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Executive Blogs Need to Mix It Up to Lure Readers

Friday, June 4th, 2010 by Chris

The problem with CEO blogs, said marketing guru Seth Godin several years ago, is that they rarely have the qualities that make for engaging reading: candor, urgency, timeliness, pithiness, and controversy. “Does this sound like a CEO to you?” Godin asked. Well, no—for the most part, executive blogs are pure vanilla, and at worst, simply a place to dump rewritten press releases.

CEOs who are great at blogging—like Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and chairman of HDNet—are usually unafraid to mix it up a bit, no doubt causing headaches for their legal and PR teams. In the last couple of months, Cuban has ripped people who complain about Facebook’s privacy controls, praised Google TV, and slammed Twitter for adopting a hands-off policy about hate-filled posts on the microblogging service. It certainly makes for a fun read, and generates lots of comments on the blog—just the kind of interaction you need to build an audience.

Most execs don’t want to rock the boat like Cuban does—they fear a backlash from stockholders or their own employees, or they think they’ll tee off partners or customers by offering even the gentlest of controversies. Maybe the legal department steps in to edit out any language that’s mildly opinionated. The result is a blog that’s about as exciting to read as an annual report.

Marketing and communications departments are often tasked with developing blog topics for executives, editing the resulting exec-written posts, and sometimes writing first drafts themselves to help the execs gather their thoughts. If you’re editing such posts—or you’re asking the Content Bureau staff for help—here are some ways to add some juice to an executive blog without causing migraines in the C-suite (and in legal):

  • Offer an overview of a current industry controversy (preferably one in which your company is not directly involved) with a look at arguments on both sides—perhaps pointing your readers towards new sources or players in the issue.
  • Raise an issue or argument that’s pertinent to your industry and ask blog readers to weigh in with their thoughts. Let them trade barbs with each other—your executive blogger is simply facilitating the conversation.
  • Avoid corporate puffery. Bragging about your new products or service offerings makes readers view your blog as self-serving. Bragging about smart ideas, presentations, or innovations from your employees, especially if they have relevance to the industry as a whole, is intelligence-sharing, and will make for a richer read.

is a member of the Content Bureau editorial team.

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The Business of Copywriting

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