Shel Israel and Jim Estill on Blogging for Executives

AIMS (Association of Internet Marketing and Sales) hosted a session on Blogging for Executives in Toronto today. Featured speakers were Shel Israel, co-author of Naked Conversations, and Jim Estill, CEO of SYNNEX Canada and a Director of RIM.

The session was aimed at Directors, Vice Presidents and above. About thirty people attended.

Shel Israel provided an introduction to the what and why of blogging. Each participant at the session received a copy of Naked Conversations. Either most of the participants have already totally assimilated the content of the book or they have yet to read it. Whatever the explanation, there were few questions directed to Israel. In fact, at one point he asked himself a couple questions just to be able to answer them. (Come on Toronto, we can do better.)

The audience was much more animated in their response to Jim Estill. Questioners probed Estill’s motivation in becoming a CEO blogger and his assessment of the experience. Several of the questioners also asked for Estill’s advice on dealing with the resistance of legal departments and cautious executives. The conclusion I took away is that, at least in Toronto, business blogging has not yet reached the point of normalization.

A few takeaways from the session:

  • Shel Israel’s advice on selling blogging to a CEO: “Using a conversation to demonstrate thought leadership won’t work; using a blog to enter into a conversation to generate better thoughts will work.”
  • Jim Estill said his original objective in blogging was “to dispel the mystery about me as a CEO. Now, I get personal email from employees – and customers too – who know me through the blog. … One good thing that comes of this is that people feel they know me. When they feel they know me, they want to do business with me. On the down side, there are thousands of people who think they know me and I don’t know them.”
  • Estill says that his blog receives from 150 to 250 visitors on an average day; 1,000 on a day in which there is an event (e.g. RIM and NTP agreement; Fortune magazine interview)
  • Estill estimates that, out of SYNNEX’s 2500 employees, there are 30 bloggers, but probably only two who have persisted and become regular bloggers. The rest failed to persist beyond a few initial posts or they post rarely.
  • Estill in response to a question about how other CEOs and Board Directors react to his blogging: “CEOs and corporate don’t like it. They’re afraid you’re giving away insider information. Most CEOs also worry about the time commitment.”
  • Thanks to AIMS Toronto for organizing this session.