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Why Most CEOs Don't, and Never Will, Blog

The New York Times reports that cheif executives are inclined to avoid activities generally deemed to be high-risk: Sky diving. Cliff jumping. Motorcycle racing. And, of course, blogging.

Two years ago, when Jonathan Schwartz, then the president and chief operating officer at Sun Microsystems, inaugurated a blog that made him the most senior executive at his company to venture onto such a publicly visible platform, he embraced the risks.

�Hey, life is short,� he wrote on the first day, as if he were about to leap from a plane. The title of that first post was �Head First.� Mr. Schwartz not only survived the plunge, he turned out to be a natural. In a voice that is refreshing in its unprocessed directness, he discusses big-picture trends in the computer industry, promotes Sun�s wares and tweaks competitors, and reports on the odd epiphany experienced while on the road or engaged in intellectual combat with industry friends and adversaries.

The regularity of his posts, which blend serious content and an informal writing style, and their wide-ranging scope make this blog the apotheosis of expository writing: intelligent thought made visible. When Mr. Schwartz was promoted to the top job at Sun this spring, he automatically became a member of an elite group: Fortune 500 C.E.O. bloggers. He is the only active member.

Where is everyone else? Here is my brief assessment of the situation.

It's no secret, many senior executives can't research and write a speech or prepare the content for a presentation without a skilled ghostwriter to assist them (disclosure: I ghostwrite for my client executives). The reasons are as varied as these executive individuals have different personalities. Some truly believe that they have nothing 'profound' to say to their customers, or other key constituents. Those that do have thought-provoking ideas say they don't have the time to devote to regular communication of this sort.

One of the few in-common reasons that a senior executive doesn't communicate regularly with their constituents -- in a credible 'human' voice -- is because they are advised not to do so by their internal or external 'professional' corporate PR or communications advisor.

Besides, corporate communications professionals often work on the assumption that when in doubt, it's always better to say nothing -- that is, they generally recommend not to have a 'point of view' or definitive opinion that might be subject to interpretation. This 'safe bet' thinking is the conventional wisdom 'editorial' process that often strips all substantive meaning from corporate press releases, as an example.

The disingenuous 'corporate speak' tone is clearly unmistakable, whether it's written in a magazine article or spoken as it's precisely read from a teleprompter. Granted, some customers, employees and even investors couldn't care less if a company's custodian 'leadership team' is devoid of any meaningful vision or sense of purpose for their business. It is what it is, they all rationalize in unconscious acceptance.

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