This post is part of a 95 post series discussing the 95 theses of the Cluetrain Manifesto as they relate to business in 2009. Read more about the series in the introduction post. And check out the rest of the series!
Thesis #27: By speaking in language that is distant, uninviting, arrogant, they build walls to keep markets at bay.
The Public Relations department (or a hired firm) is often the gatekeeper for communication in a business. I’ve always found that amusing, since the methods of communication chosen by most PR practitioners are designed to protect the business and it’s interests (and there’s more on that in our next thesis).
When I was in a fraternity in college, everyone was allowed to speak on behalf of the fraternity when it was good. We saved the “single point of contact for all communication” for when shit really hit the fan. You don’t want everyone talking to the cops. But during recruitment, it was everyone’s shared responsibility to share in the communication with our new potential members.
By limiting the number of people allowed to communicate with the pulic on behalf of the company, the company is doing what we tried to do when the cops showed up at the fraternity house: keep them at bay.
But by limiting the number of people allowed to communicate with the public on behalf of the company, something else happens: that communicator’s guard goes up. If they’re the bottleneck for communication, they can only field so much at any time. Any additional communication above their comfortable threshold, their instinctive reaction is to block new requests out, and a distant uninviting, and arrogant voice, is a highly effective way to alienate your customers and keep them at bay.
Furthermore, they’re excluding the communication that goes on outside of their carefully controlled communication channels, rather than using their momentum to their own benefit!
The lesson here: don’t just allow, empower your company’s employees as well as your customers to communicate, instead of relying on a single point of contact. Try to remove communication bottlenecks except when absolutely necessary. I believe that the arrogance and distance in the collective communication “voice” of the company will begin to fade away.
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