I commented earlier (June 26) about Whole Foods and CEO John Mackey’s use of his CEO blog to attack the regulators who were taking a little less optimistic view of the proposed merger with Wild Oats than what Mackey thought appropriate. Here’s what I wrote about this clash of cultures:
What makes this interesting is again the intersection of blogging–in this case CEO blogging–on the business environment. And the clash of cultures that exist. Government regulators want you to play nice with them or else they will use the only power they really have–the power to say “no”–against you. Get pissy with them and they have ways of getting back.
Well, it looks like they found an even stronger way of getting at Mr. Mackey. Now apparently the SEC is investigating Mr. Mackey to see if he violated the law when he blogged under a pseudonym. This revelation about blogging under a different name is causing problems for him in both the blog world and the regulatory world. He violated the first principle of blogging–transparency. And, now they are looking to see if he also violated the Regulation Fair Disclosure law.
Suddenly, a CEO blogging hero, known for his openness, outspokenness and being in tune with the blog culture may be fighting for his job–and some of it for the very reasons that made him a blog hero. Hmmm, a clash of cultures can get ugly.
Technorati has been tracking the growth and changes in the blog world for over four years. They just issued their new report and it is fascinating.
For those who want to skim the highlights (don’t because you’ll miss lots of cool graphics):
- 57 million blogs now
- number doubles every 236 days, although the growth rate is slowing
- 55% are active (posted at least once in past 3 months)
- 100,000 were created EACH DAY in Oct, 2006
- 1.3 million postings per day
- There is a fascinating correlation between events of major public interest and the number of postings
- Blogs are the long tail of media (but surprising how far up the tail some go now) with MSM representing the short tail
- Languages: English 39%, Japanese 33%, Chinese 10%, Spanish 3%
(By the way, via my CustomScoop trial subscription, I just found out that Sacha Baron Cohen shares one thing with my sons and daughter: Their dads’ names–almost.) Here’s the story.
SEC Chief Christopher Cox, according to this AP story, thinks blogging would be a good form for corporations to discuss financial matters. Although the movement of companies and executives is becoming almost a flood, this kind of announcement may very well take corporate blogging to the next level.
Earlier today, I was on Shel Holtz’s blog “A Shel of my Former Self,” and read this sadly humorous account of a speaker at a conference touting the benefits of company podcasting. It demonstrates that those entering this world need to “get it” if they are not to embarrass their organizations or clients. Part of “getting it” is understanding that the blog world has an exceptionally high standard for authenticity.
Clara Potes, who commented earlier today on this blog, also makes a strong point for authenticity re the Wal-mart “flog” controversy on her blog: clarapotes.blogspot.com/.
So, when it comes to corporate commenting about financial matters in a way that satisfies SEC rules and the blog world, it will be an interesting show. The language has to be that of the casual blogger, commenting about the world while drinking coffee in his pjs, while the information has to be unassailable and fully legal. Seems the two worlds will have a hard time fitting together. But it will be interesting to watch.
Previously I blogged and posted a link to a posting by Eric Kintz about whether or not posting frequency mattered. Eric took that posting and followed it around the blogosphere, tracking where it got linked and turned it all into a most fascinating case study of blogging’s power. It is viral marketing at work.
Here’s the case study.
Kintz goes on to explain some of the secrets to accelerating the conversation, such as getting it linked on tier 1 blog sites (those with 1000 or more links.)
And obviously he’s working the system since he just commented on my blog since I was one of those who referenced his article in my blog and now am doing it again. Thanks Eric!
Verizon has decided that blogging is a good way to converse with customers and others about all kinds of issues. That may not be news, but what is interesting is that while a great many companies and organizations still consider blogging to be a sort of fringe thing, an unnecessary nod to the 12 year olds who spend too much time online, and that sort of thing, Verizon is admitting that they are entering this game from behind. Here’s what they said:
It’s one of the biggest things we’ll be launching this year,” said DeVard, who acknowledged that Verizon is playing catch-up in the fields of online and social networking. “We were asleep at the wheel a bit,” she said. Verizon will spend 15 percent of its marketing budget online this year, and she said that may not be enough.
This is one of the clearest signs yet that corporate blogging is suddenly being recognized as not only legitimate but necessary.
While at a conference last week I spoke to the head of one of the nation’s largest public transportation systems. They will be launching a blog soon. Good idea. It is one–only one–of many ways that organizations need to engage those people who desire to communicate actively and directly with them.
If you’re not there yet, what are you waiting for?
Robert Scoble on scobleizer apparently had some folks in the BBC in to have a look at his blogging. Here’s his post from scobleizer. What blew their mind was his stats on his blog. They said their stats weren’t much bigger on their website. Interesting, huh? One of the largest, most prestigious news organizations generates similar traffic to one guy writing with nothing more than a laptop and a Ford Focus. OK, so he doesn’t need the Focus for writing. The point is we are in a “post-media world.” A term I coined or at least used in my book Now Is Too Late back in 2001. When a single person can generate global audiences with as little investment as this–along with good writing, savvy SEO, a best selling book and all that–it means the media no longer dominates as they did.
That’s a no brainer to a lot in the blog world, they are there already. But as I work with lots and lots of communicators and executives in the world of large government organizations, global corporations, large non-profits and the like, I can tell you that it is news to them. And it is going to take a long time before the reality of what this means to them really hits them. When it does, as I like to say, it may be too late.
I am a fan of newsvine and the model it presents for the global “watercooler”. By that I mean the real time discussion of current issues by those participating. Aine McDermot is a familiar name to newsvine junkies. And here is a very insightful and thought provoking article posted on newsvine by this talented writer and thinker. Purposeful Journalism.
I especially appreciate the comments about how mainstream media has blurred the lines between entertainment and journalism, driven by their need to run profitable businesses. For those interested, this is a major topic of my book “Now Is Too Late: Survival in an Era of Instant News” and the soon to be published second edition, Now Is Too Late2.
Her comments on “Social Journalism” are equally relevant but I sense are just touching the surface of this fascinating and incredibly important topic. Everyday I become more convinced that the world of public information, news, reporting, public affairs, corporate issue management and crisis communication is changing dramatically and the change is driven increasingly by the blogosphere and the huge culture changes that the blogosphere represents and is leading.
If you are in corporate communications, or are a CEO or senior leader of an organization that operates with a public franchise, I encourage you to check out Newsvine but also read this intriguing article.
If you are curious about bloggers, who they are, why they blog and almost anything else of interest about bloggers, see this report. It is from Pew, which has a strange name, but does a wonderful job of tracking how the internet is changing our lives. I will comment more about these findings after I’ve had a chance to review the 25 page full report.
It happened again yesterday. I mention the idea of CEO blogging to a business person I respect and the response was a laughing “Oh yeah.” Like, are you out of your ever loving mind? Are you smoking crack? Why does this seems so strange? I realize this is what it looks like to observe a major culture shift occurring. Having one person in the organization talking openly to anyone who will listen on any topic he or she desires to address, without legal review, without PR polishing, without board consensus, without the executive team having 13 meetings to ponder the wisdom of it, just doesn’t seem right. And that is exactly the point.
I wonder if Henry Ford would object to blogging? I wonder if some VP suggested he might screw up in something he said that would cause the company some damage, how he would respond. I wonder how Ronald Reagan, the Great Communicator, would respond if someone suggested that it would be a bad idea for him to blog. I think he would say, “Why?”
I’m thinking right now the blog world is not so new after all. The desire for openness, honesty, transparency, freedom of expression, the ability to say something stupid once in a while without the world crashing down, is something we all want and always have wanted. The iconoclastic methods and expectations of bloggers are expressions of a universal human desire for authenticity in relationships and communication. It’s more that we have gone far away from that mode of communication in our mediated, hyper-sensitive, politically corrected and over-litigated world. Well, I think it is tiime to go back.
Let’s start talking again. One to one, face to face, if possible, but when not through this remarkable new medium. Let’s reveal ourselves, tell each other who we really are and what we care about. Let’s show a little respect. Let’s forgive a little more. Let’s accept honest mistakes and misstatements without getting the courts involved. And let’s not be so afraid to take the risk of honest communication.
I talked to our local top elected official the other day and he mentioned the need for hiring a communications manager for his administration. I suggested he should start blogging. Myself?! he said. Yes, I said. Why not? I don’t have time for that.
I told him about Naked Conversations and the increasing number of CEOs of large corporations who are blogging. No way, man. There’s no way a CEO of a big company is going to take the tiime to blog.
On first take, his comment makes some sense. It seems quite clear that he neither reads blogs normally nor pays much attention to the blog world. So his perception, as a lot of others, is that only 22 year old guys sitting with their baggy pants hanging down to their knees, are reading blogs during the few hours of the day when they’re not too bleary from whatever substance they choose. Why would a CEO take precious time out of his or her day to blog when they are talking to the videogame crowd.
So I bought the elected official a copy of Naked Conversations. My perception is this. Blogging may not reach the masses that the newspaper or TV or radio still does. But the blogosphere’s influence is far greater than its readership would indicate. The mainstream media (msm) is one reason. They pay attention to blogs. If the county executive were to start sharing his thoughts on a daily basis about the issues facing the county, I’ve got a pretty good idea that the political reporter at the local daily would likely get an RSS feed pretty darn fast.
And the others in the community who would over a period of time sign up for the feed or visit the blog site would be those people who have a high level of interest in the issues. And it is those people who are most influential over others. If I said, here was a way you could communicate directly and personally with the 200 people who will most influence how the rest of the community feels about you, wouldn’t you jump at the chance. Would that be worth taking ten minutes out of your day?
What is the job of a CEO or elected leader? Isn’t it communication primarily? My guess is that a CEO or elected leader right now spends about 80% to 90% of their day communicating. This wouldn’t take up more time. It was actually save them time because of the high efficiency of communicating directly to those people who really care what you have to say.
If you’re a CEO or elected leader, it’s time to give it some thought.