It’s Sunday afternoon. And I should be outside enjoying the warm weather. Or at least be inside and gripping the gin bottle. But no. I’m writing about CEOs and their blogs. Again.
The Akron Beacon Journal had two business page stories this morning about CEOs and blogging: “CEOs take case to the public.” And “Blunders get attention.” Margarita Bauza with the Detroit Free Press wrote both articles.
I not sure that there is anything really new in either article. But here’s my take.
First, Bob Lutz, vice chairman of General Motors, is the featured CEO blogger. As usual. And since a reporter for the Detroit Free Press wrote the stories, the local connection makes sense. But is Lutz and his FastLane blog really the model? Or was he just one of the first — and now his name comes up in every Google search that reporters make for these kind of stories?
His blog is designed to talk to customers and others who are interested in GM products. And that’s great. And Lutz should be congratulated for taking the time and making the effort to keep customers and others informed. I’m all for that. The more communication the better.
But the subhead for the article says: “Corporate America uses posts to relay message, address concerns.” And if that were true, I would be a stronger advocate for CEO blogs. But I don’t think it is true today — and doubt that it will be in the future. Good for marketing and internal communications. I guess. Good for talking about financial performance, developments that may affect employee jobs and futures, potential mergers or divestments. Doubtful. Although John Mackey the CEO of Whole Foods is featured in the second article. Mackey distinguished himself by using a fake name to post anonymous comments on a Yahoo site criticizing a competitor, Wild Oats. Whole Foods eventually acquired Wild Oats. I digress.
Here’s why I’m skeptical about CEO blogs from the standpoint of corporate communications — news versus marketing — issues. Last week, Lutz wrote about the start of the Chevrolet Volt program, which I take it is some form of an electric car in the initial stage of development. That’s great. And important for a host of reasons. But less than two weeks ago, The New York Times reported that 19,000 GM wage employees have agreed to a buyout; that’s about 25 percent of GM’s current unionized workforce.
I imagine that’s important for GM to get its costs in line with competitors (and maybe with its own operations) in other countries. Yet I don’t know about anyone else, but it concerns me we’re continuing to witness the slow but steady decline of manufacturing — and well-paying manufacturing jobs — in this country. If Lutz and others start addressing these issues and concerns on blogs, I’ll become a believer.
And then I’ll use these stories to jump to another troubled industry: newspapers. The two stories about blogging took up a large part of the the ABJ’s business section. But there is absolutely no local connection. I would have found it interesting to know if any local CEOs are blogging. Making those calls takes resources that I’m not sure the Beacon Journal or other newspapers have these days. In fact, there are no stories in the business section today written by a Beacon Journal staff reporter.
Maybe at some point we’ll have to depend on CEOs and their blogs to report the business news. Oh, boy.