Whenever I talk about leaders’ blogs on intranets, the same issue inevitably arises. It goes like this:
“My CEO/president/senior executive is blogging on the intranet, but employees won’t leave any comments. He/she posted a really important/interesting item, but only got a few responses. He/she thinks it’s not worth the effort if nobody is going to comment.”
While I can’t speak to each individual company or blog post, I can make some general recommendations about how to get employees to engage with leaders on their internal blogs:
1. Write about things employees want to talk about
A lot of the executive posts I see are one-way, top-down declarations of fact. They may be interesting and 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 company acquired the new business, why not discuss how to integrate the new employees into the company’s culture?
This encourages employees to help problem-solve based on their experiences with the company’s culture.
2. Be personal
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. Thirty-some employees commented on it.
The more your executives loosen up and expose their personalities, the more employees will feel it’s appropriate to have a conversation with them.
3. Recognize commenters
In some organizations, employees’ hesitation to comment may be cultural; employees feel it’s safer to keep their heads down and mouths shut. That can quickly change if leaders recognize employees who leave comments.
Imagine a town hall meeting in which the CEO asks an employee to rise, and then thanks her for the great recommendation she made in a comment on his blog post. Culture changes only when reward and recognition reinforce the new desired behaviors.
4. Respond to comments
One form of recognition is a personal response. If employees see that the CEO or president took time to respond to a comment left by someone on the factory floor, it will become clear that the leader is genuinely interested in using the blog as a two-way communication channel.
5. Ask for comments
End a blog post with “What do you think?” It can inspire employees to share their thoughts. Remember, though, that the theme of the post has to be one that inspires feedback.
6. Don’t use a ghost blogger
Employees aren’t idiots. They can tell when someone on the communication staff wrote the leader’s blog. If leaders aren’t going to write their own posts, they shouldn’t blog.
I’ve heard the litany of reasons why leaders won’t craft their own posts:
- The CEO doesn’t have time to write his own posts.
First of all, nobody wants a long post. Employees don’t have time to read them any more than executives have time to write them. A couple 100 pithy words will probably inspire more comments than a ghost-written essay.
And if that is still too hard to do, have the executive speak his post into a digital recorder for someone to transcribe. 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, as it can replace several other 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 they can actually look into his eyes as he articulates his thoughts. 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 will have plenty of content for the blog.
7. Provide alternative channels
Not every employee is comfortable attaching his or her name to a public comment. If the leader’s blog includes an email address or some way employees can comment one-on-one, more employees may take advantage of the opportunity to engage with leadership.
8. 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. 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?