Do you know the secret behind fabulous CEO blogs?
Far too often, the CEO blog is bogged down with jargon and corporate speak about “optimizing” this or “cutting-edge” that and creating a “user experience” that’s “best of breed.”
Blogging by the boss is a great a tool for sales, marketing, and branding. Research
from HubSpot, the marketing software company, found that companies with blogs draw 55 percent more visitors than those without. Luring more visitors offers more opportunities to create customers. And companies that blog also had almost 100 percent more inbound links and more than 400 percent more indexed pages than their blog-less peers.
But we’ve all read corporate blogs that are sleep-inducing blocks of text. Or that sound as if a robot wrote them.
The secret to the best CEO blogs is this: They sound like a human actually wrote them. They write about real life and the joys, let downs, mistakes, and successes that come with it. Risky? Maybe. But it’s real.
Here are three examples of CEO blogs that meet this criteria.
Marriott on the Move, by Bill Marriott
The latest installment to this blog by the executive chairman and chairman of the board of Marriott hotels features an interview conducted by his son, David, in front of the company’s senior executives. He jokingly wonders, in the short post that introduces the video, whether “we were in a family therapy session.”
It feels authentic. It remains relevant to Marriott’s brand and customers. And it’s informative. But there’s nothing stiff or boring.
Zappos blogs, by Tony Hsieh, CEO, and Chris Nielsen, COO, of Zappos
In one post, the executives for popular online retailer Zappos posted a memo sent to employees about snags that developed when a major new system went live. Bottom line: Shipping slowed, and backlogs of orders built.
The memo describes what Zappos was doing to fix things. And it thanked employees for their efforts and patience.
It was a great idea to let customers peek behind the corporate curtain and get a description of problems that might—or might not—have affected their orders, specifically. That probably appeased some of the customers whose shipments were delayed. It probably deepened the loyalty of many other customers, as well.
Sea Views, by Adam Goldstein, CEO of Royal Caribbean
He refers to the company’s goals in 2013 in a recent post, and describes a personal milestone that’s approaching: This is the last year both of his children will be at home. His oldest child, David, will be starting at Princeton in the fall—the third generation in the family to attend, according to the blog.
Many of his customers can surely relate to that significant life marker. It let Goldstein’s blog readers see him as a dad, and a wistful one at that, as he concedes he doesn’t look forward to David leaving the house. Awww.
Nine prompts for authentic blog posts
Those examples demonstrate, perfectly, the point of a CEO blog. It’s not to sell. And it’s certainly not to sound CEO-like. It’s to connect with customers, to add some personality to the company’s brand, to help connect with visitors so they click on another page and stay on the site. And yes, so they eventually become customers—or more loyal customers.
Convincing the CEO to blog in this style is a challenge that some—perhaps many—will resist. Showing examples might help.
This hint might help, too: Writing automatically stiffens up some folks, turning on corporate-speak mode, so try suggesting the executive just talk about the idea. Get a recorder and describe the story or situation as if telling a friend. A spoken version might be closer to the mark than a written draft.
Finding subjects to turn into posts that sound real is another challenge. Here are nine prompts to kick start authentic blog posts from the CEO of your company or client.
1. Ask customers what they like best about a product.
2. Ask what they’d change and why.
3. Answer an email or other question from a customer.
4. Describe a mistake and how it was fixed.
5. Ask for feedback about the website.
6. Ask for feedback about anything else about the company.
7. Introduce a contest.
8. Introduce something else new, such as a product line.
9. Explain something that customers might not like, such as a product being discontinued or price increases.
Becky Gaylord worked as a reporter for more than 15 years in Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and Sydney, before she launched the consulting practice, Gaylord LLC.