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February 16, 2010

How Do CEOs Create and Maintain Their Internet Identity?

This question came over the transom today at work from a potential client in the IT function of a Spanish company that manages mobility & telecommunications infrastructures, how would you respond? 

"This is about creating/maintaining CEO’s internet identity.”

I removed specific work references but here was my overall response:
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But I know some prominent CEOs do blog (Ford; former Sun Microsystems chief Jonathan Schwartz—been blogging for a long time, quite good at it; Zappo’s, etc.) so there is a precedent for CEOs owning their online identity.

Here’s my advice, not work-certified at all, completely my personal feelings based on all the reading & studying that I’ve done in the online identity space over the last 10years:

Here’s what to tell him to do, which is quite simple—write a blog (or better yet, do a quick video blog so that people start recognizing him as a real person and not a CEO in the ivory towers) and talk about what’s going on with your company and the industry. But DON’T write press releases or write it like a typical CEO writes or presents to analysts or to Wall St. Be a human, be honest, and be conversational AND DO IT EVERY DAY. I’m not running to blogs as the answer to everything, because they’re not, but they are the right answer or platform in this situation.

Does a CEO email every day? Then he can surely blog every day. It’s as simple as that-- overcome the noise with your own words.

But this is inherently hard work. There is no shortcut to success here. It’s going to take at least 2-3 years of HARD WORK & DEDICATION to blogging (or whatever platform or channel he chooses) to really craft/maintain the online identity that he wants. And he better be insightful or an expert in what he’s talking about or otherwise people won’t link to him and that what he needs, to be seen as an influencer, authority, and thought-leader in his space—that’s what creates & maintains your internet identity.

Writing and contributing to the community will ensure that you create/maintain/own your online identity because a CEO has an online identity right now, whether he knows it or likes it or not, so he can let others define it or he can start writing, posting, commenting on what’s going on with everything his company and industry is involved with and shape his online presence to what he wants. Address the controversial topics and tell Legal to back off, that he/she needs to write openly and honestly whenever possible. You no longer control the message or your identity (privacy is dead, see Scott McNealy at Sun again) so the CEO themselves have to own it.

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How'd I do?

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