Meeting yet another legend, Doc Searls

April 10, 2005

This past Wednesday, I met Doc Searls at a small seminar hosted by BitePR that we were both speaking at – needless to say, his chat blew mine away.

Doc imparted quite a few nuggets during his talk, here are the ones that caught my attention:

  • Companies have identities – they have souls. The founders and leaders instill values that become the core of the company. Doc asserts that this is why acquisitions oftentimes fail. “The head is chopped off, the body can’t survive.” He also points to Carly Fiorina’s recent outing as HP’s CEO. In that case, she didn’t embody the core values that Helwitt and Packard instilled decades ago. Take a look at Apple, Steve Jobs had to come back to “reinvent” the company. In reality, he didn’t reinvent, he simply reverted the company back to the values he instilled at the begining.
  • Companies can’t speak, their people need to speak. This is so true and one of the big reasons why most companies should get their employees blogging. Look at Microsoft. As little as two years ago, people everywhere in the tech community regarded Microsoft as “the evil empire”. Enter Scoble and the other 3000 bloggers there. Since Microsoft has embraced the community, there has been a seachange in the way the company is perceived. Only Linux zealots still truly believe that Microsoft is an evil empire. Most rational people now have a window into the people at the company and realize that Microsoft is nothing more than 50,000 people under a corporate flag trying to serve customers and make money.
  • Relationship, conversation, transaction. Doc pointed out that in the US, markets are defined by transactions. When you think about “the market”, you think about Wall Street and eBay. It’s all about the transactions. Contrast that with how commerce works in the rest of the world. Markets are places where vendors and customers build relationships; and to build the relationship, they engage in conversation. Only after the relationship and conversation have been established do they think about the transaction.

How does this all tie together? Well, for one, blogging is one tool by which companies can display their identities and create relationships. At the end of the day, company XYZ can spend $50 million on an branding campaign and not have much to show for it. Meanwhile, a buzz in the blogosphere and across the Internet can be started for free and will carry orders of magnitude more weight in customers’ minds. Hey CMOs, chew on that before you splurge on your next superbowl ad! 😛

Quote of the talk: “With [blogging], I’m not pushing big rocks uphill, I’m rolling snowballs downhill.”

Well said Doc.


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