CEOs and senior managers. Too often, there is a perception that senior corporate guys live in ivory towers and are totally out of touch with their constituents. Blogging helps in positioning you as the guy next door, whom one can speak to in normal everyday language and get a frank and candid opinion.
The flip side however is that blogging may take off some of the sheen that corporate communications has bestowed on head honchos for the longest time. Being believable and trusted, however, may be far more important than all the accolades and awards that one can muster. Especially in this day and age where transparency and honesty are valued.