Posted by: mandi bateson | March 25, 2009

Behind the emerald curtain

I’ve watched with interest three seemingly unrelated developments over the past week – Telstra’s response to Fake Stephen Conroy’s outing; the justification of cutting 1,850 Australian Pacifc Brands jobs; and Barack Obama taking ownership of the AIG bonus fiasco.

All three involved key stakeholders stepping up and espousing the new holy trinity in social media – transparency, consistency and honesty. That’s despite the fact that two of these incidents were only presented through traditional media although there was a distinct effort to replicate the personal nature of the SM brand. One obvious problem is we don’t seem to agree on what actually constitutes transparency, consistency and honesty. Of course that’s not the only problem.

The great and powerful Oz

Telstra took great consideration in response to the outing of popular Twitter character @stephenconroy – how did it go?  

What I didn’t like was that as I read the blog posts and tweets I could distinctly hear the Telstra cry of “we’re number one! we’re number one!” as the supporting soundtrack. Australians are well known as supporters of the underdog, often infected with a severe case of tall poppy syndrome. So when will the corporate Wizards of Oz realise that underplaying their dominant status might resonate better with their target market? Social media is allowing us to see the emerald curtain pulled back on Telstra yet they seem to be stuck in that timeframe of trying to control the illusion – pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Well the great and powerful Oz finally stopped pressing his buttons and levers to step out to meet Dorothy and her crew face to face. Morale of the story is they forgave his deception and got everything they wanted, even though it was slightly different to what they thought they were looking for – hint hint!  

 The blame game

While Sue Morphet of Pacific Brands declared  “I am the face of the decision. I am the decision”, it was drowned out by the resonating sounds of “you’re to blame”. The comment itself is valid – tangent. Deciding to justify cutting 1,850 jobs by blaming Australian clothing buyers? Not going to fly.

As a CEO when you’re asking “what’s got two thumbs and makes the tough decisions” it should be impossible to point the fingers at others. Yes – take the opportunity to clarify that cutting 1,850 jobs will save several thousand. Yes – humanise yourself by talking about the sleepless nights and anxiety. No – don’t blame the public by throwing logic at them. There’s a time and a place for your honesty.

Politician, repetition

Barack Obama has been treating the world stage like his own private confessional since taking on the top job. The buck stops here. I was wrong. Blame me. Ever since his election I have been waiting for the day when the penny drops and people start to realise that he is still in fact a politician. Hat tip to Robin Williams –  “”Politics: “Poli” a Latin word meaning “many”; and “tics” meaning “bloodsucking creatures”.”

We were sick of the cowboy attitude of George W. Bush and initially welcome the more humble and sincere (?) approach of Obama. My question is how long can this last? Can you imagine the tag cloud of a politician who always admits when he is wrong? Can transparency, consistency and honesty work for a politician?

So as we embrace the benefits of social media and technology, what other grey areas will we find ourselves debating? How can we help each other define what transparency, consistency and honesty means to our relationships with customers, corporates and even politicians? How can we ensure any public attempts to find the best way to engage in social media don’t discourage businesses from implementing Enterprise 2.0 themselves?


*what’s with the tangent? find out more


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