Speaking then blogging – what’s wrong with that?

Tesco PLC Group CEO Philip Clarke delivered an inspiring speech at the FT Innovate event in London yesterday.

His theme was around innovation in the workplace and you can read the full transcript of his speech here.

Shortly afterwards, Mr Clarke posted this blog article about his experiences at the event.

The opening to the post begins: “This morning I spoke at the FT Innovate 2012 conference…..”

Clearly, by using the past tense, Mr Clarke has indicated that the blog was written after his speech.

It is portrayed as a reflection on the morning’s events.

The problem is, the blog was posted literally minutes after Mr Clarke completed his speech at the conference. Unless I am missing something it is nigh on impossible that he would have been able to write, edit and post such a blog in that timeframe.

So now there is some ambiguity. Now we’re thinking – well, was he trying to make it look like it was written afterwards? Did he actually write it at all? What does this say about his other blog posts?

I really don’t think Mr Clarke was being intentionally misleading with his opening line. He doesn’t actually refer to anything more from the event in the blog. All he does is talk further about some of the themes of innovation.

I think what happened is the wrong choice of opening wording. Clearly the article was written before the speech, with every intention that it would be posted shortly after the speech. (I also like to think that Mr Clarke writes his own blog posts, whether or not it is later edited and posted by the comms team on his behalf).

Simply changing the wording would have given the clarity needed to the post to explain this. Something like: “This morning I will be speaking at…” or “As you read this I will have just finished speaking at…”

Now, let’s go back 12 months to another example of an article that was written before an event had taken place and that was also misleading. On an entirely different level, we will all remember what happened when journalists from the Daily Mail mistakenly published the wrong verdict from the trial of Amanada Knox.

In this case, in trying to be the first to break the news, the Daily Mail made up most of the story, including details about the supposed ‘reaction’ of Knox to the result. This was completely unacceptable because of the creation of entirely fictitious elements and because the newspaper really did portray itself as reporting on the event after it had happened.

In this case, the article does undermine the rest of the news published by the Mail Online – it’s easy to believe that the newspaper would regular pre-write news stories with fabricated content.

As different as they are, what both the examples show is the need to tread carefully when we are writing in advance for the web.

It’s fine to prepare materials in advance, as long as it’s clear that this is the case and as long as information isn’t pre-empted or presumed.

What do you think? Should we ever write blog posts in advance? Is the post from Philip Clarke discredited because of the opening line? Does it make you think differently of his blog as a whole?


Book review: Groundswell…winning in a world transformed by social technologies

Groundswell – winning in a world transformed by social technologies

‘Groundswell’ is the first book I’ve read about social media.

With the digital world moving so fast, it’s hard to imagine a book that would not be outdated by the time it hit the shelves. Besides, when it comes to social media, it’s so easy to build knowledge online. There’s so many great resources available through blogs, thought-leaders and the social media platforms themselves, that you can find everything you need at the touch of a button.

But Groundswell is different. It’s central premise is to ask the reader to stop thinking about the technology platform and to instead focus on the relationships being created through the technology. It reminds us that social media isn’t about ‘facebook’ or ‘twitter’, it’s about people connecting, people collaborating, people organising content, sharing content and generating content.

So by focusing on the relationships, the ideas in the book, and the examples and tools for building your own relationships read as fresh and current as anything that can be found online.

The authors of Groundswell, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, pose the reader four key questions:

1) PEOPLE: what are the people you want to engage with ready for? How will they engage?

2) OBJECTIVES: What are your goals? Listening (to understand), Talking (as an interaction), Energizing (driving word of mouth, i.e for sales), Supporting (helping each other) or Embracing.

3) STRATEGY: How do you want relationships with your people to change? How will you measure this.

4) Finally, the TECHNOLOGY: Only at this point do you decide on the right technology for your business.

It seems such a simple concept, but think how many times you’ve heard the ‘oh, we have to set up Facebook’, or ‘everyone’s on Facebook or twitter’.

The most valuable take-out from the book is that for someone who works across both internal and external audiences (i,e me!), this book explores application into engaging employees as well as the public. Amazingly too, this book was published the same year Yammer was launched (2008), yet the ideas about sharing knowledge, connecting and crowdsourcing ideas pre-empt what Yammer has realised for hundreds of businesses.

Li and Bernoff’s key message throughout the book is that we shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the Groundswell. Too many of us are daunted by the prospect of the social media revolution. We’re feeling further and further behind every time another ‘next-big-thing’ – Pinterest or Instagram for example – becomes something new we feel we have to learn about. Li and Bernoff are asking us to take a step back, stop focusing on the technology, and learn about what’s happening within the technology. They say the Groundswell is here to stay, so we need to ride the wave:

“Conversation will evolve continously. Even as the technologies change, the basic conversational nature of those technologies will remain central. If you learn to talk, listen and respond, you’ll master [it].”

And what’s so scary about that?

Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies
Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
Published by Harvard Business Press 

Social media: The tricky thing is the policy…

As more and more businesses reap the benefits of engaging with their customers through social media, so follows the rush to rein in how employees should behave in this arena – not only whilst at work, but in a social context too.

The Commonwealth Bank Australia (CBA) has been slammed this week for its social media policy.

The Union is unhappy that employees are requested to report any “inappropriate or disparaging remarks” on social media sites. As it points out in the article:

“A conversation about the colour of the tea cups at the workplace, who is winning the footy tipping competition, or what day of the week CBA employees are permitted to wear casual clothes are examples of conversations that would constitute a breach of the policy as it is currently worded.”

In addition, CBA employees work under award which means they’re actually legally bound to the policy, and that’s what sets it apart from some other similar policies at other organisations.

When I worked at the London Ambulance Service our social media policy existed primarily to ensure confidential patient information was not posted anywhere on the internet. It was a vital clause in the policy to avoid data breaches, families seeing in-depth details of an incident involving a loved one and (in extreme examples) any prejudice to a police investigation. The policy was instigated after an increase in staff blogs talking about their work for the Service, as well as several online discussion boards and a need to frame what was, and what wasn’t acceptable in these forums.

My two favourite (and very popular) blogs by our staff were The Paramedic’s Diary and NeeNaw (about the work of a 999 call-taker).

They’re both fascinating insights into what it’s like to work for an ambulance service and act as a research tool for wannabe paramedics/ calltakers – the recruitment of many a staff member owes credit to these blogs.

But even these blogs have not been without issue, and there were times when there was a fine line between telling an interesting and detailed recount of an incident and protecting the rights of the patient and the details about them that were being released. Thankfully, both employees worked closely with our communications department to the benefit of both parties: we got two great representatives for the organisation and lots of positive messaging; both of them got successful books deals.

Creating a social media policy is such a tricky area and balances the desire to protect the reputation of the organisation with ensuring a realistic and manageable policy is in place and of course allowing freedom of speech for employees.

And after all, whilst you might be able to get employees to commit to a policy, censoring the views of the general public about your company is a lot harder job.
For CBA, an attempt to protect their own reputation has backfired badly and ironically resulted in a lot of avoidable bad press. Staff talking about whether their teacups are blue or white are now the least of their worries.