Engage in the Conversation or Fail to Communicate: a three-part thread on navigating the changing communication landscape to advance and defend a brand

The current communication shifts are permanent.  In this three-part series, I’ll cover the impact these changes are having on the medium, the message and companies.  And, as always, challenge the assumptions here, and add your own.

Over the next several weeks, I’ll discuss the influence of blogging – both the tools that let anyone contribute to the conversation as well as how bloggers are increasingly controlling the news cycle.  I’ll also cover how these mediums treat a company’s message and how the blogosphere can offer insight to how a company’s message will be perceived before it’s conveyed.  And, I’ll discuss the winning strategies of companies who understand and appreciate the new communications environment and how those that don’t resist the instinct to control the message and news are more likely to lag behind others in perception and in their ability to benefit from the new order.

The re-making of a revolution

To set the stage for this look at the changing information landscape, I offer the preamble to this communications shift.

For the purpose of this post, the changes we are experiencing today were set into motion by the environment and technologies created during the dot-com era of the late 90s.  It was during this time that the promise was born of connecting millions of people over the Internet in conversation and commerce through technology.  From this time, we get the widespread use of e-mail as a primary communications tool, we get the early social networks like Facebook, it’s where search gets its roots and, it’s when the Internet was a great experiment in commerce.

Fast forward to 2005 and 2006, and you see the stabilizing and proliferation of social networks, the rise of the social Web and the refining of business models and practices honed on the experiments of the dot-com era.  It’s also where the Web transitions from a commodity-driven medium to a conversation-driven medium.

Impact Point #1: Social Networks

Even in the past year, the social Web has experienced an explosion of new users. Thanks to open development platforms, social networks can talk to one another, making it possible for all of these people to take their friends with them to new networks and invite others to even more.

All of these “friend” networks accelerated the exchange of information and have created the connected web of interests and various levels of relationships among people that we see today.  This ease of idea exchange has also created an expectation for openness from companies and individuals that can’t be reversed.  The benefit is a more honest dialogue between companies, customers and those within an individual’s social network.

This transparency has had a profound impact on the way companies communicate.  Those that don’t embrace this new reality risk long-term brand depreciation.

Impact Point #2: The Business of Blogging

While the social Web was forming, the rise of blogging passed through the phase of experimentation and being relegated to the spare-time musings of those with the technical skills to secure a domain name to a mainstream activity accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.

Today, blogging has come of age, with full-time bloggers, many of which were pulled from traditional media jobs, either deliberately or who were forced online because of the decline of traditional media. 

The ecosystem of blogging, from the technology platforms like WordPress and Blogger that enable the activity, to micro-blogging platforms like Twitter and the formal gatherings and events that bring the industry together has become a multi-billion-dollar industry with far-reaching implications for companies that feed the real-time news cycle.  And, the influence of blogs on traditional media and a company’s message is real and documented.

Impact Point #3: Restructuring an Institution

Traditional media continues to show the signs of an industry in need of a new approach. The increase in interpersonal connectivity and the improvements in the quality of content through professional bloggers, the strains of delivering news to front steps and into living rooms each day for traditional media and shifts in the general public’s appetite for opinion over objectivity have all taken a toll on the business models of the traditional institutions. 

We’re seeing these shifts take hold in places like CNN and some of the major dailies around the country that are trying to embrace many of the techniques of new media.  But, traditional media needs to move quickly past the point of experimentation with the online medium to fully embracing it and understanding the  impact of the public’s new preference for consuming information through osmosis – being at the center of their personal information feeds and being part of the information-generation cycle.

The long-term shift

The changes happening in the news and information lifecycle continue to have real and long-term impact on a brand’s perception.  That’s obvious.  How companies will realize, embrace and navigate this change is the focus of this series.

In the next post, I’ll look more closely at the role the blogosphere plays in impacting the perception of a brand and feeding the consumption patterns for the information-consuming public.  I’ll break down the personalities in the blogosphere, understanding who matters and how to engage in a meaningful dialogue with online influencers in a way that helps ensure that a company’s perspective is represented.  And, I’ll discuss the risk too many companies take when they dismiss or ignore the medium.

Until then, it’s a new world.  Embrace it.

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One thought on “Engage in the Conversation or Fail to Communicate: a three-part thread on navigating the changing communication landscape to advance and defend a brand

  1. Looking forward to who you think are the personalities that matter. As for the business of blogging being influenced by reporters being forced online by the decline of traditional media, we can thank Craig’s List for that. The ad revenue pie has gotten much smaller for the gray paper pages since the day Craig started his thing.

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