The Limits of Blogging

The Washington Post has a story today on corporate blogging. Apparently, CEOs and other high company officials have a ways to go before their blogs realize the potential of the form:

Web logs — or blogs — started as a way to talk about new technologies, vent about life and interact in a no-holds-barred forum. Since blogs became the next big thing, an increasing number of companies have come to see them as the next great public relations vehicle — a way for executives to demonstrate their casual, interactive side.

But, of course, the executives do nothing of the sort. Their attempts at hip, guerrilla-style blogging are often pained — and painful.

I wrote about the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries below. I know they’re not a corporation, but it’s certainly an organization–many employees, spread around the state–where a blog would be a great communications vehicle. What if Daniel Hoffler, the resigning Chairman, had had a blog?

Would Hoffler have written about the planned trip to Zimbabwe in his blog? If he had, would employee comments have supported such a trip? Might the comments have tipped him off that this trip was a terrible idea?

Hard to say, but I think my hypothetical example explains why blogs may never be an effective corporate communications vehicle. Few leaders are willing to “interact in a no-holds barred forum.” They are used to doing what they want and being supported by their closest staffers. Going to Zimbabwe to learn about game management techniques made perfect sense to Hoffler; why would he have to convince some poor Virginia game warden in Shenandoah County that this “learning” experience in an exotic locale would benefit, him, too?

Maybe if Hoffler had spent a day with the Shenandoah County game warden and blogged about it, he might have come up with as many ideas as he got in Zimbabwe and been able to share them. He would have demonstrated to the entire organization that he really was in touch with the agency’s mission.

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  1. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    It’s hard for me to imagine a senior corporate executive publishing a readable blog. There are a handful who do it, but they are rare instances. Why? First, because blogging takes a commitment of time to think, develop content, write and self edit. Not many executives have the time to spend an hour or two per day doing that. Second, because, as Will notes, there are intense pressures that act against being candid. Who’s going to want to share his insights into market trends and directions with competitors? Who’s going to say anything controversial without running it through the lawyers first? Without insight and candor, a blog will not likely generate any interest.

    Corporate executives have numerous other means of making themselves heard — conferences, press releases, media interviews, speeches, P.R. staffs and all the rest. Blogs are for those without a megaphone.

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