Blogging Truth: No One Likes Your CEO


ceo bloggerHey there. I want to talk about your company blog. Okay, more accurately, I want to talk about your company blog and why you’re letting your CEO ruin it. Make sure the boss is out of the room and then grab a pencil. Hide their keyboard while you’re at it.

Corporate blogging has been all the rage for a few years now. It’s to the point where almost every company has a blog. Which is great. In theory. However, somewhere along the line it became ordained that it’s the CEO of the company who should be blogging. After all, they are the one with the clout, the respect, and the name. Unfortunately, your CEO is probably also as exciting as dirt, void of people skills and would defend his or her baby even if it was brought up on murder charges. And it’s not their fault. CEOs are raised to bullshit, lie and conceal. It’s what makes them great business people. It’s also why they’re horrible bloggers.

The CEO Blogger Mystique is an interesting one. Whenever someone tries to sell me on the idea they always name drop Bill Marriott. If you can’t put it together, Bill Marriott is the figurehead of the Marriott hotel chain empire and blogger in chief of the Marriott on the Move blog. If you’ve never seen it, go check it out and then come back.

With me? It’s just a big ball of sex, right?

It boggles my mind when people offer that up as a good example of CEO blogging. Don’t get me wrong, it’s “cute” what they’re doing over there. But it’s also the equivalent of stopping by the old folks home to sit and listen to your great grandmother talk about her hard day of crocheting and Jello eating. Unless you’re a diehard Marriott hotel history buff, you don’t care about the adventures of Bill Marriott. That blog does nothing to educate people on the hotel, to get them excited about staying there, or to give them a feel for what the hotel is really like. And I bet the real people behind the Marriott know that. And that’s why they’re playing around with Go Courtyard (which has been in the same “pardon our dust” stage for months).

The problem with blogging CEOs is that they often do nothing to build excitement about the company. I don’t want to hear from them because they’re not tuned in to what’s really going on within the company. They don’t hear the truth. They hear what they want to be told. Bill Marriott can’t tell me what’s really happening with his hotels. He doesn’t know which locations are hot, he doesn’t know what it’s like to be an employee there or what the culture is, and he doesn’t stay in the same rooms us regular folk would. He’s the guy they wheel out for appearances and special occasions, not the person you’ll see if you stay there. That’s not genuine. I can’t connect with that.

And most people can’t connect with your CEO either. Which is why they shouldn’t be blogging.

The person with the most passion and excitement for your company is the one who should be steering the ship. Even if they’re not the best writer on staff or if that person is the guy who cleans the office at night. If that’s who’s the most excited about what you do, give him the microphone. I want to hear what he’s finding in the trash, I want the back story, I want the goods and I want something that I can relate to. I have a feeling I’d have a much easier time relating to that guy, someone who spends their days in the trenches, than I would to Bill Marriott. He’s bound to be way more interesting. And if the guy who cleans your office is that excited about working there, that’s probably a company I want to check out. I want to see what has him so hot and bothered about you that he smiles while moving your empty bottles into the recyclables. Excitement is like giggles. It’s infectious.

If you want to give people something interesting, put your CEO back in their box and introduce me to the person on staff with the most chutzpah. That person is going to be willing to admit mistakes, to share experiences and to give people something they can relate to and form a connection with. That’s the guy I want to get to know. He may not own the company or sign the paychecks, but he breathes it every day. I want to know what he’s like, and by association, what your company is really like. Bill Marriott is PBS. I’m looking for your company’s VH1 True Hollywood Story. I can relate to that.

Your Comments

  • Rebecca Kelley

    *stands up and begins the slow clap*

  • Rob Woods

    Great article as usual. This one will be sent to our whole marketing team. We’ve made a few of the mistakes mentioned in the article in the past. I particularly believe, as Lisa states, that “The person with the most passion and excitement for your company is the one who should be steering the ship. ” We’ve started taking this tack more with our blogging, twittering, videos, etc. and the quality of the output is much better and more interesting.

  • Stuart Foster

    I love the picture of Bill Marriott, I kind of want to adopt him based on that. “Guaranteed Senility.” should now be a Marriott Hotel’s promise.

    The funny thing is that this kind of blogging is usually heralded, when it shouldn’t be. No one cares about some old dude’s boring ass life. They do care about cool stuff going on at your hotel. Use your brain Marketing Department at Marriott and take the keys away from Grandpa.

  • David

    haha, great times and best quote of the month “Hide their keyboard”

    The Marriott blog seems to fit with the companies stale image and boring product, so maybe its a good fit, and its intentional???

    Is the CEO blog a more of a focus that they want to be the next Zappos or Mr Dell? While it can be very powerful of what a CEO of a large organisation is saying about direction of the market or how they are working on new products/partnerships it is also important to bring in other members of the company because if Bill leaves, what is going to happen to Bill’s blog.

    If you are a large corporation dont leave the whole blog/pr dependant on one person, I mean the CEO/CFO is not going to be there forever…?

  • Graywolf

    Mark Cuban anyone

  • Kirpaul

    I think on some level this does work depending on who your audience is. While people our age find this type of thing ridiculous, I know a number of “old” people who actually enjoy reading CEO blogs (well, at least they enjoy reading blogs of CEOs and VPs of tech companies).

    I also think CEO blogging works for some places… doesn’t Rhea blog? founder/CEO Sunshine Megatron also blogs frequently (and with a decent dose of hilarity).

  • netmeg

    Well this goes to what I’ve been trying to beat into people’s heads the past year or so (my partners, my clients, my dog) WRITE WITH ENTHUSIASM. Sure, it’s par for the course – *here* – but out there in the big bad world, on E-Commerce sites and Corporate sites and blogs and product pages and PPC ads – they’re BORING.

    How on earth can you expect anyone else to get excited about your company, your product, or your service if you don’t figure out how to convey that YOU are excited about it?

    Ding Ding Ding! Ya CAN’T.

  • Kenny Hyder

    Will the real Rae Hoffman please stand up. *Ducks*

  • Dr. Pete

    A client of mine had a former partner whose CEO carved out a huge space on their home-page to post his “letters” (he was too important to just blog). They were usually completely rambling and took up half the page. He once had an entire post about why he bought his bed and how great it was. The website didn’t sell beds or anything remotely bed-related (except that, presumably, his audience slept in beds). He was also a bit of a playboy, so every post had these odd bits of completely inappropriate pseudo-innuendo that I can only assume he thought were hilarious but that would’ve had any decent HR person cowering in an underground bunker to avoid the lawsuit fallout.

    Speaking of rambling, I’m not sure what my point was. If I ever hire any employees, they’ll probably take away my blog keys.

  • Victoria

    LISA, THANK YOU SO FRIGGIN MUCH!!! I am adding this to the list so I can teach people how to blog. I mean people don’t want you always to be talking about yourself, so why would you always write about what your company is doing, rather than talking about the industry you are in and educating people that way. Great post and now it’s bookmarked :)

  • Lisa Barone

    Stuart: Completely agreed. People hail Bill Marriott all over the Web for his blog…when in actuality, I don’t think there’s anyone really reading that thing. Every time someone recommends it to me I wonder if they’re just repeating something they heard or if they’re just that dumb.

    David: If the Marriott brand is intentionally boring and stale than perhaps they have bigger issues than Bill Marriott’s blogging. :)

    You make a good point about what happens if Bill leaves. Fortunately for Marriott, I don’t think Bill is going anywhere [insert obvious age joke here], but that’s definitely a concern other companies will want to worry about. It can be a bit of scramble to keep things running once the voice of your blog leaves. You definitely need an exit strategy in place beforehand. Excellent point.

    Graywolf: Smartass. :) Mark Cuban is frustrating. If you’ve ever heard him speak or deliver a keynote, I think he’s a great, great representation of his “brand”. However, in blog form he comes off as an arrogant asshat. Someone should hide his keyboard.

    Kirpaul: I think it depends on the culture. When you’re a small startup, it’s different when the CEO blogs because the CEO still has their hands deep in day to day operations and they’re in touch with what’s actually going on. When you get to the Marriott or big brand level though, it’s very, very different. The CEO of a major company has no clue what’s happening down the totem pole.

    And Rhea’s not the CEO. Rae is. :) And again. Rae is not your average CEO. She’s elbow deep into Outspoken so she can blog intelligently about the ongoings of the company.

    Dr. Pete: There is just so much awesome in that comment. I don’t know where to begin. Thank you.

  • Jon Buscall

    Hilarious. But entirely true. The Vice-Chancellor blog at Stockholm University is a good example of a blog not really doing enough to be called a blog.
    Sometimes I think it would be better is the CEOs handed over the reins to the hackwriters who can at least spin a yarn and hold an audience.

  • @eljefe29

    Great article. Agee with you that customers don’t really care about ‘what the old guy does’, unless your visitor base are all active members of AARP. :) Also agree that you should find someone with pizazz to blog. However, this person could be the CEO’s alter ego. Unless you are a company where the CEO is very well known, who’s going to know the difference? Then again, maybe the stock of the company would plummet if the company’s CEO was blogging about the all night bender he was on last night (ok, going extreme here). Regardless, people look for interesting things that they don’t already know about with Company blogs, and I think too often corporate blogs don’t understand this.

  • Terry Vision

    Absolutely right. Corporate blogs often are so dull at the best of times and there is a problem of always presenting the best face of the company. Injecting personality into a blog could be double-edge sword, what some people find witty and entertaining risks alienating another set of clients. It’s a tricky one.

  • Brian Carter

    lol this is freaking awesome. you have a gift Lisa, but everyone including you knows that.

  • Shashi Kapoor

    chutzpah is an awesome word.

  • Lisa Barone

    Terry: The sweet spot is to find someone who knows how to take calculated risks. You have to take some risks with your blog, otherwise it’s not a blog. It’s press release or a company memo. No one’s going to care about that.

    Brian: [blush] ;)

  • sherisaid

    Blogging’s about personality…and even good writers don’t always have it. It’s a different skill than the simple ability to string cohesive words together, and it’s personal. There’s nothing personal about Marriott’s blog and that’s the problem. It reads like a cross between advertising copy and an entreaty to adopt a starving child (as written by Sally Struthers and performed by Wilford Brimley). Please, please come to Mexico. Ignore the pervasive atmosphere of disease, violence and mayhem. We have great food and a very nice pool. Honest.

  • Brian Clark

    Bill is pretty bland, but I wouldn’t give him too much grief… his stuff reads like most business blogs, CEO-transcribed or not.

    Which is bad, of course.

  • sherisaid

    Just remembered something….I’ve been trying to explain seo, blogging, social networking and article marketing to a client of mine who owns a business. They’re in trouble, and can’t afford to hire me, and I don’t have the time to write for free…so I did my best to explain. He recently sent me a link to his blog. It read exactly like an advertisement for his business. He’s a talented writer, but he didn’t get it and probably never will.

  • amymengel

    Sure, Bill Marriott’s blog isn’t terribly exciting and probably doesn’t have too many regular readers, but one way it has served Marriott very well is crisis communication. During the bombing of the Marriott hotel in Islamabad, the corporate communications team used to blog to very quickly post the company statement/response. Putting up a blog post from Bill Marriott was much faster than trying to get a release out or do a news conference (which they did later) and they could give an immediate response via the blog. Major news outlets linked to and pulled quotes form his blog post almost immediately after it was posted.

    So yes, the blog may not be that interesting to the general public, but in a crisis, having a CEO blog allowed Marriott to address a situation very quickly and directly.

  • Rae Hoffman

    So does this mean I don’t have to blog? ;)

  • ELIO

    I was a MARRIOTT employee for 22 years .My hotel was purchased by a franchise when I tried to apply at another Marriott the franchise called marriott in DC and stopped me from receiving the new job I e-mailed MR MARRIOTT that nite his personal sec called me at 8:00am said there was nothing she could do there was an agreement !!!! we were never told about it .Now i cant even get an interview with any Marriott anywhere . Mr Marriott is shielded from all e-mails besides he dosnt run the company he is only a figurehead kind of like RONALD MACDONALD only with a suit. many of my family worked for MARRIOTT BUT ALL GOT OUT BEFOR ME