Shimon Sandler

Should a CEO’s Blog need Legal Approval?

I asked 2 questions via email to a few thought leaders that specialize in the fields of Search Marketing, Social Media, Reputation Management, and Internet Marketing.

1) Should a CEO’s Blog need approval from legal before posting?
2) What if it’s his personal blog? Would the same hold true for opinions, forecasts, etc regarding his industry?

Kevin Lee – CEO of Didit:
“CEOs are constantly interviewing with analysts, press and making speeches at conferences, all of which are documented. They should be well trained in what can and can’t be said. A blog is no different and “legal” should not need to babysit the CEO online or offline. However, if the CEO has proven him/herself to be a loose cannon, perhaps some second party should advise on blog posts as well as during interviews.” Buy Kevin’s Book“The Eyes Have It”.

Andy Beal CEO of Marketing Pilgrim says, “Best not. Have legal help draft up guidelines of what CEO shouldn’t say–anything material–then let him use own due diligence.”

My preference is to not force a CEO to have each of his posts reviewed by the company’s legal department. There are many reasons to avoid such a step, with slowing down the conversation and removing personal tone of a blog post being the most important.

Instead, I would advise a CEO to sit down with his legal and public relations team and craft a general blogging policy that includes guidelines of what the CEO will and won’t discuss. This allows the legal and PR teams share their expertise and counsel, while giving the CEO freedom to post as and when he’s inspired.

How much should a CEO hold back in his blog posts? That depends on the size and status of a company. A small, privately held company CEO can raise his profile by being edgy or critical in his posts. Meanwhile, the CEO of a large, publicly traded company would be wise to be more reserved and consider the ramifications of what he has to say.

What if it’s his personal blog? Would the same hold true for opinions, forecasts, etc regarding his industry?

“Absolutely. The CEO of a company is the CEO 24/7 and even an opinion expressed on his personal blog could be construed as the official stance of the company he represents–despite any disclaimer he may have to the contrary.”

Buy Andy’s new book:Radically Transparent: Monitoring and Managing Reputations Online.

Chris Winfield -CEO of 10e20 says:
“Depends on the company…if its going to be anything worth reading – then NO, the CEO should know what he should or should not say. If he doesn’t – he shouldn’t be blogging. Noone is going to read it the other way.

Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land says:

I guess I’d say that if you’re at a company where legal clears any type of publication, then yes, a blog falls under that. But if legal doesn’t clear each and everything that the CEO says or writes, nope!

What if it’s his personal blog? Can he still write his opinions, forecasts, etc about his industry?

” I think you’d need a lawyer to say. I imagine that he could comment generally on his industry but anything deemed relevant to shareholders would need to be shared through official company channels and perhaps filed with the SEC.”

Here is a variety of CEO blogs:
Rob Norman – CEO GroupM Interaction.
Bob Parsons – CEO of GoDaddy.
Richard Edelman — CEO of Edelman
Greg Hartnett – CEO of BOTW (Best of the Web).
David Neeleman – Chairman of JetBlue Airways.
Jonathan Schwartz, “Jonathan’s Blog” — CEO of Sun Microsystems.
Mark Cuban, – Owner of the Dallas Mavericks.
Robert Lutz, “Fast Lane” — GM vice chairman
Matt Heaton – CEO of Bluehost

It’s interesting to look at the different styles, conversational tone, and strategy of each of these CEO blogs. Also, some have taken the time and resources to build out a highly interactive and usable blog platform, while others are satisfied with the the basics of WordPress.

For example, Rob Norman who works for a large agency has not leveraged his blog to showcase the talent of his agencies. Heck, it’s not even on his own domain. He doesn’t link on his blogroll to any of his agencies. Nobody comments. No Social Media icon buttons. A little scary for the CEO of a conglomorate of interactive agencies.

As opposed to Bob Lutz’s GM Blog. The GM “Fastlane Blog” has a Twitter feed, Blogroll, prominant RSS subscribe buttons, recent entries, Digg buttons, plenty of comments, and just looks great.

In my opinion, if the CEO is going to start blogging, it might as well look great and adhere to as many of the Best Practices of Blogging as possible. Especially if the CEO is the Chief Blogger.

In Summary:
The components that make for a great CEO blog:
1) Prep from legal and corporate communications.
2) Development team ( Project Mgr, Graphic Designer, Programmer).
3) Sticking to the same Best Practices of Blogging as everyone else.
4) The drive, desire, and passion to be a blogger.

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  1. 4) The drive, desire, and passion to be a blogger.

    I think the most important on the list. Even I lack in the blogging realm with regard to content (sometimes it’s just my drivel), and consistency (too much time between posts). I can only imagine that the CEO of a company is even more pressed for time than I am. Point 4 should be most heavily weighed before the endeavor starts.

    Something even I should learn: If you’re not going to do it all the way, might as well not do it.

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