The Blogging Executive
One of the first things I did when I knew my thesis would be about blogging was that I started blogging myself. Honestly, this was and is not much of a success. Actually, I think I could say my number of blog posts per month has gone down significantly during the process of writing my thesis. However, I got round to do some research in the mean time. Below you can find the executive summary of my research into the use and effect of executive blogs. You can also download a PDF of The Blogging Executive’s Summary.
The Blogging Executive’s Summary
Corporate blogs are one of the means organisations use to interact with their stakeholders. Where regular corporate blogs written by various employees are the current standard, some organisations use executives as their spokespersons in blogs. However, this number is still very limited. Consequently, these executive blogs have sparsely been the object of academic or professional study. Therefore, my thesis bridges the gap in theory by answering how executive blogs are used and what their effects are.
To first address the use of corporate blogs in practice, a qualitative research was set up. By performing an inductive content analysis three existing executive blogs were studied on grounds of their general communicative characteristics. In addition, to investigate executive blogs as corporate communication tools, the desired identity as formulated in the respective organisation’s mission, vision and values was compared to the communicated identity in these blogs. In support of the research, two executives from the selected blogs were interviewed on their experience with and motivation behind executive blogging.
The use of executive blogs
With input from the content analysis of existing executive blogs, a between-participants 2×2 factorial experiment was devised to study the effects of executive blogs in comparison with regular corporate blogs. In addition, the effect of type of content was investigated, for which corporate blogs involving personal subjects were compared with corporate blogs involving business-related subjects. For the experiment, four versions of corporate blogs were mocked-up and manipulated on their source and type of content. In total, 80 participants evaluated the author of the blog and the organisation represented by that author. Due to a good representation of readers with a professional interest in corporate blogs (professionals) and those without (non-professionals), this factor was added as an additional variable in the analyses. Several source characteristics for the author were included as dependent variables, namely credibility, trustworthiness, objectivity, authority, appeal, accessibility and likeability. The organisation was evaluated by scoring the perception of several corporate images, namely social responsibility, financial strength, product quality, work environment, innovation, vision, emotional appeal, and reputation. Ultimately, the author and organisation were given a final grade by the participants.
The effect of executive blogs
It can be concluded that executive blogs have a clear advantage over regular corporate blogs. Firstly, an executive as spokesman can be assumed to be more persuasive due to higher perceived authority and appeal. Secondly, under low involvement the executive’s traits are transferred on to the organisation’s image, strengthening the perceived financial performance and vision.
The effect of type of content
The findings indicate that type of content is effective depending on the goal of the corporate blog. Personal content can be used to improve the author’s positive emotional evaluation. On the other hand, business-related content is better suited for stimulating functional source characteristics such as expertise. These traits, either emotional or functional, are reflected on the organisation’s image, although the effects are minor.
Ultimately, it can be concluded that executive blogs are a specific niche in digital media. However, this niche has certain advantages that are not often considered. Overall, what is clear from the research in this thesis is that a corporate executive blog can offer interesting opportunities for influencing an executive’s and organisation’s image. While an executive blog would not be the ideal medium for all sorts of communications, there are certainly specific organisational goals and settings where a blogging executive could be the most effective and persuasive corporate spokesperson.
Settings ‘The Blogging Executive’ would thrive in:
In the digital environment, organisations should take every chance to communicate more effective, more open, more honest and just more with their stakeholders. ‘The Blogging Executive’ is perhaps the leading communicator stakeholders are waiting for.
Please contact me at info(at)roelsteemers(dot)com if your interested in reading the full thesis.
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