These days, it seems as if every business leader is blogging — south of the border, that is. Jonathan Schwartz, the president and CEO of Sun Microsystems, has a blog. So does Bill Gates. Mark Cuban, the tech multimillionaire and owner of basketball’s Dallas Mavericks, is a blogger, too. By comparison, Canadian CEOs seem to be slow adopters. When I Googled “Canadian CEO blog,” entrepreneur Jim Estill of Synnex Canada and his Time Management blog came up most frequently in my search results — by a long shot. After that, they are few and far between.
So, what is it with Canadians? Does our seeming aversion to stating our case, airing our opinions and sharing our expertise simply reflect our conservative nature? Is it just another trend that starts in California and makes its way across the rest of America and then, after a long wait at customs, finally hops the border into Canada? Whatever the answer, I believe you should start blogging before your competitors do.
Admittedly, I am as guilty as anyone of waiting to jump on the blogwagon. As a trusted advisor to the CEOs of fast-growth companies, I should be blogging on a regular basis to reinforce my own brand, share my expertise and attract new clients. And yet two years after blogging became de rigueur among smart CEOs stateside, I’ve just launched my own: Lessons from the Edge.
My conversion to blogging believer began at I Love Rewards Inc., a Toronto-based provider of online customer- and employee-incentive programs that I’m involved with. The I Love Rewards blog (www.iloverewards.com/blog) was conceived about a year ago as a search-engine optimization and public relations tool. Participating in the ensuing debate among the firm’s senior leaders over who should contribute to the blog, whether readers should be able to comment on blog postings and which I Love Rewards staff would be allowed to write on its blog taught me a lot about how an “external” blog (i.e., one intended for public consumption) functions and needs to be managed — and how effective a marketing and communications tool it can be.
If you’re one of the Canadian entrepreneurs who doubt the power of blogs, here are some good reasons to take up blogging. (I’m talking about external blogs, as internal blogs are a no-risk, low-cost and effective tool for employee collaboration and knowledge management, i.e., a no-brainer):
- To give back. If you’ve accumulated years of experience in business, a blog lets you easily share your knowledge with other entrepreneurs.
- To give a human face to your company. Customers and the media want to deal with real people, and a blog gives you — the most important person in your company — visibility.
- To improve your search-engine ranking. A well-written blog about your business and industry will be linked to by other websites and be full of the keywords people search for, two of the primary criteria by which search engines evaluate a site.
- To open a dialogue with and between your customers, provided you allow them to post comments on your blog. Bob Lutz, vice chairman of global product development at General Motors, is a shining example of a business leader whose firm has benefited greatly from his blogging.
If you are going to blog to the outside world, here are some tips to help ensure that it is a positive experience:
- Write it yourself — readers will see through a blog composed by ghost writers or PR flacks.
- Be as open and honest as you are comfortable being. Again, readers can detect when your guard is up or you are trying to “sell” them.
- Give your readers value for their time spent! Sharing best management practices or innovative uses of your product or service will improve your company’s image in the marketplace.
- Always consider how your blog entries will position your firm as a leader in its field, if not a great place to work. Your blog can be a great recruiting tool.
- Blog regularly, as it’s hard to find anything more ironic than a stale message distributed over an instant mass communications medium. Plot a series of themes to write about over the course of a few months. You might start with one post a week, augmented by additional posts whenever a timely message needs to be communicated.
- Write in plain but conversational language. Unless your intended audience is 16 year olds, avoid Netspeak, 4COL (for crying out loud).
- Limit your legal exposure by establishing blogging guidelines — even if only for yourself. IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines are a good example to follow.
So, be a trendsetter, get connected with your various stakeholders and grow your business by blogging. With the dearth of Canadian CEO blogs out there, you have a chance to be ahead of the curve. Don’t let your rivals beat you to the blogosphere, 4COL!