Cluetrain Manifesto a decade on: We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal

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Before I started my first job, my Dad told me that ‘common sense never went out of fashion’ and the same could be said for the Cluetrain Manifesto ten years on. I had signed up to blog about one of the theses (number 83) in the book via this site.

Ten years later and providing the media with preferential treatment in comparison to consumers seems more ridiculous. My friend Paul Armstrong’s Twitter feed @themediaisdying chronicles the slow death march of traditional news media.

According to ReadWriteWeb the US newspaper industry suffered a 16.6 per cent decline of advertising revenue during 2008. A recent panel of senior media executives at the McGraw Hill Media Summit couldn’t even agree on what the nature of the disruptive problem the news media is even facing, let alone come up with an effective solution.

If you want a clearer definition of the problem the news media is facing then American academic and writer Clay Shirky has an excellent analysis on his blog entitled Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable. paidContent recently featured former editor Bill Grueskin outlined what kinds of content that news media could make money from (and are therefore more likely to create in the future in order to pay the bills):

—Daily emails with actionable information, like the best-and-worst traffic routes during rush hour.

—Sites that offer real-time intelligence about the real-estate market.

—Survey sites that accept user submissions about the best-and-worst teachers in local markets.

—In-depth coverage of local government, including publishing bills and video.

This is all non-news content which runs an end game on traditional media relations from a PR perspective.

Contrast this with how companies have performed when they have directly engaged with audiences.

Robert Scoble was christened Chief Humanizing Officer for Microsoft by The Economist back in 2005, who described him thus:

Mr Scoble seems to be worth his salary. He has become a minor celebrity among geeks worldwide, who read his blog religiously. Impressively, he has also succeeded where small armies of more conventional public-relations types have been failing abjectly for years: he has made Microsoft, with its history of monopolistic bullying, appear marginally but noticeably less evil to the outside world, and especially to the independent software developers that are his core audience.

Former FT journalist Tom Foremski put it on a more commercial perspective:

Mr Scoble created many millions of dollars in positive publicity for Microsoft, on a salary of less than $100K. I don’t think WaggEd could have done a fraction of that, for 100 times the payment Mr Scoble received.

Through his blog Scoble spoke directly to customers, replying to their comments, empathising with their problems and becoming their advocate internally at Microsoft.

Dell has managed to move on from the ‘Dell Hell’ debacle through a more proactive stance in social media engagement and its use of a CRM Ideas platform (a prediction market infrastructure) to power Ideastorm – a way of listening to consumers and allowing them to have a direct impact on product decisions. In the first week, Dell had 500 ideas from customers, this had grown 2,500 within the first month.

JetBlue managed to change the media agenda following its Valentine’s Day 2007 crisis by having CEO David Neeleman address customers directly via a video on YouTube. Disintermediating the traditional media allowed JetBlue to move the debate on, from how bad the problem still was as the airline recovered; to what JetBlue was doing to rectify the problems. Many US news channels ran the YouTube video on their coverage.

More recently, Patrick Doyle, president of Domino’s Pizza was obviously paying attention to the JetBlue debacle and wasted no time going on camera to apologise via YouTube directly to consumers over the ‘bogie sandwich’ video created by two (now ex-)employees of the fast food chain.

So when Becky and I recently met with a client, the counsel we provided them was: in order to future-proof their marketing in a time of disruption, community needed to be their marketing, because as the title to this post says an organisation needs to take its millions of stakeholders as seriously as a prominent news journalist.

This is cross-posted at my employer’s blog Dot Comms.