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Biz Blogging -- WORKS. It is of -- MONUMENTAL IMPORTANCE."
-- Tom Peters, author of 'In Search of Excellence'
How does a CEO engage with over 1,200 employees across 10 countries every working day? By writing to them daily. And the one person who has done this remarkably well is Rudy Karsan, chairman and CEO of Kenexa, a leading provider of employee hiring and retention solutions. And his mediums of communication are internal and external newsletters, and blogs.
And why does Mr Karsan write on his blog? "CEO stands for the only job with three bosses: Customers, Employees and Owners. One thus needs to develop a communications protocol for all three; and the larger a company becomes, the more efficient this process needs to get. When Kenexa started off 15-20 years back, I could talk to the small team anytime, anywhere. But as we grew and globalised, the number of locations and employees went up. And we realised the best way to touch them was through writing. I started a thought of the day, which could be the words of a famous person, or about what the company is doing, or my personal experiences besides other things. And these would wait on everyone's desktops as if to say, Hello, how are you this morning?" he says.
Not just employees, CEOs and other executives may need to blog to engage with the other stakeholders in their business. These include shareholders, customers, vendors, analysts, media and regulatory authorities besides others. And this can no longer be about passive one-way communication -- executives failing to be proactive risk losing out in the fiercely competitive marketplace. And this is where blogs come in. Just some examples of how blogs can be useful are:
~ Customers: Build a relationship of faith. Feedback, even if from a few customers, can serve as an early warning system.
~ Shareholders: Make them feel they are co-owners of the company. Let blogs be a direct channel of communication with the board. Benefits include saving stock prices from undergoing wild swings due to rumours or misinformation.
~ Human Resources: The most valued asset of a company, companies have to make that extra effort to attract and retain quality employees. A blog by senior management enables prospective employees understand what the company's values and philosophy are -- this message is often lost down the line of managers who may not always succeed in portraying the correct picture or with the same sincerity and passion.
~ Media: Help journalists with the latest news and insights. Blogs can also be a direct channel to stakeholders where media coverage is inadequate or incorrect. Companies like General Motors have benefited by blogs countering wrong media reports about a particular car being a flop.
~ Brand Promotion: The 'Sunsilk Gang of Girls' being a highly successful case, blogs have proven themselves to be a channel of creating excitement around brands.
"In today's global economy, companies have to provide value to stakeholders around the mantra of 'faster, cheaper, better'. As organisations strive to achieve this, they often lose sight of the smaller picture, ie, communicating with and keeping their employee base informed.
However, effective communication is a vital business tool for speeding up change and improving the quality and performance of any organisation. Handled correctly, it is a critical way of aligning, motivating and engaging employees. "I walk into any of our offices, and employees think they know me and connect with me even without ever having met me before. The writings are a reflection of the kind of organisation we are; it's a way of showing our values. We are seen as a company with integrity and highly service focused with a culture of fun," adds Karsan.
Some rules for successful blogging
Just creating a blog and writing on it may not be enough -- one needs to adopt certain practices to make them really effective and not being seen as just a PR exercise. These include:
~ Industry leaders should not hesitate to present their views.
~ Be open, transparent and speak with passion and authority -- your stakeholders will respect you for it and bond closer.
~ Allow stakeholders to comment; be open to negative comments. All comments are invaluable.
~ Counter negative comments with facts presented in a credible manner -- don't shirk away.
~ Have honest conversations; these lead to change and growth.
~ Write with discipline and consistency; stick to a schedule and don't let the rhythm break.
All said and done
Besides the above, there are some more compelling reasons why executives need to blog. These include:
~ There is a communications revolution underway: From a controlled one-way model to an interactive one. Blogs are ideally suited to this.
~ Blogging helps build trust and relationships with stakeholders.
~ It is the cheapest communication channel available enabling companies to reach out to millions for a relatively small cost compared to other channels.
~ Blogs are easily findable on the net.
~ Relevant information spreads faster through blogs than a news service.
~ Blogs do not replace company websites!
In a time when many businesses have no exclusive patents or technical developments to offer, they need other differentiators to stay competitive. Interactive and effective communication can be the one to help companies survive.
"Blogs are enabling markets to converse again as people tell one another the truth about products and companies and their own desires" -- from The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual, a bestseller authored by Christopher Locke, Rick Levine, Doc Searls and David Weinberger.
This may well make the case of an executive blog.
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