In their book Naked Conversations, Robert Scoble and Shel Israel discussed their belief that blogs have helped transform the way businesses communicate with their clientele for the better. The practice of blogging allows businesses to become what the authors call “transparent” and gives consumers a different perspective of the company. By being more open and turning away from the traditional practice of keeping everything confidential, these companies are building their credibility among consumers.

Why the title Naked Conversations? Scoble and Israel explained:

If you came here expecting to see a couple of middle-aged white guys talking in the nude, you’ve come to the wrong book. This one’s about a revolution that is transforming the way businesses and customers communicate with each other. It’s about stripping out all the crap that gets in the way of understanding and trust between them. Mostly it’s about blogging, the most powerful tool so far in this revolution.

This is a great synopsis of the book. The authors discussed how blogging can help big corporations, small businesses, consultants and publicists connect with their clientele. Blogging gives big corporations the ability to have what the authors call “direct access” to their audience. They describe it as a great way to ensure that a company’s message is distributed properly. The authors give the example of how many executives may find themselves granting interviews to the press only to find that their words have been twisted in some fashion and the true intent of their message has been lost. If the executive has a blog, they can use it to convey their message in the way it was intended.

Scoble and Israel argued that those corporations that blog are viewed more favorably by the public. They argued that before Microsoft became open to blogging, they were viewed by the public as the “Evil Empire” but now the company has “experienced a vast softening of its image.” Overall, the company has received more favorable media coverage and a boost in employee morale which has “helped the company’s ability to attract new talent.”

Blogging, Scoble and Israel argued, can help small businesses by extending their reach to an audience they may not otherwise know they exist. The give the example of a tailor in London, Thomas Mahon, who enjoyed in increase in his clientele because he used blogging to connect with his customers. The authors explain that his business has been built on word of mouth. He went from selling a couple of suits each time he visited Manhattan to selling over 20 suits. Blogging gave Mahon a global reach that he would not have been able to obtain without spending big bucks to market his company.

This book is valuable tool for individuals who are interested in knowing how blogging is effecting communication among businesses and the public. The authors give such a powerful argument for why blogging is beneficial to not only corporations, but consultants and PR professionals that is it hard to think of reasons why it wouldn’t be beneficial. They write this book in the same manner they recommend individuals blog, open and balanced. Although they may not agree with someone’s point of view, they state that persons point of view and politely state why they disagree. I believe this is important because, as the authors mention in the book, it helps build credibility. If an individuals feels someone is open to their point of view, then they may be more willing to listen to that person’s perspective. This makes the dialogue interesting and productive.

I found the chapter on “Survival of the Publicists” particularly interesting. The authors made strong points regarding how the traditional command-and-control school of communication in the PR practice is facing “a change-or-perish challenge.” Scoble and Israel argued:

The command-and-control school of communications has been successful doing what it does for more than 50 years. Its practitioners still get press coverage. They are happily hacking their way through their jungles. They see customers don’t believe what they are being told and editors don’t write what’s in the release. The esteem of corporate spokespeople is at a low point.

This passage appealed to me because it reminded me of my first PR course. The professor called a couple of students to re-enact a situation involving a reporter and a spokesperson. I remember the professor raving about what a great job the spokesperson did as I sat there thinking, “is he crazy? I didn’t believe a word she just said!” This proves that sometimes the only people that believe what those in the PR profession are doing is so great are those who are in the professional themselves. Well, that only works if they are trying to convince each other.

The authors’ view of the importance of blogging for businesses is consistent with the argument Dan Gillmor presented in We the Media. The authors (of both books) have argued that participating in this practice is essential to building credibility among consumers. While Dan Gillmor focused more on blogging’s effect on journalism, some of the same principles apply to the way businesses interact with their consumers. The main principle is to pay attention to the public and be as open as possible. With the invention of the blogosphere, it’s impossible to ignore a situation so corporations and journalist shouldn’t even try.

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