Syndicate Speakers Handle Dialog Truth
Syndicāte Conference chairperson and Linux Journal senior editor Doc Searls opened Syndicāte with a brief history of blogging’s Genesis before bringing HP Enterprise Brand Communications director Scott Anderson on stage for the keynote address, where he stressed the importance of dialog.
Nathan R. Jessep:, You want answers?!
Lt. Daniel Kaffee:, I want the truth!
Jessep:, You can't handle the truth!
-- Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise dialog in A Few Good Men.
In Searls’ remarks, he noted how Dave Winer incorporated an “Edit this page” feature onto his site. “There began at that point a kind of split in the web. Blogging was born.”
Searls emphasized how the web is not a passive repository of documents, but a living thing thanks to syndication. Those living elements, blogs, RSS feeds, podcasts, can be created and syndicated by anyone.
And the search engines, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, will pick them up. Searls noted the difficulties a couple of professions face. “If you are a PR or marketing professional the rules are very different. We don’t even know where we are yet. Think about what we are doing here as an entirely new environment.”
Hewlett Packard’s Anderson followed Searls’ introduction, undoubtedly buoyant from the HP’s turnaround under new CEO Mark Hurd has seen HP’s market cap increase by $28 billion. Anderson spoke on the need to recognize dialogs, and called today the Dawn of the Dialog Age.
“We have an opportunity to influence where all of this goes. There is a sea change in business communication,” Anderson said. “We needed to rethink how we are communicating with our market. We still do mass marketing … but we are now shifting marketing expenditures to the Live Web.”
Anderson cited the explosion of both content and the availability of user tools to control that content as trends companies simply must watch. It can’t be as a passive observer; “We need to participate in dialog to be relevant to our customers,” he said. Those participants need to be relevant and credible in the ways they participate.
Importantly, dialog isn’t between a company and people, it’s between people and people, Anderson said as he noted some principles of dialog. “HP’s people are its brand. We believe if we are doing this correctly, we are building our brand.”
HP has accepted the blogosphere. They track what people are saying. “We actually listen to the blogosphere in order to understands what customers are thinking about HP and what problems they are having,” said Anderson.
HP employees do blog, too, of course, and Anderson cited an internal blog he uses to communicate with 50 team members located around the globe.
“Customers are very interested in HP’s insights. So we built a platform to enable key people to blog.”
Anderson then noted how blogging began raising concerns with different departments within HP. “The legal people started getting real scared. They felt we were at risk with blogging. The marketing people also were concerned that the bloggers were on message. But if we blog you must be authentic.”
Being authentic means being honest, and taking honesty in return. “We learned very quickly that we had to accept negative comments too,” said Anderson. He provided some guidelines that HP uses to enable its bloggers:
1. Speak for yourself
2. Target timely topics
3. Keep the communication lines open
4. Always show respect
5. Preserve privacy and confidentiality
The experiment, which HP launched on November 8th, has paid off for the company. Customers have read the blogs in increasing numbers and responded favorably to them. Business dialogs prompted by the blogs have been productive. And, they’ve proven themselves as another way to get the company message to the media that monitor their blogs.
“The ways of the mass marketing age are old school,” Anderson said.
David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.