Blogging with Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers

Good luck trying to get most executives to seriously contemplate blogging. Where am I going to find the time? Isn’t that what I pay my PR department to do?

Despite such protestations, some of the biggest names in corporate America are bloggers.

Consider this quotation from Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers:

“If you had told me I was going to [be blogging] three or four years ago I would have said, ‘Not a chance.’ Blogging is now the way I communicate with our employees, almost all video.”

Chambers’ remark came during an enlightening interview on a McKinsey Quarterly Podcast. His statement is notable for three reasons that I’ll enumerate and then discuss in a little more detail.

Chambers dismissal and eventual embrace of blogging.
His use of video recordings rather than written content.
His decision to blog internally rather than externally.
Let’s take point No. 1. If you currently see no value or payback in blogging, there are examples beyond John Chambers to consider – other chief executives who have found blogging a key communications tool. Among them are Virgin Cos. CEO Richard Branson, tech entrepreneur and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz and management legend and former GE chief executive Jack Welch.

All of them have blogs. Whether they manage those blogs or have them ghost written is immaterial. They still control the message. And take into account that these are not men who trifle with time-wasting activities. There must be something to blogging if individuals of their power and note are committing their time and energy.

Point No. 2, Chambers chose to use video rather than the written word to communicate with his people. It’s very common, albeit unfortunate, for executives to struggle with the written word. Video is a handy alternative for those who would rather speak than write.

I have no doubt many business people nix the idea of blogging because writing is simply unmanageable for them. Too time consuming. Too difficult. Most of them probably never considered that blogging can be done by video. (Note that blogging done by video is sometimes referred to as vlogging.)

Take a lesson from John Chambers and factor the video option into your thinking. Remember that it’s not unusual for bloggers to use a mixture of writing and video, depending on the nature of the information they have to communicate in that particular post. Just remember that even speaking requires some writing. You wouldn’t want your video statement to be extemporized from start to finish unless you’re an extraordinary speaker.

Jonathan Schwartz uses both video and written text on all of his blog posts. Subscribers have the choice of watching and listening to Schwartz on video or reading the written text of his postings, which appears below the video window. Check out Jonathan’s Blog.

Point No. 3 is Chambers’ decision to blog internally. Much hoopla has been made about the power of blogging for external marketing purposes and integrating those postings with Social Media networks. This is supposed to be the brave new world of marketing. With all due respect to those aspirations, Web 2.0 technologies often pay off faster and bigger when used internally – especially at mid-size and large companies with hundreds or thousands of employees, vendors, investors and so on.

Many executives are flatly intimidated by the thought of airing their thoughts in public – whether by text or video. Such communication tends to last forever, including the contretemps. Fair enough. But if you’re not communicating internally with your own employees in some fashion, you might want to reconsider your suitability for the role you’ve been given. Blogging – in writing or by video – is an excellent option for internal communications.

On the other hand, blogging externally to customers and other audiences gives you an opportunity to play a role that extends beyond being a mostly anonymous internal decision maker. Rather than the man or woman behind the curtain, the communicative executive can better shape company culture – or even become the emotional or spiritual leader of their enterprise.