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cluetrain2

This post is my contribution to the ClutrainPlus10 project, in which 95 bloggers are commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the Cluetrain Manifesto by reflecting on the 95 theses of this seminal social media marketing work.

Thesis #3: Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

A lot has changed in my life over the past two years.

In April of 2007, I was still working as a business reporter at the Globe and Mail where my job was to try to turn corporate gobbledygook into Stylebook-approved English.  Learning corporate speak is critical to success in business reporting. There’s a certain pride in knowing you can follow the conversation when analysts ask coded questions in a conference call and a certain arrogance in knowing you’re better than all that. Reporters tend to look down on the way that corporate types speak with all their “leverage this to operationalize that” mumbo jumbo.

A couple months later, I left the Globe and went darkside, joining a PR agency in downtown Toronto. My job was to build and launch com.motion, the social media marketing division of Veritas Communications. I built a “Social Media 101″ presentation to teach our clients what all this was about. On more than one occasion, the clients seemed lost until I got to the slide about the Cluetrain Manifesto. I learned that these simple theses were still relevant and powerful 10 years later.

Then a few months ago, I switched jobs again, joining Rogers Communications where I’m building a team to speak to customers and critics. In English. In conversations that sound human. It’s a work in progress. Shortly after joining Rogers, I jumped on Twitter to respond to our customers. One of my followers shot back:

you gotta loosen up a bit there, Keith — that was kind of a de facto PR blurb

That came from my friend and former Globe colleague Mathew Ingram (see earlier paragraph about cynical reporters). Speaking in a human voice should be easy but language is complex. We speak in different ways to our friends, our parents, our kids, our co-workers, our customers. Words mean different things in different contexts and conversations.

But social media can be an antidote. For the first time, corporate spokespeople now have the freedom to be human. This freedom allows us to connect with our customers like never before. And that would be a terrible thing to waste.