Should Your Executive Director Be Blogging?

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on this topic. No surprise, since it’s one of the most frequent questions I’m asked by clients and Getting Attention readers. So I was pleasantly surprised when I read what New York Times writer Randall Stross had to say about CEO blogging in a recent Digital Divide column.

What Makes a Great Executive Director Blogger
Let’s just say great minds think alike. Stross profiles corporate blogging star Sun Microsystems Fortune 500 CEO blogger Jonathan Schwartz (the only F500 CEO blogging publicly). Here’s why Schwartz (no relation) shines:

    • “My No. 1 job is to be a communicator,” Mr. Schwartz told (Stross). “I don’t understand how a C.E.O. would not blog if committed to open communication.”
    • Schwartz’ blog post on Sun’s most recent quarterly earnings announcement are a "tonic," writes Stross.
      • He not only summarizes the announcement, but adds his own spin on why, and what’s coming up in the future.
      • He sounds — although I have no idea — like he’s writing himself, without handling, editing, a ghost writer. Let’s assume he is.
    • So what’s effective, and not too common, about Schwartz’ blogging? He:
      • Writes candidly, and naturally. You can get a perspective on his blog that’s not available anywhere else. An effective CEO blogger has to be comfortable with the informality inherent in blogging.
      • Blogs only when he has something to say.
      • Conveys a sense of who he is, beyond Sun’s CEO. Schwartz’ enthusiasm is absolutely infectious. I can relate to him, and I bet that would be true for most folks. Take this example –On July 30th, the day the NYT article was published, Schwartz blogged about the thrill of sitting down to lunch with Tony Blair. If I was a shareholder, I’d be thrilled to have this guy in charge of a my financial future.
      • Wants to communicate, and to blog, directly.

If your nonprofit’s or foundation’s Executive Director is a good writer, and fits the other criteria outlined above, encourage her to to dive in now. Here’s how your nonprofit will benefit…

The Value of Executive Director(ED) Blogging for Your Organization
A well-executed ED blog:

  • Motivates emotional connection with your audiences. The more "personality" (assuming it’s the right personality), that your organization makes accessible, the more your stakeholders will connect with you.
    • A ED blogger has to show his or her personality.
    • undefined worse than a blog that reads like an annual report.
  • Is a highly efficient means of communication, reaching multiple stakeholders in a single stroke — donors, board members, employees, volunteers, members, program participants and colleagues in the field.
  • Spurs interest, and dialog. Schwartz’ post on quarterly earnings (OK, lots of people are very interested in that info, and his take on it) generated more than 50 comments before Sun stopped accepting them on that post.

Make Sure Your ED Doesn’t Blog Alone — Multiple Touch-Points Ensure Your Audiences Find Connection
When your nonprofit or foundation ED does launch a blog, make sure it’s one of two or more. No EDO blog should stand alone, since the "on-the-ground" perspective — from program staff, volunteer coordinators, etc. — is an important counterpoint.

As blog analyst Steve Rubel comments, "Every nonprofit should also have people blogging from the gut of the company to demonstrate that their entire workforce is fully engaged in dialog. Multiple online touch-points, not just at the executive level, is the best scenario. It lets readers find individuals they can relate to." 

Sun does a great job of this, making its blog platform available to any employee who wants to blog. I’d suggest a middle-ground, maybe one or two individual bloggers or topical blogs (with a team of bloggers) in addition to your ED blog.

Does Your Nonprofit ED Blog, or Want to Blog?
Please share your experiences and questions below.

(via Debbie Weil and Jeff Jarvis)

More about nonprofit blogging here.

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Nancy Schwartz on August 8, 2006 in Blogging for Nonprofits, Leadership, Nonprofit Communications, Strategy | 0 comments
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