Company in trouble? Chief executive in the middle of some scandal? Don't expect anyone to be emoting about it on a corporate blog. No mention on Lutz's blog, for instance, that GM's stock fell to its lowest level in more than a decade this week. The day Boeing's board announced its chief executive had resigned after an investigation uncovered that he had an affair with a female employee, Baseler wrote about competition from Airbus SAS.
Sun Microsystems President Jonathan Schwartz rants against new executive bloggers who essentially post news releases. "Authenticity is fundamental," he said in an interview. "Blogs get pretty dull if you just blog your products. There has to be something personal."
It's not often that even Schwartz writes about his private life on his blog, at blogs.sun.com/jonathan, but once in a while, readers will get something like this: "And because I don't want it to come out on some tech tabloid tell-all, I would like to inform everyone that reads my blog that I did, in fact, taste kangaroo meat at a luncheon yesterday," he wrote during a trip to Australia in October. "I feel bad saying that, I hope my [nieces] and nephews don't find out about it, but I tasted it."
Schwartz railed in a November entry titled "Stranger Than Fiction" against the have-someone-else-blog-for-me practice some executives use. "Who would've thought the world would come to this? Funny. My view, it's not a blogger that makes a blog effective. It's authenticity. Everything else is just along for the ride," he wrote, with a link to an eBay auction that ended in December that offered "Blogger for Hire -- Start or Improve Your Blog." It continued, "Hire a Successful Blogger for your Company." There were 30 bids, the winner grabbing the service for $3,350.
The auction probably left die-hard bloggers banging their heads against their ergonomic keyboards. Blogs were invented to vent, to offer a personal look into others' lives. They were not meant to be written by someone else.
Schwartz probably knows he will win points with his audience by taking a little more liberty with his blog than other executives.
In August, he criticized competitor Hewlett-Packard Co. when the company missed earnings predictions. "So we all saw that HP had a bad week. My bet? It's only going to get worse -- and it has nothing to do with their SAP implementation," he wrote.
He explained why he thought HP was in trouble. HP's lawyers filed a cease-and-desist order. Sun fired back, and the issue was dropped.
"I rarely have a lawyer look over what I'm posting. It's like, am I going to have a lawyer read my e-mail? A blog is no more dangerous than e-mail or a mobile phone," Schwartz said. But not, he said, in the view of HP, which Schwartz said went out and hired people to write a blog for one of its executives to fight back.
"That's a ridiculous claim, but not entirely unexpected by Jonathan," said Rich Marcello, a senior vice president, general manager and one of several new bloggers at HP. A poet and songwriter outside of his job, Marcello said he sweats over the entries in his blog, at www.hp.com/blogs/marcello, trying to show readers the inner workings of the company while also writing in a way not typical in his environment. To wit:
"Last week was a good week and it reminded me of something I've believed for a long time -- we are all Michelangelos. Sometimes we don't like to call what we do artistic and we certainly are much too humble to equate ourselves or our work or our teams to Michelangelos, but I believe it's true," Marcello wrote Jan. 19. "I guess that's because I believe anytime we do something that's a work or act of love, what we produce is as much about who we are and what we believe as it is about the actual product we produce.
"I think it's going to be a while before we see actually that real honest transparency in public facing corporate Web logs," said Meg Hourihan, co-founder of Blogger, a software that allows people to create and host their own blogs. Google bought the company in 2003. "It would be nice if you could find a way to do it so it's not sanitized. Just sticking press releases on the front of the blog just doesn't cut it."
In "The Web Log Handbook," Blood defines blogs this way: "Weblogs are the mavericks of the online world. Two of their greatest strengths are their ability to filter and disseminate information to a widely dispersed audience, and their position outside the mainstream of mass media. Beholden to no one, web logs point to, comment on, and spread information according to their own, quirky criteria."
Executive blogs: Beholden to no one? Quirky? Not so much. But Schwartz, for one, says he is trying.
In his first blog entry, on June 28, 2004, Schwartz explained his plans: "I promise to listen -- from all the constituencies we serve (customers, stockholders, developers, consumers, suppliers . . . all)," he wrote. "Hello, world."