Cluetrain Plus 10: Hollow Corp Speak

Ten years ago the Cluetrain Manifesto was published. In one way, that feels like forever and then again it seems like just yesterday. Have you read it? I think it is one of the more recent books that instantly tells me a lot about you if you have or haven't read it. To celebrate, Keith McArthur came up with the idea of the Cluetrain Plus 10 project which has 95 different bloggers each writing about one of the 95 theses that make up the book. I chose #14:

Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.

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Don't get me wrong. We've come a long way since that statement was first written. But, yet we have so far still to go.

I've talked to everyone from the single entrepreneur trying to keep her head above water to senior executives at some of the largest companies in the world. All of them want to be active online, talk to their consumers and engage in social media. But, over and over again they decide that they can't break away from the way they have always acted where they talk AT the consumers rather then talking WITH them.

It is really time for all of you out there to change. Anyone who might be reading this. Anyone who works in marketing, public relations or corporate communications. It is time for you to just stop for five minutes and think about how you talk to your friends, family and buddies at the bar. Think about how you talk with your children. How you write an e-mail when you send it to a friend or how loose the conversation is over instant messenger to your friend a few offices down. Think about the discussion you had with the parents sitting next to you at the little league game or at the last church supper.

Now that you have that in your head, think about this. Why does the way you and your brand act and talk online not feel the same as the rest of those examples?

Did you stop and think about it? Can't come up with a real good answer can you? So what is stopping you from becoming more conversational online and talking to your consumers like you talk to the rest of the humans in the world?

We live in a society where everyone is talking to everyone. We don't write long letters in cursive anymore. We're lucky if we find time beyond a status update or a tweet to really show our emotions. It's choppy. The grammar sucks. There is new lingo to learn. But, you know what? It is what it is and you need to get smart to it or fall by the wayside.

Brands can reach out and talk to their consumers easier then ever. People are online and discussing every aspect of their lives. Every day this becomes easier and it is not going away. But, if you and your brand act like the boring guy at the party who stands off in the corner and when someone says hi you talk down to them then no one is going to want to talk to you.

Get a life. Show the human side of your company. Don't be that old dead log in the woods. You won't grow into a majestic redwood immediately over night and that is ok. Always remember that the mightiest of oaks once started off as a mere acorn.

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