The Business Sense of Dwight Schrute

If you’re not watching The Office, you should be.

Now, I know there’s a lot of debate as to whether the US or British version is better.  Personally, I prefer the US version because I saw that first.  Never could get into the British version…but I know a lot of people are.  That’s not my point though.

Last night (Oct 19) there was a quick comment made by the character Dwight Schrute that I think sums up the opinion of so many businesses today.  Well, the ones that will struggle at least.

He’s complaining about the “online paper company competitors” and says, “They’ll be in big trouble when this Internet fad goes away.”

It’s scary to see the number of people and companies that see the Internet as a fad.  As another way to deliver advertising (the traditional form) as a way to blast their substandard message at a lot of people, cheaply.

The companies that will succeed are the ones that understand that this Internet “thing” is the new way, quickly becoming the normal way, and often the best way.  As businesses are filled more and more with people who don’t know life without the Internet, understanding web-based communications deeply will be increasingly important. 

It can’t be ignored anymore, but I see too many companies doing their damndest to try.

Just because you’re not joining the conversation doesn’t mean it’s not happening.  You can’t be like the kid who thinks that because he can’t see you, you must not really be there.

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The Business Sense of Dwight Schrute

Edelman Found Their Keyboards!

So, I’m sure I’m not the first to let you know that Edelman has finally mentioned the whole Wal-Mart situation.

See here.

I struggle with the ultimate judgement of this situation.  Yes, they were slow to join the conversation which is difficult to stomach from an organization like this with such strong ties to the concept of transparency.

But, on the other hand, they did join.  They looked into the situation and commented when they felt they could.  This does win them some points.  And their response was not one of disdain or criticism, but of humble admittance and taking of responsibility.  That does need to be worth something.

Obviously, they should have done it earlier, but we don’t know all the internal elements that led to the long “lead time” of a response.

I think a bigger issue is that this will become more prevalent.  As corporations see the power of blogs and social media, they will realize that they can use these tools to influence public opinion…even if it isn’t completely ethical.  It will get more and more tempting for organizations to try these tactics, and it will be more and more important for bloggers to continue to call them out.

It does illustrate the power of the blogosphere, yet again.

It’s been disappointing for this to come from Edelman, but I think it’s been a great case study and learning situation for many of the rest of us to understand the importance of transparency and honesty.

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Edelman Found Their Keyboards!

The Sweet, Sick Chemical Smell of Astroturf?

Shel has a post gathering and discussing some of the discussion around the latest Edelman (to use the hot social media word) kerfuffle.

My question is, do we consider this astroturfing?

It seems to me that if it’s not “technically” (which I guess is open to debate) astroturfing, it certainly is pushing the boundary.

So, I checked Micropersuasion and found this post.

To me, this isn’t a terrible offense. It’s not something that should constitute the full wrath of the PR community. It’s a stunt, trying to generate publicity. Sure, it was in bad taste, but it’s not THAT bad. What I think IS the worst offense is the complete lack of response/engagement from Edelman. Much like Shel, I think that they could do much better in “walking the talk.”

It comes back to the whole situation with Apple and trademarking. I won’t get into the whole discussion because people have such varying opinions, but I will say that Edelman seems to be taking a page from the Apple book. Don’t engage, don’t respond, keep quiet, ignore the issue and it may go away.

The problem is, in this post-Cluetrain world, it’s pretty tough to get things to go away.

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The Sweet, Sick Chemical Smell of Astroturf?

Another Barrier to Adoption

In the past I’ve talked about the barriers to adoption of social media tools like blogging and podcasting.

Dial-up (this one’s in the forefront of my mind because I am currently stuck in this particularly frustrating ring of hell)

But I think there’s one other barrier…possibly one of the biggest.  Fear

There are too many companies still scared of blogs, podcasts, even forums.  Until businesses are able to get past this fear, it’s going to be an uphill battle.

Sure, there are many companies jumping on these tools, and kudos to them.  But there are many more companies scared to join the conversation.  They have to get past their fear of allowing people they hire to have ACCESS to these things before they can think about actually using the tools.

To me it goes back to the thought that the safe route is rarely the right one. 

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Another Barrier to Adoption

Am I a Firestarter? (Cue Prodigy)

So, Mitch Joel has a “rant” about firestarters not doing their research with regard to the whole Apple / Podcast thing.

Now, when I first read it, I was like, “Damn, Mitch is calling people like me out. And he’s a lot smarter than me. This sucks.”

But, I looked into it a bit more. Now, it may be the case that Apple is trying only to stop people from using the word pod, but I think we get into semantics at this point. For example, here.

The whole thing has been revolving around Podcast Ready, and Apple’s trying to get them to stop using the terms Podcast Ready and myPodder. Sure, they may be trying to go after the “pod” portion, but if that’s the case, then aren’t they in effect going after the term podcast by extension?

iPod? I understand that, it’s their product and they have every right to protect it.

Pod? Well, that’s just a vessel to get me delicious peas, so I have a problem with that.

And, because pod is part of podcast, they are in effect trying to trademark podcast or at least stop people from using it because removing pod would stop the use of the word podcast.

So, while Apple may not “technically” be trying to stop people from using “podcast”, their efforts to get people to stop using pod is virtually the same thing with the same outcome if they are successful. And I think there’s a bigger issue here.

People seem to go on and on about Apple being this wonderful company and being so “with it” and forging new ground. Why, when they try to stop people from using words in the English language, do they get a pass? What do you think would happen if Wal-Mart tried to get contractors to stop using the word “wall?” Or if Microsoft tried to stop people from telling each other to open the windows?

Oh, I forgot, they’re the big, bad corporation and Apple’s just the little guy, right?

Update: Now that the letter is out there, does this change things? Yes and no. I think that some of the language in the letter was overblown and taken out of context, but I still have an issue with one part.

Namely, the statement that the term “POD has been adopted and used extensively in the marketplace by consumers as an abbreviation to refer to Apple’s IPOD player.”  This still is a focus on the term POD, which I struggle with.  Besides, if the CONSUMER adopted the abbreviation, shouldn’t Apple be going after the consumer?

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Am I a Firestarter? (Cue Prodigy)