friday 5 | executive & employee bloggers ::
As an interactive platform for the exchange of ideas and discussion, a blog can be a useful tool for meeting the public (and for the public to meet you) on any number of issues or communications (work and not necessarily work related). How this is done depends on the individual blogger’s personality, time commitment, what information they are seeking to convey, and of course any company specific digital ethics or guidelines about public online discourse.
Here are a few approaches that company executives and employees in China have taken with their blogs:
work-related blogs ::
Robin Li (李彦宏), CEO of Baidu, keeps a high-traffic blog on his company’s platform that features his thoughts on his public appearances and various matters concerning Baidu. Soho Chairman Pan Shiyi (潘石屹) practically lives in the media’s eye, and his blog is no exception: he started blogging on his own platform ahead of the huge tide of celebrity / executive bloggers, but later moved to Sina where he sits high in the traffic rankings. He’s even published a book made up of selected blog posts. Vantone chairman Feng Lun (冯仑) is another real-estate mover and shaker who blogs frequently about his company, press interviews, articles from his in-house magazine, and random snippets of videos and other entertaining things from around the Internet. And Jack Ma (马云), head of e-commerce giant Alibaba, blogs Alibaba-related content on his own company’s platform. However, his posts unfortunately are largely drawn from material initially presented elsewhere, such as lectures and press junkets.
crisis / issues management blogs ::
Wang Shi (王石) is the chairman of Vanke, a major Chinese real estate company. He blogs mainly about traveling (he’s a climbing enthusiast), but he also uses his blog as a way to communicate directly with the public by responding to questions from readers and issues currently in the media. This has not always work out for the best for him: after the Wenchuan earthquake in May, 2008, he made a blog post defending his company’s 2 million yuan donation to the rescue effort and explained that he had a policy that limited individual donations by workers at charity fund-raisers to 10 yuan apiece. In the ensuing media storm, public opinion largely saw Wang and Vanke as stingy and selfish. However, Wang’s blog also gave him a platform to feature posts and photos of the work Vanke was doing in ongoing rescue and rebuilding efforts. Other executives haven’t been so adept at taking advantage of their blogs: Mengniu founder and CEO Niu Gensheng (牛根生) used to keep a blog on Sina, but the final update came in September (of 2008) during the melamine milk scandal: an assistant (not recommended!) posted the remarks he presented to the Mengniu board promising that he and the company would strive to act responsibly in light of the scandal. To date, that post has received 2 million page-views, so there’s certainly an audience for what Niu has to say.
exposure / thought-leadership blogs ::
A number of executives seem to blog as a way to “show off” their expertise, establish thought leadership in a certain field, and keep their names in circulation online. Wang Ran (王冉), CEO of China E-Capital, blogs about business topics, as do other consulting heads such as branding expert Jacke Lee (李志起), head of China Brand Consultant Team, who mixes business and branding topics with lighter fare. Kai-fu Lee (李开复) heads Google China, but his online presence has more to do with cultivating young talent than specific corporate strategy. His Sina blog mostly follows a Q&A format in which Lee answers questions from young tech workers about education, job placement, and career goals. He also runs “I Learn” (我学网), a portal site devoted to education. The furthest extent this “exposure” has been taken is probably the blog of Dong Siyang (董思阳), controversial chairman of the Fengbohk Group, which runs a chain of restaurants. Dong became company president and CEO at the age of 21 and markets her image and accomplishments in motivational lectures and management training sessions she delivers around the country. Her blog functions as effective extension of her personal branding objectives.
personal CEO blogs ::
An executive is also just another ordinary person and may want to keep a personal blog not directly connected to their company. Tudou co-founder and CEO Gary Wang (王微) keeps one which he started in in 2005. Although there’s a category for Tudou-related posts that has over 100 entries, he doesn’t seem to write much about the company anymore. Hung Huang (洪晃), CEO of China Interactive Media, a publisher of popular magazines, posts extensive personal musings on her travels and other subjects she’s interested in. She does make one concession to company-related material in the form of covers of the latest issue of iLook, her flagship magazine title. Hung also has an English-language blog at the New York Times. Smaller-scale executives blog as well: Li Ying (李莹), head of the Beijing Yingzhibao BMW Agency, keeps a Sina blog where she posts stories about her travels, golfing, and her children.
chinese translations of foreign executive blogs ::
With China as such an important market for multinational corporations, overseas executives who blog in another language might think about translating their posts for Chinese readers. Automatic translation, which both English- and Chinese-language bloggers have experimented with, is not yet up to the task. However, Jonathan Schwartz, President and CEO of Sun Microsystems, has his posts translated into many languages, including Chinese. Schwartz is well-known in English-language IT circles as one of the few Fortune 500 CEOs who blogs, and he posts engagingly on IT trends and Internet-related topics. Note that these translations show signs of human involvement; they’re not simply his English-language posts run through a translator. Oddly, the Sun China homepage has links to Schwartz’s *English* blog posts, not the translations.
[Friday 5 is the product of my work at Edelman Digital (China). Link here for the full Friday 5 archive. If you'd like to be added to the bilingual (English & Chinese) Friday 5 email distribution list, please send me an email at: adam DOT schokora AT edelman DOT com.]