Last time we discussed the reasons it’s probably a good idea to talk your CEO out of starting their own blog. A lack of resources, a tendency to be pretty pointless and the proven habit of running out of ideas fairly quickly are all good reasons to keep them away from blogging.
But let’s not forget the tiny ray of hope a CEO blog, however doomed, represents. We all know plenty of CEOs and other senior executives who would rather chew tinfoil than proactively communicate anything.
So what do we do with the eager leader who needs to talk to her employees but should not blog (which is most of them)?. Here are some shiny objects you can try instead.
I know, they’re having a moment, and with good reason. Podcasts, particularly the audio kind, are much more portable and accessible than boring old written stuff. For the CEO who’s got plenty to say and not a lot of time to write stuff down, a podcast may be just the ticket. I recommend you do the interview kind. Find someone (not another executive) who can be the moderator, tee up three or four questions and hit the record the button.
- They require less effort and preparation on the part of the CEO than a blog
- They are likely to be perceived as more authentic
- They can be consumed out of the office — who doesn’t want to walk the dog while learning about strategic pillars?
- They’re a great way to tease a bit of humanity out of your CEO
- You can probably pull in other leaders to be guests or stand-ins if the CEO gets busy
- If you have a clear phone line and a conference service that lets you record, you can put a decent, basic podcase together yourself
- You can lock up your CEO and record two or three podcasts in a single sitting
- If you want good production values, editing, music and stuff, you will need to get some resources
- Low prep doesn’t mean no prep — you need to make sure your CEO has talking points and can get through it all in under 15 minutes
- If your CEO hasn’t got enough content for a blog, they will run out of gas just as fast on a podcast, so plot out a full year’s worth and make sure you have something new to say each time
- Monthly updates
- Communicating special projects
- Including other executives
Videos share many of the benefits of podcasts, but add the advantage of being visual (Millennials like it when the pictures move).
- They’re great if you want to show your CEO being all executive and decisive, or if you want to include visuals of locations or fun charts and graphs
- If your CEO can live with mediocre production values, you can probably shoot them yourself with a phone and a mike
- Production costs on video are a lot higher than audio so if your CEO needs makeup, decent lighting, teleprompters and titles, you are talking some pretty big bucks
- They can take forever to shoot and produce
- Some CEOs just should not be on video
- It’s harder to pick up dog poop while you’re watching a video, so portability may suffer
- Occasional updates
- Special announcements
- Highlighting locationsCEOs who know wat they are doing with video
I’m a big fan of letting communicative leaders have a go at internal social media platforms. If you’ve got Yammer or Facebook Workplace or another simple, accessible messaging platform, this could solve a bunch of things.
- There’s no expectation of regular posts — so your CEO can be as random as they please
- As long as you trust them to keep it appropriate and brief, it may not require much in the way of resources to support them
- It’s real-time and accessible
- Done well, it’s authentic
- It’s easy for employees to respond
- Not all CEOs know what they’re doing on social and many of them struggle with brevity
- Someone needs to be looking at and responding to the comments and questions — in case you’re wondering, that is not likely to be your CEO’s job
- It’s really difficult to undo regrettable things on some platforms
For CEOs with lots to say and zero time to work on saying it, these can be fantastic tools. Basically, you’re setting up a conference call (don’t bother with video, the live stream never works) and letting employees call or text whatever questions they want.
- It’s technically about as simple as it gets
- You can record it as a podcast
- Your CEO gets to practice his listening skills
- It’s pretty authentic
- It can build engagement
- It’s a good diagnostic tool for sentiment and communication gaps
- It works nicely on mobile platforms and allows questions by chat
- Not all employees may be able to participate live
- Not all CEOs are good with the impromptu stuff
- You can’t control what people will ask
- Big initiatives where there is a lot of change
- Communicating strategies
- Responding to issues
- Organizations where it isn’t feasible for the CEO to visit all locations
- Organizations with lots of mobile or undesked workers
Kissing cousins to the AMA but employees have to sit through a presentation first. I like these as an alternative to roadshows or as a rehearsal for a roadshow series.
- Great reach and fairly easy to pull off if you have a good platform like Webex or Zoom
- Allows for two-way communications and listening
- Can (and should) be recorded
- Employees probably need to be at their desk to consume them
- Can run a bit long
- Inevitable technical issues
- Updates or complicated subjects involving visuals
They’re expensive, they’re complicated, they’re incredibly time consuming and guess what? They work. Sooner or later your CEO needs to go out there and get in front of the workforce. Done poorly they are painful, protracted time-wasters. Done well, they build engagement, trust and alignment. Here are some reasons they often suck.
- In person is always better than not in person
- Propensity to suck
- Not all employees can attend
- The recordings are usually beyond awful to watch
- Big, fun project launches
- Big, not-so-fun organizational announcements
- Rallying everyone behind an idea
- Introducing new CEOs or leadership teams
There are plenty of other alternatives to the dreaded CEO blog. Guest blogging on public sites and sharing it internally can work (nothing says you have to share the awful ones), “meet and greet” sessions with small groups of employees and just sending the damn email all have their places too. The important thing is to give them some choices and set them up to build and keep momentum.