October 05, 2006

Book Review: Naked Conversations

Naked Conversations aims to demonstrate how businesses can change their communication model with customers by way of blogging. The book, a must-read for anybody interested in corporate communications or public relations, deftly illustrates best and worst practices in blogging - showing that if businesses can, with clarity, speak directly to their customers and partners without being blurred by "handlers" and marketing, they will be best suited for the often-skeptical audiences of today.

The book's authors, Robert Scoble & Shel Israel, set out in writing the book from the perspective that blogging is a must-have weapon in today's integrated marketing arsenal, and found only a small handful of cases where they discovered corporations were better off by being tight-lipped. The vast majority of case studies displayed that consistent, thoughtful, topical blogging can enable trust and rapid response to both positive and negative news. The book also showed that you don't need a C-title (CEO, CTO, etc.) to blog for the company. All you need is desire, the willingness to publish often, and to be interesting.

Some companies, including Microsoft and Sun (especially so) have embraced blogging. They recognize that employees are often as passionate about their products as one would wish, but that they are first truthful - that they can speak to issues and efforts to resolve bugs. Disagreement and debate is encouraged, though some, unaccustomed to "naked conversations" have put up roadblocks to open discourse. Other companies, like Apple and Google, most prominently, actively dissuade employees from blogging or in any way representing the company, as the corporate communications are channeled through a select few.

If corporate blogs are to survive and thrive, they need to exist outside of the corporate spin zone. Though they can greatly augment the company's public relations and marketing efforts, the discussion should flow freely and honestly, and not sound canned, for if it does sound contrived, the blogger and company will immediately lose credibility with a fickle blogosphere, who has established higher expectations.

Naked Conversations clearly makes a case that today's businesses need to rapidly adapt to a world where blogs have tremendous influence. Positive or negative mentions in the blogosphere can have reach far beyond traditional print media, and to be silent  may as well place you with the dinosaurs. A press release can only go so far. As Naked Conversations preaches, it's time for corporations to open up, or the blogosphere will speak for them.

Listening to ''I'm a Big Sister, and I'm a Girl, and I'm a Princess, and this is my Horse'', by Underworld (Play Count: 2)

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