Authenticity – how much is enough?

Recently I was part of  an interesting conversation about executives participating in Social Media.

The question that came up was how much of the executive’s posts had to be made by the individual themselves. My first response was that if the post had their name beside it then it should have been the executive at the keyboard. After some discussion however, I began to realize that maybe that is not realistic. After all senior executives frequently have assistants send email under their name, and memos, directives, etc are usually written by a staffer and then distributed under the executive’s name.  So maybe the same rules should apply.

We talked about several scenarios:

  1. Only the executive posts under their name.  Even if most of the posts came from staffers, only the posts actually typed by the executive would carry their name.  Staffers, who would probably make most posts would post under their real  name and their profile would identify them as part of the executive’s staff.
  2. An organizational user would be created to make most posts. For instance the “Office of the Executive” .  In this case the user profile would identify the individuals using that account. Only posts actually made by the exec would carry his or her individual name.
  3. Staffers would be allowed to post as the executive assuming her or she had approved the message. This model is similar to what happens today with email and other correspondence.  Readers would never really know if the post was actually typed by the executive, (does that mater?), but they would know it had been approved by them.  In addition there may be staffers identified as authorized contributors, who would post under their own name.

There are likely variations on the three scenarios above that we did not explore. I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts. What other approaches have you run across? What approach has the best balance of authenticity and practicality given the incredible time pressures on most senior executives?


About Thom Kearney

Change agent, teacher, arts, science, open government, father, mentor, storyteller, husband, dog owner,collaborator, not necessarily in that order.
This entry was posted in Gov 2.0, Marketing & Communication, Web 2.0 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Authenticity – how much is enough?

  1. Depends on the blogger’s time and the objectives of the blog. Ideal would be #1 with frequent posts and engagement (reading all comments/responding), but due to time constraints, I would rather have #3 with engagement than #1/2 without with very few posts and little engagement. I also think the executive is more likely to read comments when all posts are presented as being authored him/her (comments addressed to him/her).

    Just my thoughts.



  2. Hi Thom,

    Great post and very timely given many departments are now providing internal blogging platforms to employees.

    In my view, if the blog has your name it should contain your thoughts and words. If executives can’t take a couple of minutes to comment on a current issue or provide some updates on what they are working on, then I think an opportunity is being missed and option #2 above is a more suitable solution.

    I agree with Ana, I’d prefer that there not be attempts without value or blogs void of personal voice or insight, in which case option #3 would likely be the most successful. Regardless, the executive should, at the very least, be provided with weekly summaries of the general theme or tone of comments.

    Aside – I think an effective blog could actually decrease work/email for many.

    Great post!



  3. Rebecca Blake says:

    Great post Thom,

    While I completely agree with Ana and Martha, I find myself wondering about the history of senior executives having assistants/staffers write and send emails under their name. When did this practice come about and why? What issues was it put in place to solve? Assume time management, but was there anything else? Did this practice transfer from print letters to emails? What is the background on these business decisions? Do original rationales still apply today? #nerd

    I’m curious about the possibility of more authentic emails. If department-wide emails were less corporate in tone and more authentic, would employees be more likely to read them? If so, does this present a real oppertunity for blogs? #thinkingoutloud

    I don’t expect you or others to answer these questions, just sharing my thoughts sparked by your post. However, any and all thoughts are definitely encouraged.

    PS – Big thanks to @Cedgell for sharing the link 🙂



  4. cdh86 says:

    I’m not sure about the comparison to e-mail being an accurate one. Afterall, we’re talking about ‘social’ media, where I would tend to see e-mail as more formal. If we focus on the ‘social’ aspect, then I think it changes the discussion a bit.

    Think of it this way: Senior management delegate meetings, etc. The difference is that if I’m expecting to meet a senior manager, and I show up to the meeting, I know instantly if I’m meeting with them or one of their delegates. I would never expect to walk into a room and have a doppleganger of the senior manager so I *think* I’m meeting with them, even though I’m not.

    I think having a staffer write a blog post that is supposed to be more informal and more social/open to discussion, on behalf of the senior manager takes away from the character of the blog itself and potentially takes away from the image of that executive.


    Part of the Web 2.0 concept, and by extension CPSR, is to break down barriers and the hierarchies. Having your staffers blog on your behalf could be considered disingenuous.


  5. Thom, a very timely issue indeed. In my opinion and from best practices in government that I’ve see, it’s option #1 or #2.

    Option #3 uses the old model of communication which simply is not a sustainable strategy on social channels where authenticity and personal style should be reflected in the writing of a post. I’ve seen this approach fail over and over again.



  6. Yannick says:

    What I am interested in is what happens to the comments. Unless the blog is blocking comments, I’d expect the blog writer to read them and when appropriate address them. Blogging by committee would be the solution where comments are most likely to fall on deaf ears in my opinion.

    If time is an issue for the leaders, why not have someone close to them write, in their own voice and perspective, about the issues involving said leader. I think that could be an interesting experiment.


  7. Dave Sanderson says:

    How often are the final decisions made by an executive regarding policies and directions actually written by that executive? At the end of the day the buck stops with the executive.

    Therefore Option 3 makes sense to me as it can reflect the reality of how many organisations function.


  8. Thom Kearney says:

    Thank you all for some very thoughtful opinions. I think what I am hearing is that are two really important things:
    1. that the content of the posts reflect the executive’s personal approach regardless of who actually types it.
    2. that comments are considered and feedback provided, in other words that there is real engagement
    Does that sound fair?
    Don’t be shy now…


  9. Nick Charney says:

    IMO the best strategy is to hire bloggers to follow Senior Exec and blog about what they are doing, including things like why they are too busy to blog themselves. What our organizations lack is a narrative that supports innovation, this may be an important step in that direction.


  10. Thom Kearney says:

    That is an interesting solution Nick, might be the way for some execs to go.

    I had some additional thoughts on this in that by nature of their position a senior exec’s posts are going to attract more attention than others and will likely be held to a higher standard in terms of official languages, duty of loyalty, etc.


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