Exemplary business blogging: Boeing Compliments SWA

I read a lot of business blogs written by executives of medium to large companies, including General Motors, Boeing and Sun Microsystems. Rarely, though, do I see an executive post a non-insular article, an entry where they talk about something else going on in the industry or blogosphere, something that’s just interesting and worthy of note, without adding any sort of advert or product plug.
That’s why I’d like to compliment Boeing VP of Marketing Randy Baseler for his posting today.

Many of the entries on Randy’s Journal are long, complex discussions of Boeing products, comparisons or criticism of their major competitor, Airbus, and the like. That’s to be expected.
But today’s entry Rapid Rewards exemplifies all that I like the most about blogging for business:

22 April 2005
There’s a great piece out this month in Air Transport World, if you get a chance to see it.
It’s essentially a profile of Southwest Airlines and its CEO, Gary Kelly.
What really caught my attention is a section talking about SWA’s focus on non-stop flights.
Approximately 80% of SWA passengers are on nonstop flights, with perhaps 14% connecting and 6% through. “We focus on nonstop traffic,” Kelly states. “We’d prefer fewer connections. It’s what customers want least. It raises the bar. It is extra work for no more money. It’s a lot cheaper for us to fly you nonstop.”
Kelly really hits two key points on the head here: non-stops are what passengers prefer, and they’re the best economics for airlines.

What’s so nice about this posting? It points to a publication of record for the airline world (with a live link), it is highly complimentary of a partner company, it’s interesting, engaging, and helps me learn more about some of the many facets of Boeing’s industry.
Further, note that Boeing isn’t mentioned once. Even when Randy makes the point that non-stops are the best economics for airlines, he doesn’t add “which is why we think that our long-haul Boeing jets are such a great addition to any fleet” or anything else.
Imagine, VP of one of the most important companies in the United States, and his blog entry is non self-aggrandizing. Great stuff. Well worth studying and learning from if you’re moving into business blogging.

5 comments on “Exemplary business blogging: Boeing Compliments SWA

  1. Hmm Dave. Southwest Airlines states in their “factsheet” (http://www.southwest.com/about_swa/press/factsheet.html) that “Southwest currently operates 417 Boeing 737 jets” and “Southwest was the launch customer for the Boeing 737-700 in 1997. Southwest was also a launch customer for the Boeing 737-500 and -300 series aircraft.” I wonder how many of Southwest’s competitors also fly 100% Boeing fleets and how much their 100% Boeing fleet has to do with Randy’s praise? To me, this looks like more of the same from Randy, although in more of a stealth mode than some of his earlier posts.

  2. I can’t agree with you in this instance, Jim. I would say that Randy’s demonstrating “enlightened self-interest” and that unless you believe the fiction of “unbiased” and “objective” writing, then I posit that everyone who writes, blog or otherwise, has the same inherent biases. If Randy is paying more attention to a Boeing customer and then writes about them, that’s not a violation of ethics in my opinion.
    Similarly, I have friends and colleagues who have joined new startups and entrepreneurial ventures. Because they’re at those firms, I tend to pay more attention to what comes across the virtual transom from those companies. If I blog about one of them, like I did recently with SimplyHired when I talked about the position they’re offering and the interesting approach of listing it through LinkedIn, was I violating some unwritten “blogging code of ethics”? Was I ‘in stealth mode’ because I didn’t disclose that I’m friends with some of their senior executives?
    Let me ask you a question, Jim. If you have a spot in your weblog to cite either of two different authors and one you know, respect, and would like to work with, while the other is a jerk, someone who writes good articles but is a terrible unprofessional member of the profession. Which one do you pick? Why?
    Again, I don’t see that Randy did anything objectionable at all by talking about a company that’s a Boeing customer. Frankly, I can’t imagine that he could write about any airline without bumping into a Boeing customer.

  3. All good points Dave. I don’t think Randy did anything objectionable in the post either, you’re right there. But I think so far though his blog comes off like a series of press releases or stump speeches, that’s what my “more of the same” referred to. In my opinion, Randy could have moved toward a more open and useful forum in the blog if he had at least mentioned that SWA is one of the largest (if not the largest � that I don’t know) airlines flying exclusively Boeing aircraft. While most readers can probably guess SWA is a Boeing customer, how many know what a special and exclusive relationship they seem to have?
    I probably haven’t had a perfect track record in this respect in my little blog so far. I’m sure my blog gets a lot less scrutiny than Randy’s and I wouldn’t want to be under the spotlight he is. So, I’m going to work hard in the future to be sure I’m not being a hypocrite in this respect.
    And in your not-so-hypothetical question, you bet, all other things equal, I’m going to cite the author I’d prefer to work with. But I’m also likely to say “I like this author and hope he/she and I get to work together more.” So for the record, Dave is a great author, easy to work with, and I hope he and I get to work together more because he writes well and makes an AE’s life easy.

  4. Jim, you’re right that Randy isn’t the most comfortable, personable of bloggers, but comparing him to someone who represents a company of one, or a company of twenty isn’t really fair, is it? For one thing, it’s interesting to see how differently public companies force blogs to become — I’m thinking of Jonathan Schwartz from Sun pointing out that ‘shareholders are going to pick apart everything I say’, for example.
    And, need I say, shareholders don’t care about ‘authentic communications’ or ‘credible voice in the marketplace’, they care about shareholder value, which is only measured by the short (and, hopefully long) term value of the firm as measured by stock value * total number of shares outstanding.
    So I suggest to you that while you’re also blogging with a boss, Randy at Boeing has an entirely different set of criteria to be concerned with, and, further, that his very topic of blogging has to be a bit abstract because neither you nor I are about to buy a Boeing jetliner at this juncture.
    I appreciate your comments about SWA being exclusively Boeing, too, but, again, ask if you write about a new book from an author who only publishes with WROX, say, and you don’t disclose it, are you guilty of some sort of ethical violation? I see it more as ‘scratching your back, and you scratching mine’ enlightened cooperation.

  5. As a Boeing employee, I’m really impressed that Randy (or any Boeing executive) is blogging at all. Over the short time he’s been doing it, it’s become much more like a real blog (still a little way to go) and much less corporate mouthpiece.
    As for Southwest, it’s an integral part of their business model to have just one aircraft type. It’s part of what keeps their costs down. They picked Boeing 737s over 30 years ago and have worked the business model hard. Really, is there anyone in the industry that doesn’t know this?

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