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8/24/2007
01:31 PM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Jonathan 'Marketing Weenie' Schwartz Offers Lessons For Would-Be Exec Bloggers

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz is being filleted and fried on his own blog right now for changing Sun's ticker symbol from SUNW to JAVA. The 277 comments include such subtle insight as "you're a marketing weenie." Name-calling aside, Schwartz provides a good test for an internal blog: Would employees rise to challenge a boss' idea like this? If not, is it worth anyone's time?

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz is being filleted and fried on his own blog right now for changing Sun's ticker symbol from SUNW to JAVA. The 277 comments include such subtle insight as "you're a marketing weenie." Name-calling aside, Schwartz provides a good test for an internal blog: Would employees rise to challenge a boss' idea like this? If not, is it worth anyone's time?A lot of execs feel they need to blog these days -- our research in February showed 20% of companies using blogs. While a few do it publicly like Schwartz, far more do it internally. As execs embrace blogging, CIOs should be in position to coach their colleagues on nurturing blogs into a real exchange. If an executive blog is just another platform for one-way pronouncements, it's no different -- and actually less efficient -- than the good ol' mass e-mail.

McKinsey Quarterly has good advice on getting participation on internal blogs, in an article published this month. (If you register, you can read it free here.) The piece by Jacques R. Bughin cites the reason people posted to a German video sharing site: No. 1 being "a hunger for fame." Burghin thinks it's the same with internal blogs:

… Executives pursuing such projects should start by identifying and nurturing the small percentage of users who post quality content. At one cable company we studied, for example, more than half of the installers who contributed to an internal wiki said that social factors such as reputation building, team spirit, and community identification were the main factors motivating them to contribute. Only 20% cited the possibility of a financial bonus as their main driver.

Bughin says the company examined the e-mail system for people with wide networks and encouraged them to post.

Sun's Schwartz sets the gold standard for exec blogs. He airs out real ideas, posts fairly regularly, and draws passionate participants. The JAVA ticker decision is symbolic but controversial -- ZDnet notesthat there's no revenue line for it, yet it's now the symbol of its stock. Perhaps most noteworthy about Schwartz' blog is how he lets participants run wild, as response to the JAVA ticker symbol suggest:

Was the ticker SELL not available? Posted by Bear Starns Investor on Aug. 24, 2007 at 09:18 AM PDT #

What a TERRIBLE idea! When we used "Java" in the name of all our software products a few years ago, customers were confused and frankly just laughed at us -- Java Desktop System was the prime offender … Posted by Numpty on August 23, 2007 at 09:46 AM PDT #

Just imagine Apple Computer using LISA as symbol. Bad idea. Posted by Fermin Avila on August 23, 2007 at 10:51 AM PDT #

Jonathan, this is one more indication the board needs to look for someone with REAL ideas to lead a once great company. You're all driving wonderful technology innovative and real engineers designed in the ground. You're just a marketing weenie. Posted by Justin Cook on August 23, 2007 at 10:26 AM PDT #.

I wonder if Schwartz will respond. Should he let respondents have the last word, or defend his decision in the face of overwhelmingly negative response, and risk sounding defensive? It's just one of the many tricky questions execs will face with an external or internal blog.

If you have thoughts on the good and bad of executive blogs, and tips for making them work, please share.

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