Personal opinions are personal, no? Not if you’re a CEO

It is amazing how naive and ingenuous people get when it comes to publishing their opinions, either in newspapers or in blogs and other electronic media.

Even usually intelligent people succumb to the notion that they can express their opinions and it would be taken as their personal opinion and have no bearing on the companies or organizations they lead. This happens all the time, especially in Indonesia.

The article below in Social Media Today should serve as a reminder to highly placed executives not to be so stoopid:

Wonder Why CEOs Don’t Blog? This Is Why

If CEOs weren’t blogging or using social media much before the recent tizzy about Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s “attack” on healthcare reform that has resulted in all sorts of bad media coverage, they probably won’t be starting now.

Granted, you would have thought Mackey learned a lesson about the potential hazards of using social media after he was sued for comments he posted under an alias that the FTC later decided added up to anti-trust violations. Some thought he’d lose his job then but he didn’t. What about now, though, when his op-ed has led tens of thousands to join a Boycott Whole Foods group on Facebook?

Here’s the thing: in this era of the “personal brand” it is impossible for a CEO to write an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal about such an emotionally-charged issue and claim, as he does on his blog, that it’s his personal opinion and not his company’s. Mackey allegedly meant the headline to read, simply, “Health Care Reform.” He says an editor at the WSJ rewrote the headline to read “Whole Foods Alternative to Obamacare.” His brand, whether he likes it or not, is CEO of Whole Foods, not just “an occasional blogger,” as he describes himself in the “about” section of his blog.

Then again, if you want to go with the “any press is good press” angle of this whole thing then maybe Whole Foods is secretly psyched at the controversy; after all, if one of the purposes of having a blog is to attract traffic to your website, getting almost 2,000 comments on a blog post can’t be all bad–especially given that most of his other blog posts have comments only in the single or double-digit range.

Maybe Whole Foods will fire him as CEO but keep him on as Chief Blogger?

2 thoughts on “Personal opinions are personal, no? Not if you’re a CEO

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  1. There is a movement by some liberals to boycot Whole Foods for using a company built up with consumer dollars to murder spirited discussion on health care reforms. The movement claims to have at least 26,000 people supporting it.


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