Remarkable essay titled The Me2 Revolution by Richard Edelman, a man who has forgotten more about corporate communications than I will know in a lifetime.
The traditional approach to corporate communications envisages a controlled process of scripted messages delivered by the chief executive, first to investors, then to other opinion-formers, and only later to the mass audiences of employees and consumers. In the past five years, this pyramid-of influence model has been gradually supplanted by a peer-to-peer, horizontal discussion among multiple stakeholders. The employee is the new credible source for information about a company, giving insight from the front lines. The consumer has become a co-creator, demanding transparency on decisions from sourcing to new-product positioning.
What I find interesting about this is that Edelman is making two profound points that have a point of convergence. First and foremost, institutions are not trusted, indeed in 6 of the 11 countries surveyed in the Edelman Trust Barometer a regular person is picked as the most credible spokesperson for your company. I suppose this is bad news for hte "celebrity CEO". Okay, so this is an obvious point to any blogger, no brainer.
The second observation that makes the first all the more important is the fact that there is an entire generation of young men and women who are most comfortable creating and sharing content without inhibition. The consequences of masses of people creating content who are also most likely to be trusted by their peers even though there is little reference base to base that trust on will result in a staggering strategic and tactical shift for traditional corporate marketing types.
Edelman closes with a number of recomendations, one of which is particularly noteworthy.
Be willing to yield control of the message in favor of a rich dialogue, in which you learn by listening.
Companies are not very good at listening, they are more attuned to reacting. Given enough time this will change, but it will take time and in many cases a change of leadership.