Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Why bosses blog - and why it's cheesy

By Stephen Evans BBC North America business correspondent

Can bosses blog?

They certainly think they can - or at least someone not far from corporate communications seem to think they can.

The list of boardroom bloggers is now long and distinguished: Bob Lutz, vice president of General Motors; Randy Baseler, vice president of Boeing's commercial aircraft division; Jonathan Schwartz, president of Sun Microsystems.
We should welcome the fresh new voices, shouldn't we?

Blogs are the medium for soul-baring and straight talking. They're readable because they're gossipy and dangerous and the antithesis of officialdom. They're the place where the unspeakable is spoken. They're the vehicle of loopiness and truth.

But just as you know something's not cool any more when your granny starts doing it (like using the word "cool"), isn't the point of blogs that they're meant to be the site of unofficialdom, and so forbidden to executives?

Corporate blogs

They don't think so.

How, then, do they do? How do they perform in this shadow land?

Here's a frank comment from Mr Baseler about one of Boeing's aircraft:
"For airlines looking at rising fuel and other operational costs, this airplane is a clear winner. I have to believe that a big part of the remarkable appeal of the 787 is its super-efficiency. Not to mention that passengers will love it".

Or this controversial comment from Mr Lutz of General Motors about one of his company's products:
"I am enthusiastic about the Buick Lacrosse," he confides. "It's wonderfully executed, has fabulous workmanship, is dead-quiet, and, with the sport suspension and the four-cam V-6, has sensationally good dynamics."

Or this, on a completely different tack, from Rich Marcello, one of Hewlett Packard's vice presidents:
"When in your life did you stop singing? When in your life did you stop dancing? When in your life did you stop being fascinated by stories, especially your own life story? And when did you stop being comfortable with the sweet territory of silence? Food for thought. Rich."

Which has to be better than regulation corporate speak (though the vice president of Hewlett Packard does take occasional swipes at rival IBM).

Some of the executive blogs do manage not to sound like press releases.

Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems uses geeky language in his blog, but then that's the business he's in. Of course, he doesn't slag off his own products, but you wouldn't expect him to, and he does engage in debate and revelation about the way he thinks the industry is going - and that's worth reading (if you can get past the jargon).

Cyberspace waste bin

Here's some advice to executives who want to blog:

Don't soft-soap your audience - they won't believe you and the blog loses credibility.
Mr Lutz of General Motors, for example, does not dwell on GM's sea of woes, and that undermines his blog. Employees can spot guff from a million miles, so don't use it.

That doesn't mean you can't blog.

Obviously, statements made by executives have legal and commercial implications, so steer away from areas you can't talk frankly about.

How you really do see the broad industry (or rock music, or the local road system, or the latest Star Wars, or the last Detroit Red Wings game) might well be worth airing.

Thoughts on how wonderful the new product is and how the management team have got it exactly right in all conceivable ways ought to go straight into the cyberspace waste bin.

The original story and comments)


  1. Interesting. So what they cannot legally expound can now be creatively presented.

  2. "last Detroit Red Wings game"

    I love that the Wings got a mention on your blog. They're my team. I love them. I live in the south now, but I'm from the Detroit area. So yeah.