It is virtually impossible for someone inside a large organization to speak informally and publicly for that organization if it includes comments about products or services or there are any "implied commitments." If something is to be said for the organization, the press is directed to the organization's "spokesperson" or "media rep" and they read (or quote) material that has been scrubbed by the lawyers. If it has to do with advertising, there are very serious meetings internally, some people who spoke out of turn are chastised, the "branding" people talk like their own and run the organization and everyone knows that communication with the public in public terms is very serious indeed and is only conducted by those who have the right to do that and who have been tapped as the only mouthpieces for the organization.
That's why this event is so significant:
Three years ago, it was next to inconceivable that a mere Microsoft employee -- and by "mere" I mean one not drilled in the Key Point dunning techniques of Corporate "Communications" -- would someday speak publicly and positively about a competing company or product. But that day has come, and that "mere employee," now magically transmogrified into an actual human being is Robert Scoble.
As he took a little friendly fire in my previous post, I want to reproduce here -- in full, links and all -- what he posted about an hour later...
Hi Blake Ross (and Asa and others on the Firefox team): Congrats on hitting 25,000,000 downloads of Firefox. You did what few people have done: you changed the world and got people to download and install your application.
At Demo yesterday I saw Firefox all over the place. I saw far far far more Firefox icons than I saw Linux or Macintosh icons.
In just a few months your app has become one of the most used Windows applications in the world. My hat's off to you!
And a few minutes earlier than that one, he wrote:
Hey, did anyone notice the 400 comments left over on the IE Blog yesterday?
Nah, don't start a conversation. Why would someone want to do that? Heh!
The big story here is not another browser war (not that I have anything against one; as I said yesterday, what fun!), but rather the conversation that has finally started between people inside companies and people outside those companies. The net made this inevitable, as the cluetrain manifesto predicted in 1999.
What happened? Firefox, the new browser out this year, just hit 25 million downloads. It is now a leading competitor of Microsoft's Internet Explorer. And a blogger from Microsoft, with Microsoft's ok, is allowed to have his own blog and in it he congratulates Firefox for their achievement. Can you imagine that happening at your organization? A key competitor is successful with a product? That calls for counterstrike, re-imaging, "aggressive" or "edgy" advertising that is confrontational and generates buzz.
The cluetrain manifesto predicted more civil and personal interactions as the internet grew. The authors (one of whom posted the story above) weren't sure if it would ever come about but this event made them think that it might.
The point is not the process, though. It's the product. And the product in this case is neither Firefox nor Internet Explorer. The "product" is the conversation itself. People talking to people. Just us chickens here, boss!
You may want to read the whole thing (don't be misled by the pictures -- it is an analogy).
Posted by Dan Brooks on February 23, 2005 at 08:20 PM | Permalink
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