Tech & society

Notes from the Corporate Panel

The four corporate reps provided very diverse examples of how major organizations are integrating new media into their corporate communication strategies.

Nancy Blanton, Port of Seattle, explained some of the process behind the Port’s new website design (yeah! personas!). The focus shifted from the organization to its audiences. One result is a real-time flight info page. [I checked my 1.36 pm flight — at 9.23. Basic info (gate, departure time, flight number). Nothing yet (too early!) on status.]

The Port is also planning to use RSS syndication to allow interested people (journalists, agency people, citizens, etc) stay up to date on the light rail project, which will connect SeaTac with Seattle.

Nancy also talked about two technologies that most communicators probably aren’t talking about: RFID technology and VoIP. RFID is a technology may be used to enhance/support security; last week they demo’ed the technology for Sen. Murray (D-WA) and Sen. Collins (R-ME), who have introduced the Greenlane Maritime Cargo Security Act (S 2008).


She pointed out that VoIP will change communication in many ways, not the least being that voice mail becomes a storable (and thus retrievable) document with VoIP. The implications, because of government FOI requirements, are staggering.

Connexion by Boeing Communications Manager Terrance Scott stressed the importance of integrating bloggers into communications. His rationale:

  • They are bleeding edge
  • Many key target media are bloggers
  • Business travelers are very connected
  • Blogger endorsement builds credibility and buzz

His goal is to build “a blogger echo chamber.” To do this, Boeing Connexion has taken these steps:

  •   Establish dialog w/top-tier bloggers
  •   Create exclusive opportunities for bloggers to demo the service
  •   Encourage bloggers to post stories and “live reviews” in-flight
  •   Drive ad placements/sponsorships (blog business summit)
  •   Produce syndicated feeds (RSS)

Terrance detailed Blogging the Stratosphere 1.0 (summer 2005). A key challenge, he said, was to keep the event from being perceived as a “media junket.” Those invited included bloggers and mainstream reporters; Boeing showcased future consumer technologies, such as wifi.

He described the cultural differences between “bloggers” and “journalists” via anecdote. For example, bloggers (Chris Pirillo, in particular) were immediately Skyping folks “on the ground” and live-blogging the event (complete with webcam!). The journalists were less visibly enthusiastic about the technology and, per newspaper protocol, would later file stories about the event.

SAP Labs
Geoff Kerr, vice president communications at SAP, credits Giovanni with turning him into a wiki evangelist. This global company had traditionally pulled together the top 50 executives from around the world for a week in Silicon Velly. They met with customers, sat in meetings (where they watched a lot of Powerpoints). It was expensive, both in terms of dollars and time.

Today he has a globally distributed asynchronous communication system on the SAP intrant — driven by wiki technology. Today’s focus is internal, but Geoff forsees a move to an external environment.

The final corporate speaker was Larry Cohen, general manager of public relations. He reported that Microsoft’s endorsement of employee blogs has resulted in the company increasing the number of spokespeople from 25 to 2,800.

Larry advocates blogging because the technology facilitates unfiltered conversation; it’s always on; and in the long-term, it can forge a powerful brand connection because of human relationships.

He said Microsoft did not have a PR plan to develop a blogger, noting that Robert Scoble was hired as a technology evangelist. He cautioned attendees not to “write a blog for your CEO,” contending that it is one of the “biggest mistakes you can make.”

Microsoft has three levels of blogging:

  1. Channel 9. These blogs are directed at the development community. They have 2 million unique visits per month. Bill Gates has appeared on Channel 9 twice; both times, he was not pre-briefed: he sat down with Scoble and simply talked on camera.
  2. Team Blogs. For example, the MSIE team writes a blog that targets developers who are building applications to integrate with Internet Explorer.
  3. Thought Leadership. The key blogger in this category is Scoble, but Ray Ozzie (checkspelling) is doing the same for Live Services.

Blogs authored by real employees provide a new view of the organization and can create a new influential network.

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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