When it comes to CEO blogs, I’ve long been a skeptic. For one thing, most CEOs are godawful writers. For another, they don’t have much spare time. And for another, a blog, for a top executive, usually just ends up making you a better target. As is so often the case in life, it’s better to hold your tongue.
But an article about AOL’s Ted Leonsis in today’s Washington Post is giving me pause. Leonsis was miffed “to see that whenever he typed his name into Google’s search box, the results were a hodgepodge of news stories.” He wasn’t in control of the message, and for a topdog executive, losing control over how you’re viewed is a very dangerous thing. So he decided that he would “figure out a way to manipulate Google’s complicated search engine to put the information he wanted people to see at the top of his results.” He quickly realized that blogging would be a great way to accomplish that goal. He knew that a blog by a bigwig like himself would attract a lot of links from other bloggers, and thus lift his blog toward the top of search-engine rankings. To magnify the effect, he wisely started dropping into his postings the names of all the celebrities he meets as well as a lot of links to other popular blogs, both of which drew even more links to his blog.
Bingo. Now, his blog and his official biography are the first things you see when you google his name. “My job is done!” he says, with well-deserved pride.
Leonsis is what you might call a defensive blogger. His main goal isn’t to enter into a “conversation” with the AOL “community,” but just to gain more control over the results that show up when people google him. In fact – and this really turns the whole corporate blogging ethos on its pointy little head – Leonsis is blogging not to increase the flow of information but to narrow it, for his own professional benefit.
Now I realize that a lot of people out in the blogosphere will take offense at what Leonsis is doing. He’s not exactly taking a ride on the old cluetrain here. But you have to admit that from a business perspective it’s a brilliant strategy. It’s exactly what Machiavelli would have done if there’d been a blogosphere around back in the early 16th century. Other executives that want to gain more control over how they’re portrayed on the Net are going to have to give this idea a hard look. The best defense may be a good blog.