Richard Branson CEO Blogger
It was Abraham Maslow, the creator of the still controversial, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs who suggested that the moment a person has secured a certain number of his more basic needs, he can devote himself to acts of greater selflessness and social goodness.

Although Maslow’s theory is still under intense scrutiny and even attack from some quarters, it appeals sufficiently to common sense to find easy resonance with most of us. When it comes to examples, for instance, Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, leaps readily to mind. In a recent post on Virgin’s website Richard made an impassioned but well-reasoned appeal for the decriminalisation of drugs based upon a recently released study on how this has gone for Portugal.

Richard’s Blog is, mostly, focused on subjects which Richard Branson finds interesting and, mostly again, with a bias towards social goodness is one of and increasing number of what Seth Godin calls CEO Blogs. CEO Blogs are a trend intended to A. Help humanise companies by introducing their CEO to joe-blog-reader and B. Help companies capitalise on social media because, it’s the CEO writing, right? Who, in their right mind, would not want to instantly read his every word and then spread it to all their friends and urge them to spread it to their friends.

If it sounds lame it’s because it is. The very idea of having a CEO blog is usually guaranteed to sound good only round the company conference table where everyone present is looking to score brownie points. The moment the blog goes live it either goes unnoticed (best case scenario as everyone within the company ticks a box of a job well done and writes it down as a success) or it becomes noticed (like Klout co-founder’s post on the vision behind Klout) and draws widespread ridicule from the online community it hopes to actually engage.

What makes Branson’s the exception which proves the rule is the fact that most company CEOs are neither gifted writers nor do they know how social media works and therefore end up achieving quite the opposite of what they set out to do. Branson understood the value of social media long before the internet came along and he has been quick to capitalize on his popularity and common touch, to the benefit of both his personal brand and the brand recognition of the Virgin group.

With CEO’s rushing to emulate him I guess we will continue to see blogs which will fall far from the minimum standard required. If your company is bent on following suit and you are keen to avoid a PR disaster make sure that your CEO follows some basic guidelines:

01. You’re just a dude. You may be the Big Cheese at work but now you are talking to the public at large, all of whom have Twitter accounts and hyperactive click fingers. Never make the mistake of treating them like they are work minions and never, ever talk to them like you are doing them a favour.

02. Fire up your passion. If the Blog’s a chore give it up. If giving it up, for whatever reason is not an option you can hire a professional to do it for you. If vanity or self-respect will not permit that option either then, at least, make sure you know where the passion which drives you comes from. The worst-written blog will be forgiven everything if it is real in the way it approaches its subject matter and its content comes straight from the heart.

03. Talk about what’s interesting. This is good advice for any blogger. If you are going to blog forget about drawing interest based upon who you are and write about issues and content which are of interest to real people.

04. Don’t forget your company. If you’re a CEO blogging your aim, at one level at least, is to also help promote your company. This, in itself, should contribute to some of the things you cover in your blog content and the way you cover them. Bear this in mind when it comes to controversy.

05. Provide some insight. Presumably you did not get to be a CEO because you have pretty blue eyes and your position gives you privileged access to information. Information is the key of the realm on the web, use it sparingly and make a little go a long way and you will soon find yourself with truckloads of fans.

06. Tell us what makes you tick. Uniqueness is what’s prized the most on the web. Gifted with the ability to read about, virtually meet, and interact with over 10% of the planet’s population what online visitors and the readers of your blog want to know is what makes you different. Get that right and by association it also rubs off onto your company (which was the main idea when they all agreed you had to write a Blog).

Blogging is not easy and as blogs proliferate and companies strive to become ‘friendlier’ we will see more and more CEOs becoming scribes. Nothing wrong with that provided they do not trip up and actually provide some real writing.


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