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Why Most CEOs Who Blog - Blog Badly

This commentary was written by Christopher Lochhead, a former technology executive who now works as a strategy advisor.

Just like the Obama's date night shamed married men into taking their wives for a night out, the President is driving a surge in executive blogging.
No surprise there as Obama is the first "iPresident" who used the Internet to beat his competitor John McCain, who admitted during the campaign to being a technology Luddite.

Now the president is using social working and so-called Web 2.0 technologies to forward his agenda. He is an Internet marketing maven who has used YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace to market his message to the Muslim world and to sell his new health care plan. As master of its own message, the new administration has basically turned into its own Internet marketing platform.

All this e-marketing is working. According to Gallup Obama's approval rating is 61%. There are three reasons this is a powerful strategy for the president:

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1) Love him or hate him, Obama has engaging ideas and is a very effective communicator.

2) Social Media is ubiquitous, easy to use, and loved by young people.

3) The president has surrounded himself with a masterful team of technology and marketing experts who have figured out how to use the medium to maximum advantage.

Obama has proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Internet is a seminal marketing device for the modern executive. But, according to SocialText company CEO's are lagging the president when it comes to this use of technology with only 12% of Fortune 500 companies blogging.

Indeed, only, a few high-profile CEO's have been blogging for an extended period of time. Most notable among them, Mark Cuban,owner of the Dallas Mavericks and Jonathan Schwartz, the CEO of Sun Microsystems.

But the ice is breaking. ABC TV talk show host George Stephanopoulos just conducted a "twitterview" with Senator John McCain while Governor Sarah Palin is now a regular tweeter And the legendary Jack Welch (former General Electric CEO) recently penned an article on the virtue of using Twitter.

Obama's Web success will surely cause a jump in executive and company blogging. The question is will this be compelling content or just a load of corporate PR crap? Unfortunately, chances are it will turn out to be the latter. What makes me think that? Just read the average company Web site or press release. Most make you wonder how stupid CEOs are if they think anyone with a brain would actually want to read their babble. These communications are full of confusing indirect language, business jargon, and legalese. Other than that, they are awesome.

Clearly most Fortune 500 CEOs and their marketing chiefs do not understand the new social Web world. Unlike Obama, most spend little time thinking about how to use the Internet to create a competitive advantage. Never mind, how to author compelling blog entries. So most companies treat blogging at best, like an electronic newsletter. When was the last time you read a company newsletter and thought, `That was great. Can't wait to read the next one.' I know. These things are often long-winded and self-indulgent. Making matters worse, most company communications today are over-controlled by legal and public relations committees. These groups tend to sanitize, restrict, and script every word that comes out of executive mouths.

So what should you look for in a good executive blog? Short, clear, compelling, posts. One company getting it right is Google, whose official blog was was named one of Time Magazine's Top 25 Blogs "Top 25 Blogs." Another example: Whole Foods whose whole story blog shares recipes, and tries to educate readers about food in an engaging way.

In many cases CEOs of private or smaller companies feel freer to share their true thoughts and insights with their readers, or at least more so than their colleagues at large public companies. One example: My buddy, Mike Damphousse, founder and CEO of Green Leads, a marketing company has built a strong following by sharing free advice on his blog, Smash Mouth Marketing.

And so as the president continues to use Web 2.0 approaches to market his policies, he will no doubt inspire others to do the same. The unanswered question is whether these new executive blogs be just another way to disseminate propaganda or a compelling new source of content from provocative movers and shakers?
By Christopher Lochhead
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