The quest for fire…

In prehistoric times, before flames were coaxed out of butane lighters, fire was a rare phenomenon that occurred through accident. Fire began transforming civilization only after it was harnessed. Before becoming a useful technology, I am sure fire was regarded mainly as a threat or a subject of worship.

The modern equivalent of fire is open communication. It is rightly regarded as highly dangerous by businesses and governments alike, for it can transform carefully erected facades into rubble overnight. If customers knew… If the public knew… Yes, indeed, the consequences are unthinkable. Open communication is a definite threat. It is also the magic key to business and personal success.

Fire became useful when some early individual started thinking outside the box. Probably an early form of engineer who thought, "What can I DO with it?"  That question always opens the door to an infinity of possibilities.

Fire’s primary value is that it allows us to create new substances out of existing substances. A tremendous technological advance over pounding and gnawing at things to make them useful..

Fast forward 40 million years…

In these early days of the 21st century, there are immense organizations still pounding and gnawing on customers in order to get their attention. Vast armies of "suits" perform complex organizational maneuvers every day in the hopes that they will meet their "numbers." What are these numbers? They are the result of customers making decisions to buy products.

How are these numbers being met? If you ask traditional sales and marketing execs, these numbers are being made by a sophisticated coordination of PR, Marketing, and Sales activities, all driven by color-coded PowerPoint presentations and product release dashboards. Planning! Organization! Motivation! These are the keys to making the numbers!!!

To this blogger, these seem much like primitive rituals designed to placate a fire god rather than intelligent ways to start a fire.

You will not hear much about conversations with actual customers. As a matter of fact, customers are kept away from the people they really want to speak with. Only the properly anointed may speak with the customer and they, like the priests of earlier time, repeat the customer’s words only after translating them into a form that is completely meaningless.

Todays corporate pioneers are playing with fire again, even though it scares the bejeebers out of many middle and top managers. These pioneers are blogging and giving customers an insight to what the people inside the company think. They are even allowing customers to voice their concerns and upsets in a public forum!

When these are real blogs, the posts are not wordcrafted by Legal nor polished by PR. They contain real data and they involve customers like never before. They are real live conversations, which transform indifference and antagonism into interest.

Open communication is the technology  by which a purveyor of goods or services can unlock today’s distributed and aware marketplace. Like fire, it needs to be handled with care. Used correctly, almost anything can be accomplished, because open communication is the key to changing hearts and minds.

Final point: Open communication is not one way communication. There has to be an action and a reaction, then an exchange in the other direction.

Blogs are the current equivalent of harnessed fire. They mirror the world we live in. A corporation ignores blogs at their peril, because they have no idea how they appear to the world.

Furthermore, by refusing to blog, corporations leave themselves dumb as well as blind when it comes to assessing and controlling public opinion.

Companies and individuals will succeed to the extent that they learn to use the awsome technology of open communication to transform the world they live in. It sure beats gnawing and pounding on things to create an effect.

Blogs are the best known way for a company to establish open communication with its customers.

Adriana Cronin-Lukas of the Big Blog Company sums it up this way: That is the whole point of a blog – a medium for those who have
something to say and are willing to do so in a genuine conversation.

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