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Create a CEO blog that works

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Trust within organizations is difficult to capture, especially these days. So, when a new CEO comes on board, the challenge to connect with employees in a meaningful, authentic way is especially difficult. And when the new CEO replaces a beloved, charismatic CEO who is leaving because of retirement, the challenges mount up. Finally, when the incoming CEO is just as modest and humble as the outgoing CEO was extroverted, what are you going to do?

Answer: Take advantage of blog technology. This is the solution that Susan Nelson, corporate communications manager at Exterran, described during Melcrum’s Conference on Employee Engagement this week.  This relatively new information-delivery method allowed CEO Ernie Danner to reach out to the global employee population regularly and simultaneously.

The comments section of the blog also provides Exterran’s employees a chance to provide valuable feedback in a more conversational setting than a traditional newsletter or one-way e-mail could. Finally, as Nelson and Danner discovered, the regular blog posting gave Danner the opportunity to express a more casual, open side of his personality. That part took a little time, experience and confidence.

A CEO blog, of course, carries distinct challenges. There are far more ramifications and implications embedded in every post. To meet them, Nelson created a team to support the initiative. Danner’s team includes himself, Nelson, the CFO, legal counsel and his business coach.

Nelson reported some initial resistance from the legal department, and she worked with legal to address those concerns, one by one.  They eventually agreed to a trial.

Nelson shared these keys to for creating an effective CEO blog:

  • Commit to regular times to post. Blog postings can be more frequent than that benchmark, but not less frequent. For Danner, the minimum is once a week. However, at the time of the conference, he was posting once a day because he was taking a tour of all of Exterran’s sites around the world. So, there was much to report.
  • Clarify the voice of the blog. Nelson was adamant that the blog should reflect the CEO’s most relaxed and personable voice, since the main goal was to establish a trusted relationship with employees around the globe. This made others on the team a little nervous because they were afraid that it could tarnish his status as a leader. Nelson prevailed.
  • Don’t bog down the review process. The executive team would have the opportunity to review the blog draft before it was posted, which  reassured the legal team. But Nelson implemented a rule that other than she and Danner, everyone would be allowed to “touch” the draft only once.
  • Encourage employee feedback. Nelson asks focus-group participants if the key messages are clear, if the tone is engaging, if the blog postings raise additional questions, if a message creates a cultural issue among some employees, etc. That additional understanding helps her work more effectively with Danner to produce more effective messages as they gain experience.

These blog postings, of course, are expected to produce real business results. The new CEO is given the chance to build a relationship with his employees in a way that is authentic to him; the employees are shown that the Danner cares about the company and its people; and the blog technology brings a global employee population together in an online community where discussion with the CEO is welcome.