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Telstra Teaches Australia How to Join the Conversation

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I conducted a teleseminar on business blogging for the Public Relations Institute of Australia a few days ago.

Any number of people I know from Australia warned me that business is far behind the blogging/social media curve down under. Afterwards, though, I got an email from Rod Bruem, who runs a blogging website for Telstra, which provides telecommunications services. The site, “Now We Are Talking,” features about 15 company bloggers, ranging from Telstra’s chief technology officer, Dr. Hugh Bradlow, addressing technology issues, to a working mother striving to achieve an appropriate work-life balance. According to Bruem, “Our most popular blog is a cartoon blog done by one of the company accountants!” Commenting is open on the blogs.

Bruem noted in his email that Telstra has realized many of the benefits of blogging that I outlined in my talk, with notable success in challenging traditional media reporting of Australia’s biggest company. The company attracts three times the media coverage of airlinie Qantas, Australia’s second-largest company, and much of that reporting has been slanted or inaccurate in the past. Since Telstra began using the blogs to point out such lapses in media coverage, journalists who cover Telstra have been more careful, Bruem says.

There’s more to “Now We Are Talking” than blogs, though. The site is a model of transparency and conversation. Its other elements include:

  • Opinion-Members of the site team sound off on “hot topics in media, telecommunications and issues relating to Telstra. We go behind the headlines, review industry developments and expose the fiction behind what often passes as fact. ” Each opinion includes a link to message boards where the public can offer their own views.
  • Discussion forums-Three forums are currently active: broadband (“Should the Australian Government be doing more to remove regulations that are preventing investment in broadband?”), one on the company (“Is the new Telstra on track in delivering better services for customers and improved returns for its shareholders?”), and a forum on regulatory issues (“Are telecommunications regulations benefiting consumers or working against them? See what we and others think. Enter the debate”).
  • Information-Facts and figure (“An open and productive discussion about telecommunications in Australia need to be informed by facts and data and some different points of view”)
  • Shareholders-An intriguing hodgebodge of investor news, Q&A (investors submit questions) and “soapbox,” which gives shareholders “the chance to step up to the soapbox, share your investment tips, and even pass on some good advice to the CEO.”

“Now We Are Talking” is linked from Telstra’s home page, and most of the site is RSS-enabled.

If other Australian businesses aren’t paying attention to Telstra’s bold efforts to join-and lead-the conversation, they have nobody to blame but themselves for being behind the curve.

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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.

Telstra Teaches Australia How to Join the Conversation
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