Catching up — Again!

Yet again, I find my self having to “catch up” my posting here.

This past week has been full of many things. My work schedule has shifted so that I work from 12:00 PM until 8:30 PM and that change has disrupted my routine. My mornings are filled with my daily rounds on the Internet, reading blogs, news sites, sports updates, and more recently listening to Podcasts. Then I rush to get myself ready to go to work. I usually get home about 9:00 PM, and this past week was filled with watching the Major League Baseball Division Series. Then it’s to bed about midnight and up the next day to repeat the cycle. All of that seemed to leave little time for posting here, despite the fact that much of what I’ve read or seen on the Internet could have been blogged.

I’ve also been carrying on a conversation with my friend, David Steele, about the wisdom and value of doing a corporate blog. Robert Scoble, who works for Microsoft and is a well-known blogger, posted these comments that address why doing a corporate blog is an important way to interact with your customers/constituents. Then Mark Cuban, the somewhat-famous owner of the Dallas Mavericks, posted these ideas on his corporate blog, in which he talks about the importance of presence on the Internet in getting his attention. I passed along both of these links to David.

In one of our email exchanges David said: “So it’s a company diary of sorts? But, open to the public?”

And I responded:

“Yes to both questions.

The more important one, however, is that it IS open to the public. This is in keeping with the belief that a company REALLY wants to have a conversation with its constituency rather than just to talk AT them. In other words, the risk of being real and actually listening to the public is at once its greatest positive asset and also its greatest risk. However, in this age when customers talk to each other in ever greater numbers and more immediately than ever before because of the Internet, where email can be sent to hundreds of friends and web sites spring up like mushrooms overnight, a dissatisfied customer can and WILL use the technology to blister companies who want to hide behind walls of public relations blurbs and ‘official’ corporate statements. That is the whole point of The Cluetrain Manifesto, that ‘markets are conversations’ because everyone in the world is connected with everyone else, and positive word-of-mouth advertising about a company’s openness is more valuable than the security of carefully parsed ‘official’ propaganda.

I suppose a lot depends upon how strongly you believe, as I do, that customers interact with each other about how you treat them. There’s a web site called DSL Reports, where customers of all the ISPs like Comcast and BellSouth regularly describe the nature of their experience with their provider. Neither Comcast nor BellSouth can prevent that from occurring; they can only choose to provide a means by which the customer can speak directly to them so that they can benefit from the feedback and react to it in a way that might win them some credibility and good will for trying.

As you might imagine, I could go on and on, but I won’t. However, you have hit upon the primary value of a corporate blog — making itself available to its customers in an open and straightforward way, so that the words that pour forth from it have some authenticity because they are spoken by an individual in a “real” voice.

I hope that helps to stimulate your thinking. At the very least, it should provide you some material for your next presentation to some group somewhere about how the Utility industry interacts with its public in the 21st century.”

One very valuable resource that I’ve discovered in the last couple of months is a site called IT Conversations, where Doug Kaye hosts a number of audio presentations of discussions and interviews with leaders in the IT industry. One of the weekly presentations at that site is The Gilmor Gang, hosted by Steve Gilmor. The Gilmor Gang presentation on October 22nd was particularly interesting to me because the participants were Dave Winer, Adam Curry, and three members of The Firesign Theater, and the discussion was about Podcasting, its short history, the ideas behind it, and its future possibilities. Of course, I’ve blogged about Podcasting before here and here. If you haven’t yet tapped into sites like IT Conversations or these podcasts, I think you are missing one of the easiest ways to consume information from the Internet, and I’d encourage you to give it a try.

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