In Business Standard

Quick, tell me the names of five Indian CEOs who blog? I’ll wait. No, really. I’ll wait. Take your time. Give up? I’m not surprised. Don’t be too hard on yourself. I asked this question to 10 different people and most couldn’t go beyond two names. Feel better?

Let’s take an unbiased look at why CEOs don’t blog. The first reason, fear of saying too much. It’s the fear of voicing their thoughts and not knowing who’s going to read. This is more the case with publicly listed companies where market analysts, hard-nosed journalists and shareholders are constantly peering in closely for signs and an inadvertent comment from the CEO can sometimes have an unpleasant impact.

The second reason is the fear of backlash. Those nasty comments from disgruntled users on the corporate blog can tarnish a company’s sugar-coated image. Many worry about the open nature of the blogs. The third reason: fear of writing.

Most CEOs are excellent orators and are more comfortable speaking than penning their thoughts down in words. Let’s face it. Writing, let alone daily, can be a time consuming task.Talking of time, that’s the scarcest item for the CEO. Given the multitudes of key decisions and tasks he has to juggle, blogging really goes down at the bottom of the priority list.

An important part of a CEO’s task is to communicate. One of the best expansions I have heard for CEO is ‘Customers, Employees and Owners’. These are the primary stakeholders and any CEO worth his salt will and must make sure to keep them informed and happy.

What else explains the herding of employees into cramped halls by the HR and PR teams for that All Hands Meeting with the CEO. So, why don’t companies extend their offline strategies to online?

A blog is the online equivalent of an All Hands Meet. It’s a perfect place for the CEO to voice his thoughts and you’d be surprised at what a positive impact it will have on the employees. It’s a potent tool to convey integrity, approachability and accountability.

When a CEO blogs, there’s a human connection he sets up with his readers. It is like giving a human face to a faceless entity. That’s why I like companies like Zoho where Sridhar Vembu, the CEO conveys information straight from his heart.

Last week, when and Google tied up, his post about how SalesForce courted Zoho for an outright buyout and why he tuned down a multi-million dollar deal made for a fascinating read. You really can’t give out a press release for turning down a suitor but this blog post had made news on some of the top US publications. That’s the power of CEO blogging for you.

Small- and medium-companies have the highest to benefit form corporate blogging. These are companies that cannot afford the luxury of hiring a PR agency or taking up half page ads in leading newspapers as part of their brand building exercise. For them, blogs are an effective medium to reach out. It gets the word out, it builds credibility and connects with the community.

Blogging is like being in a cricket stadium. As a cricket fan, its that much more easier for you to bond with those cricket-crazy people sitting next to you. It helps you be one among the community.

I’m seeing a definite trend. If the top management (especially the CEO) understands the merits of blogging, then that company eventually goes on to build an effective blogging strategy. Those companies that start blogs because of peer pressure, with no blessing of the top management, lose it quickly.

A safe way for a CEO to try out blogging is by being one of the authors in his company’s corporate blog. While a handful of select team keeps the blog active, it takes the pressure off the CEO to write what he wants to write. Another idea is to record CEO’s views as an audio or video podcast and embed them in the corporate blog.

To any CEO who is sitting on the fence and asking when is a good time to jump into blogging, I’d yell ‘NOW’.