Every now and then, a CEO or company founder asks me one (or both) of these two questions:
1) must I have a separate blog from the company site?
2) do I have to use my name on the blog?
My answer depends on the individual. It’s quite simple, really.
If I think they’re a thought-leader in their industry – that’s to say their opinions and ideas lead the field – then I often encourage them to blog under their own name on a blog that stands outside their company domain (more on that in a second).
The key assumption is that they are thought leaders. If I don’t get this assumption right, we are all wasting time. There’s no point setting up a double-loop model if you aren’t going to have something important to add to the conversation. Here’s what to do instead: have a company blog, put your press releases on it, and talk about your products. Have your agency Twitter and Facebook away to their heart’s content. Just don’t call it thought leadership, because it isn’t.
So, now that we’ve established that, let’s look at what is thought-leadership.
How do you know you are a thought leader? Here are some clues:
1) people you’ve never heard of start emailing you long (relevant) notes about something you said on your blog
2) your clients start reading your blog – so do analysts, journalists, and others you respect
3) you notice your blog gets ten times more traffic than your company website
4) you start getting calls from prospects asking for your services (and products)
If these four things don’t happen, (1) you’re not blogging right, or worse, (2) you aren’t a thought leader.
Now let’s talk about individuals and why using your name is actually a very good idea.
Authenticity. People relate to other people. We see this in entertainment: Oprah, Martha Stewart, David Letterman, Elvis, Bob Marley; in sports: Shaun White, Cristiano Ronaldo, Pele, Ali (and unfortunately Tiger Woods); and in business: Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Jeffrey Immelt. So if you’re the founder or CEO, and you have a message worth getting out, you want people to know who you are. The connection is personal not corporate.
Passion. If you believe fiercely in what you say, do, and think, then it is this passion that people want to connect to – directly. Without that PR person. Passion can’t be staged.
Trust. Your voice as an individual is far more trustworthy than a faceless corp. And you are believable when you believe.
Findability. People search for names. So if you write a book, they’ll search for you, the author. “Byron Katie”* gets 10X more searches than “The Work,” for example.
Longevity. As a person, you live till you die. You may switch companies, or labels, or publishers. You, the brand, stays constant. Your attention platform is how you go direct to the customer, no resellers necessary. Your followers stay with you forever.
Ideas. Companies don’t have good ideas, people do. Good ideas originate in the heads of your people. These are your thought-leaders. Don’t make them anonymous thinking this will help your company; it won’t.
The Brand. Too much has been said about you, the brand. A company can renovate its brand by hiring an ad agency. You, on the other hand, have the opportunity to be real.
Lately, even large companies are seeing the benefits of using thought leaders as ambassadors for their brands.
So we see Don Tapscott and Tammy Erickson* at NGenera, JSB* and John Hagel* at Deloitte, Chris Meyer at Monitor, etc. etc.
At academic institutions we see examples like Vijay Govindarajan* at Dartmouth and Tom Davenport* and Larry Prusak* at Babson College.
The CEO blog works well for startups and SMBs as well: Gaurav Bhalla* for Knowledge Kinetics, Francis Cholle* for The Human Company, Dean McMann* for McMann & Ransford, Phil Townsend* at Townsend and Associates, Bob Freling at SELF, and Steven Feinberg* at Steven Feinberg Inc.
When a blog is shared – i.e. when more than one executive participate – then it is alright to pick another name, usually connected to the topic we want to blog about. See: Steve Lesem* at Mezeo.
* disclosure: Tammy Erickson, JSB, JH3, VG, Tom Davenport, Larry Prusak, Gaurav Bhalla, Francis Cholle, Dean McMann, Phil Townsend, Bob Freling, Byron Katie, and Steve Lesem are some of my clients.