Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why a CEO's personal blog helps the company

I was delighted that my blog was selected as one of the top 10 CEO blogs by Chief Executive Magazine this week. Given all the exposure and risk a CEO already faces why, you may ask, blog?

At the heart of my reasoning is that transparency is a good thing for a CEO. It's important the CEO is an active communicator, it's important that she is well understood by all her constituencies and a blog can be a powerful additive to the traditional communication platforms.

We have a FirstRain blog - MarketMine - on our web site. It's a good vehicle for us to comment on our industry, market developments at FirstRain, showcase customers, and for my team to write and share their views in an open forum.

But for a CEO blog Seth Godin set the bar high when he posted many years ago that blogs need
"Candor
Urgency
Timeliness
Pithiness and
Controversy - Does this sound like a CEO to you?"

I agree - this is a tall order - but if you can do it then it becomes both interesting reading and a vehicle for people to get to know me... my opinions on industry, technology, corporate boards, gender equality issues and, then sprinkled in just occasionally, a personal post about a vacation or a swimming race.

You can get to know me and what I care about very easily by reading my writing. You'll know where I stand on a number of business issues, what developments matter to me as CEO of FirstRain, and, if you want to, how to connect with me. It's a powerful recruiting tool for prospective employees to understand our culture, and many customers read it as a way of staying close to FirstRain.

More challenging is blogging on the Huffington Post if I think an idea is interesting to the Business section readers (I'm not qualified to write about politics or celebrities which are their highest traffic sections!). HuffPo has a huge readership and so posting there carries significant responsibility, but overall I get positive feedback from people who find it helpful and so I strive to share my experience, and expose readers to our business at the same time.

But it is not without risk. As a visible person (I sit on two public company boards) I do also have to be very careful that what I write never breaches confidentiality, while controversial is never in bad taste, and does not embarrass my companies even indirectly. This is hard at times - I am not without strong opinions! Sometimes I want to write on an idea that even I know is a little out there and I'll ask my team for advice - and so far they have corralled me well.

We are swimming in a social media world. It's one of the characteristics of today's Web that makes the need for FirstRain so strong in our customers. They need to understand, with great precision, what's developing in their markets. One of the best ways I can stay on top of the emerging trends is to be a part of that world myself - blogging and tweeting and collaborating so I understand first hand what the benefits and challenges are.

John Kador characterized me as " fearless in mixing the personal with the professional in her blog". I should have told him about the deep breath I take before I click on Publish Post each time!

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