Friday, November 04, 2005

Is it really a virtual revolution?

98% of Brits have never heard of blogs - yet a new one is launched somewhere in the world and something like 20 million blogs are now in existence just in the English language. Is it a fad among the technoliterate or is it really part of a social communication revolution?

Last night at the BBC, CiB and the IABC linked up to jointly host an event called @Joining the Virtual Revolution. Nevon's own Neville Hobson, Neil Mcintosh from Guardian Unlimited and the BBC's Head of Knowledge Management, Euan Semple all gave their own take on blogs, wikis and podcasts and the impact they're having on both on corporates and on citizens (or subjects as passport-carrying Brits are known).

Neville took the strategic route, showcasing some examples of corporates using blogs well - and those such as Dell and Land Rover who appear to have a blind spot to the social communication revolution. He also stressed the impact podcasts can have - bringing voice to the masses when face to face isn't possible. Neil looked more at how the mass media - and particularly The guardian is responding to the democratisation of communication - it's certainly worth checking out their travel site.

Euan looked at how the use of bulletin boards, blogs and wikis behind the firewalls of the BBC were breaking down the barriers between the various management and production silos at play within the broadcaster.

While the guys said little that I wasn't already aware of - this being a general overview to an audience of business communicators, there were some real pearls. There was a little debate around blogs purporting to be written by CEOs and actually coming straight from the typing fingertips of their corporate communicators - this 'shamblogging' (have I coined a term here?) rapidly becomes obvious and does more communication harm than good.

What also really interested me as an organisational communicator was the consensus that these new tools are merely that - new ways of supplementing and augmenting existing channels - not a replacement for face-to-face or whatever horse fits the particular course an organisation is taking.

However Euan made the most telling point for me. He stated that certain senior management blogs had considerably more credibility than the e-mails eminating from the BBC's top management team which were often unread and perceived as bland spins. Blogs, on the other hand were considered personal, intimate and credible. I think there's a real clue here for communicators.

Back home later in the evening, I listened to Davis Davis, potential Tory leader proclaim that the age of spin is coming to an end. Will these new tools of social communication hasten that end?

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