Eight tips for getting employees to comment on CEO intranet blogs2011-11-12
Whenever I raise the issue of leader blogs on intranets, the same issue inevitably arises, as it did during a workshop I conducted a week or so ago on social intranets and again at an intranet conference in New York earlier this week. It goes like this:
My CEO/president/senior executive is blogging on the intranet but employees aren’t leaving any comments. He/she posted a really important/interesting item but got only two/four/six comments. He/she is thinking that it’s not worth the effort if nobody’s going to comment.
While I can’t speak to each individual company or post, I can make some general recommendations about how to get employees to engage with leaders through their internal blogs:
Write about things employees want to talk about
A lot of the executive posts I see are written as one-way, top-down declarations of fact. They may be interesting. They may be well-written. But they don’t leave employees a lot of room to say anything other than, “Thanks for sharing,” and most employees won’t bother with that.
Even the most straightforward report can be retooled so it invites conversation. Consider a post explaining why the company made a new acquisition. Instead of explaining why the business was acquired, why not talk about integrating the new employee’s into the company’s culture, listing the aspects of the culture that might hinder quick assimilation. Now employees help problem-solve based on their own experiences with the company’s culture.
I saw a post once in which the CEO shared a personal travel experience with employees. It had nothing to do with the reason for his trip. It was just an amusing road-warrior tale. And some 30 employees commented on it. The more your executives loosen up and expose their personalities, the more employees will feel that it’s appropriate to have a conversation with thim.
In some organizations, the hesitation may be cultural; that is, employees feel safer keeping their heads down and their mouths shut. That can change quickly if leaders start recognizing employees who leave comments. Imagine a town hall meeting in which the CEO asks an employee to rise, then thanks her for the great recommendation she made in a comment to his blog post. Culture changes only when reward and recognition reinforce the deisred new behaviors.
Respond to comments
One form of recognition is a personal response. If employees see that the CEo or president took the time to respond to a comment left by someone on the factory floor, it’ll become clearer that the leader is genuinely interested in using the blog as a two-way communication channel.
As for comments directly
Ending a blog post with “What do you think?” can inspire employees to share their own thoughts. Remember, though, that the theme of the post has to be one that inspires feedback.
Don’t use a ghost blogger
Employees aren’t idiots. They can tell when the leader blog is written by someone on the communication staff. if a leader isn’t going to write her own posts, she should’t blog.
I’ve heard the litany of reasons leaders aren’t crafting their own posts:
- The CEO doesn’t have the time to write his own posts—First of all, nobody’s asking for long posts; employees don’t have time to read them any more than executives have time to write them. A couple hundred pithy words will probably inspire more comments than a ghost-written essay. And if even that’s an issue, have the executive speak his post into a voice-mail box or digital recorder for transcription. Who doesn’t have the time to talk for a minute or two? Finally, more than a few executives have found that an intranet blog actually saves them time, replacing multiple less effective communication channels like email.
- Our CEO is a terrible writer—Video blog posts from the CEO rock. Employees not only get to hear what’s on the leader’s mind but actually look into his eyes while he’s articulating it. Audio is great, too, since you can hear the passion, concern, excitement and other emotions in the voice of an unscripted, unrehearsed message. And finally, as noted above, you can always have the president record her thoughts for transcription into a text post.
- Our president can’t think of enough to blog about on a regular basis—While that’s worrisome, it’s also easy to address. Consider a C-suite group blog. If every leader in the C-suite writes one post every two weeks, you’ll have plenty of content on the blog.
Provide alternative channels
Not every employee is comfortable seeing his or her name attached to a public comment. If the leader’s blog includes an email address or some other means by which employees can comment one-on-one, more employees may take advantage of the opportunity to engage with leadership.
Comments aren’t everything
The fact that employees aren’t commenting doesn’t mean they didn’t find the post interesting or useful; it just means they didn’t have anything to add to it. If you want to know how employees are reacting to a leader’s blog, ask. Make the question part of a survey, run a poll on the intranet home page or have the leader write a post asking employees if they find the blog useful. Better yet, have the CEO write a post asking employees what they’d like him to write about. There’s no better way to find out what employees are interested in.
What kinds of posts from your leaders inspire employees to comment?