CEO Bloggers: To Blog or Not to Blog

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Editor’s note: Contributor Ashkan Karbasfrooshan is the founder and CEO of WatchMojo, he hosts a show on business and has published books on success.  Follow him @ashkan.

“Where do you get the time to write so much as a company CEO, and more importantly, shouldn’t you be closing deals or doing something more useful?”

Fair enough.

Do What Comes Naturally To You

Some entrepreneurs are technologists, others are salespeople, a few are storytellers.

The best coders don’t stop coding even if they run the company.

The best cooks never stop cooking even when they open their restaurant.

Musicians are always jamming no matter what.

Similarly, a storyteller doesn’t put the pen down because he’s in pursuit of profit, too.  He finds a way to marry the two.  If you enjoy writing and happen to be the CEO, then it’s a marriage made in heaven if you can balance your duties.  Regardless of your craft, once you’re an entrepreneur, you’re the eternal cheerleader, finding yourself shilling one thing or another.  It comes with the territory.

When it comes to writing articles – be it on industry publications or on your company/personal blog – it’s actually ineffective to come across as a booster.  You’re better off developing your voice as a contrarian that highlights the macro opportunity in a more realistic and sober way.

If you can pull that off, writing will pay dividends, but you will have to address the odd doubter who may wonder if you’re wasting your time writing.

The Obvious Reasons for Blogging

#1 – Own Thyself

Anthony Robbins put it best when he said: “We’re defined by the stories we tell ourselves.”  Indeed, in a world where others’ perception of you is a function of a Google query, you need to own your online presence, especially as we move away from the Algorithm to an increasingly social world.

#2 – Influence, Authority, and Brand

Value is driven by goodwill (defined simply as the value of your brand).  Brand building is an exercise done through B2B and B2C initiatives.  B2B tools include trade advertising, press releases, the conference circuit as well as writing about the industry you’re in (and as the CEO of a startup, lessons in entrepreneurship and management, as well).

You are competing with many others, some of whom the press will be more enamored with.  PR is one of the tools in your arsenal to level the playing field.  However, the industry’s three worst-kept secrets are:

-          Press releases are ineffective and generally viewed as noise.

-          Blogs are always looking for more content, so they tend to welcome new guest authors.

-          Traditional industry publications are seeing their resources reduced, so they will rely on social media and writers on blogs more than ever, creating an opportunity for you to land on big name websites.

In any case, once they decide to start writing, initially many executives offer their worldview on their company blogs.  This is a sound strategy early-on as you test the waters and hone your style and skill.  Before long, publishing on your own blog yields diminishing returns as you won’t cut through the clutter.

As you migrate to publishing on third-party sites, you have to invest the time to embrace and learn the sites’ editorial voice.  Then, once you clear that hurdle, you face a cynical audience that assumes you’re merely shilling.  To win them over, you need at least three things: impartiality, authority and repetition, but oftentimes to accomplish any success you need to invest way too much time.  It certainly is worth it though, in ways you may find surprising.

Less Well-Known Benefits of Becoming the Chief Pontificator

#3 – Leave Your Staff Alone

The cardinal sin many CEOs make is micromanaging and suffocating talented employees.  Worst even, many try to manage what they don’t understand.  This isn’t always a result of ego or bad faith.  True, some CEOs have a tendency to think they are the lord’s gift to management and their “hands-on” experience knows no boundaries and as such they over-extend themselves.  But frequently it’s because they’re bored.

#4 – Bide your time

Everything takes longer than anticipated.  You submit a proposal, then wait.  You ask one of your lieutenants to work on something, then wait.

More often than not, CEOs find themselves waiting even though few would be considered patient.  As such, CEOs look for things to focus their attention to.   Effective blogging will keeping a CEO busy and avoid him from micromanaging staff and lieutenants, allowing even the best of teams the time and freedom to do their job.

Externally, conventional wisdom suggests that you spend all of your time closing deals.  But, the fact is: blogging will be the best lead generator you can imagine, and the point isn’t to sign as many deals as possible, it’s to sign the right deals under the right terms.  Developing a reputation as an industry leader will enable that.

#5 – Efficiency

CEOs field the same questions and repeat answers to multiple stakeholders all the time.

Verbal communication is undervalued these days, but people don’t listen, so sending an article that you wrote (and one that was published on a leading and respected publication) is a powerful way to convey the message.

Blogging is also far more efficient and effective than attending conferences.  As one industry acquaintance once told me, conferences are akin to AA meetings where you sit around and realize everyone else has the same problems you do.  Pick an industry, any industry – chances are that if you compare the speaker and panelists you will find the same people across the board.  Writing on a big platform allows you to reach far more people than attending conferences will, and it will save you tens of thousands of dollars.

#6 – Shutting Up

The best part of writing so much is that when you meet people, there’s a good chance they’ve read your work, so you can shut up and listen, letting others do the talking because you don’t need to shill and give them your pitch.

#7 – Learn

To publish, you not only need to research your topic, but you need to distill a lot of information into a coherent and cohesive argument or summary.  But the true learning starts after you press publish and readers chime in via email, in the comments section and on counter-posts.

Yes, Writing is Risky (but so is eating shellfish, get over it)

A word to the wise:

-          You want to avoid giving your team the impression that you’re communicating through [the Word]Press (even when you are).

-          People will misinterpret you.  That’s their problem, not yours.  But be prepared for it.

-          You can divulge too much (perhaps, but no one really cares about you that much anyway).

-          Sure, it’s nice to build your personal brand, but the focus ought to be on the company – 100% of the time.

There are risks, but writing is one way to strike balance against the rigors of entrepreneurship.  After all, if you wake up in the morning and are greeted with bad news, don’t worry too much because you’re bound to get worst news later on in the day.  And if ever you are greeted with some good news, enjoy it cause it won’t last, something is bound to go awry.  That’s the startup life.  It’s the end result that matters most (while the journey is a learning experience to you, too).  Writing gives you the perspective to be able to see through the trees.

To quote Steve Jobs, “you can’t connect the dots looking forward“, but provided writing comes naturally to you, then over time you look back and realize why it always made sense.

When it’s said and done, blogging is a means to an end, so long as it helps you accomplish your objectives, keep writing no matter what some may say.  Eventually you realize you no longer need to blog.  Then, you can put the pen down and step away from the machine, (or not).