February 2010 Archives

In 2000, back when I was working at a large software company, I was responsible for building their online communities. And part of the challenge was trying to explain to executives that “marketing is a conversation” and that conversations occur between people - opinionated, passionate people - not PR departments.

I’d make everyone read the cluetrain manifesto.

People are brands. And like brands, they can be fake or real. The real dilemma is this - is there a line, a demarcation between the voice of the company and the voice of the individual?

My point has always been this: when companies allow their employees to blog, they are strengthening their brand by making connections, building relationships, improving the quality of the conversation with the market, etc. etc.

And yes, there are times when people go off the deep end and act unprofessional. So you’ve got to have an employee blogging policy; and these days that means you’ve got to have a social media policy which covers Twitter, Facebook, and god-forbid, MySpace, along with the rest of the social stuff.

But all of this boils down to common sense; see Sun’s, Oracle’s blogging policy, for example.  The older version spelled it out like this:

1. Do not disclose or speculate on non-public financial or operational information. The legal consequences could be swift and severe for you and Sun.

2. Do not disclose non-public technical information (for example, code) without approval. Sun could instantly lose its right to export its products and technology to most of the world or to protect its intellectual property.

3. Do not disclose personal information about other individuals.

4. Do not disclose confidential information, Sun’s or anyone else’s.

5. Do not discuss work-related legal proceedings or controversies, including communications with Sun attorneys.

6. Always refer to Sun’s trademarked names properly. For example, never use a trademark as a noun, since this could result in a loss of our trademark rights.

7. Do not post others’ material, for example photographs, articles, or music, without ensuring they’ve granted appropriate permission to do this.

8. Follow Sun’s Standards of Business Conduct and uphold Sun’s reputation for integrity. In particular, ensure that your comments about companies and products are truthful, accurate, and fair and can be substantiated, and avoid disparaging comments about individuals.


When it comes to thought-leadership or a CEO blog, the voice of the individual is even more important.

Forrester gets this, finally.  In a recent blog post, Cliff Condon, Forrester’s VP in charge of their social media efforts, explains the company’s official position on the topic of analyst blogging:

   1. Forrester wants more analysts using social tools because it makes for better research.  The research we write for clients has always depended on a rich two-way conversation with experts and practitioners in the marketplace.  The rise of social tools like blogs and Twitter allows analysts to extend that conversation with more people in the marketplace.  The more smart people our analysts interact with, the better our research will be.  That’s the basis of the Groundswell.  Therefore, Forrester is investing in building social tools and associated best-practice training for our analysts so that more of them get involved. 

   2. We are building a new blog platform to provide each analyst with a personal blog.  Our platform today supports team blogs based on the professional roles we serve - such as the Forrester Consumer Product Strategy blog.  The new platform we are building will allow our analysts to also maintain an individual blog on their coverage area.  We are doing this so that our analysts can have direct conversations with key players in the marketplace and so clients have the flexibility to engage at an individual analyst level or a team level.

   3. We want to make it easy for our clients.  Our clients rely on us to help make them successful.   They have told us that they are starved for time - they subscribe to our services in part because they conveniently get the insight they need from us and others who join in the Forrester conversation.  Therefore, we can best serve client needs by placing all of our blog content in one place (at blogs.forrester.com), and put it in context alongside the rest of our data and analysis.

I hope that adds some clarity to what we are working on - I’ll share more as we move closer to roll-out later in the quarter.  However, I felt it necessary to add to the conversation now since there has been discussion about analysts’ brands and the Forrester brand.  The fact is we want to do everything possible to give analysts a high degree of visibility. Giving every analyst a personal blog is a step toward that goal. Our analysts’ reputation and our own are tied together.  Our new blog platform is being designed to boost them both.


Definitely a step in the right direction for Forrester.

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. 

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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.

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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.

Letters from Van Gogh

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What would you do if you received something like this in the mail from a starving artist?

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Don't toss 'em!

Vijay Govindarajan on the HBR blog: The U.S. Must Grab the Lead on Green. High time our business leaders started leading, as VG encourages them to do. 

According to VG:

At the company level, many energy businesses are unwilling to cannibalize their existing services and their current investments. At the national level, the same dynamics are in play. Aided and abetted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the traditional energy lobby (oil, coal) is using its political and economic muscle to stifle innovation in alternative energy and clean technologies.

Don’t get me started on the losers at the US Chamber of Commerce!

The Saints lift America

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Yes, we still can!  Congratulations, New Orleans.

Click and play... stay positive.

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A nice story from the World Bank blog about a grass-roots organization's efforts to stop petty corruption in India and around the world:

...the idea was first conceived by an Indian physics professor at the University of Maryland, who, in his travels around India, realized how widespread bribery was and wanted to do something about it. He came up with the idea of printing zero-denomination notes and handing them out to officials whenever he was asked for kickbacks as a way to show his resistance. Anand took this idea further: to print them en masse, widely publicize them, and give them out to the Indian people. He thought these notes would be a way to get people to show their disapproval of public service delivery dependent on bribes. The notes did just that. The first batch of 25,000 notes were met with such demand that 5th Pillar has ended up distributing one million zero-rupee notes to date since it began this initiative. Along the way, the organization has collected many stories from people using them to successfully resist engaging in bribery.

I like it. Now let's send some "zero dollars" to the Famous Five justices Supreme Court, the Blue-Dog Democrats, and the entire Republican party.

My client, Dean McMann, discusses the "customer intimacy" journey on his site: proservmm.gif

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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