How did we get here? I mean, this stuff isn't that hard. Someone in your house in the middle of the night, you pump the shotgun once and ask them "can I help you?" Rampant shoplifting at the mall, you hire a couple extra security guards and strap 38s to their hips. The alarm goes off with someone trespassing on the estate... you release the hounds!! Pretty simple actually. But for some reason, we haven't. Why is that; and what do we do now?
THEORIES RE: RELUCTANCE
How did we get here? There are four main reasons:
1. There's an internal fear that the tech savvy twits will sabotage the system. Used to be not long ago, that the geek was some up-all-night bug-eyed meth freak we kept locked up in the computer room to keep the mainframe running for accounting. But as computers became more ubiquitous in business, technically inept douche-bag bosses more and more turned to rely on the twits. Now, as the DBs were schooled in ball massage as well as squeeze tactics, they, of course, deferred more and more to the twits expertise. Now the general consensus is that the twits have the douche bags by the proverbial short hairs. Ooo.
2. Then there's Jarvis' 6 million pitchfork and torch-bearing mobsters ready to storm castle Dell. Fear of that and what that might rain down upon them has most CEOs in low-profile mode, a few quivering under their desks.
3. Then there's today's f-ed up societal deference to celebrity. Jarvis, Scoble, Rubel... Rosie, Madonna, Paris... same difference. Excuse me but Jeff's a former TV critic for Christ's sake. And if it weren't for the total fad that is blogging, Rubel would be workin' at Sharper Image and Scoble would be the night-shift manager at a Big Boy. Sad fact is, Paris enthralls the nation for a traffic violation; and Rosie on Time's "100 most influential people" list. It's sick, it's sad, but as we moved more toward a populace society, it's also reality. (FYI: Sanjaya is ranked 3rd on Time's list.)
4. Last but not least, PR. We've been blowing up this blog balloon for a few years now. Word is Edelman has sunk close to a million bucks into window dressing for its "Me2Revolution". And now they've got the rest of the business huffing and seeing dollar signs, too. According to PRWeak's Keith O'Brien, "Once a nice add-on, digital prowess is now key to an agency's capabilities." Fleishman-Hillard CEO David Senay recently put it, "The digital world is our new oxygen." Oxygen? That's a tell. It's air for sure. Any metrics to actually prove whether there's any return on a client's investment? No. All we've done is put the fake science of counting clips on steroids. And the sad part is, as media is fragmenting and making the ad spend less impactful, business is biting on the new PR lure. Remember the PR adage: "perception is reality." All the way to the bank.
SO WHAT DO THEY WANT?
Okay, putting aside for a moment the mistake of negotiating with terrorists or malignant renegade twits (MRTs), could we come to terms? What do they want? Here, aside from free WIFI, the demands of the MRTs are pretty straight forward:
1. Cede corporate control to "customers". Well, actually, it's anyone with a PC and a Web connection. Certainly, the cede control part needs to be determined. Apparently, Jarvis wants Michael Dell to call him so Jeff can tell him how to run his business. Most others just want to show up to work late; they'd like a foosball table; and the company kitchen fridge stocked with Red Bull.
2. End copyright and trademark law. That's pretty self explanatory. To constantly worry about stealing stuff on the Internet is a burden.
3. Make it economically feasible for them to play; do their inane mashups; and see their buddies at conferences. This is pretty simple. See, all the twits just want to have the Life of Scoble. Obviously, he eats well and often; he's got that house in Half Moon Bay; and all he's got to do is attend conferences and talk about blogging. How cool is that? Nice gig if you can get it. It's "money for nothing and chicks for free."
Regrettably, as much as anyone who'd like this problem to go away, the MRTs demands cannot be satisfied. It's irreconcilable.
1. You can't give to "customers," let alone unqualified strangers, what is not yours to give. Corporate America belongs to the shareholders. Simple as that.
2. Richard Stallman World ain't gonna happen until and if it can be proven to be economically advantageous. So far, the practice has been a dismal failure. The demise of the music business and that huge sucking sound you hear with the newspaper business, are all directly attributable to rampant theft and the f-ed up notion that "free" is an economic model. If anything it's anti-economic. There's a hole in the boat and major corporate institutions are now racing to cannibalize resources to somehow cauterize the wound.
3. Some argue that we should negotiate with a million "Mollies". According to Benjamin Duranske, author of "Rampant Trademark Infringement in Second Life" (referenced above):
"Try to work with the infringers, and last, absolutely dead last, bring a lawsuit. Remember, I'm saying this as a lawyer. Intellectual property lawsuits can be incredibly expensive, and the PR can be brutal. Worse, a company that passes up the opportunity to work with the in-world content creators is doing itself a huge disservice. 'Molly' already knows how to make a perfect replica of a Nike shoe in Second Life. Nike doesn't. She also understands the distribution channels, advertising situation, and competitive landscape in the virtual world far better than Nike does."
No. Let alone that negotiating with a thousand Mollies, who are either knowing or ignorant thieves, is physically impossible, how can I monitor them honoring any agreements. Good faith? Excuse me but we are in this situation because they've already demonstrated bad faith. Also, there's something inherently wrong with making trespass and appeasement a standard business practice.
4. Read these guys. They don't want to improve the system; they want to dismantle the system. You've got everything from PR's esteemed Shel Holtz saying things like "screw the owners" and "decisions made with shareholders top-of-mind are often very, very bad decisions," to complete Red-Bull-and-glue certifiable whackadoos like Steven Streight who in his words suggests "we become one with the machine realm because the more we interact the kinder it will be to us as it eliminates us." Yikes! Imagine if Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now had a bastard son living in some attic in Peoria. These guys aren't off the reservation; junior there is on another planet altogether!
Well, let's put it this way, it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better. As we are learning in Iraq and elsewhere, fighting a distributed network is like fighting cancer. Like Iraq, you can either cauterize the wound and cut your losses; or muster the political will to be tolerant of collateral damage and radiate the fuck out of 'em. Right now like Iraq, we are betwixt and between. But certainly the reality and the necessity for certain action is unavoidable.
Bottom line: You're going to see Corporate America mount a Web counteroffensive. Why? Because it doesn't have a choice.
Today, PR mega-firm Fleishman-Hillard is hosting a panel at Georgetown University on "the rise of corporate social responsibility." The panelists include: Fleishman co-chair and former Missouri Senator Jim Talent; Patrick Cleary, vice president of National Association of Manufacturers; William Powers, columnist with the National Journal; and blogger extraordinaire, Arianna Huffington.
Okay, typical PR media show. Here's where it gets dicey: The event is co-sponsored by National Consumers League. Linda Golodner, president of the organization, is also on the panel.
The National Consumers League calls itself “the nation’s oldest consumer organization.” But in fact, it is heavily funded by large corporations seeking to thwart major consumer reforms in Washington.
According to the group’s most recent IRS 990 filing, it has taken a total of $3.1 million from ten major corporations and corporate public relations firms over the past four years. Its funders include Pfizer, Bank of America, Pharmacia & Upjohn, Kaiser Permanente, Wyeth-Ayerst, Verizon, Cypress, Chandler Chicco Agency, Nichols Denzenhall, and Express Scripts.
Corrupted? The organization's policy regarding health summarily rejects any proposal for a Canadian style single payer health insurance system in the United States. Why? Because it would send its health care industry funders to the exits.
What’s Fleishman interest? Well, it looks like they want to drum up some business. Fleishman is expected to release a survey that finds that more than three-quarters of Americans give U.S. corporations low marks for social responsibility. The survey also finds that a majority of Americans believe that certain sectors – energy, food, chemical and pharmaceutical – need more government oversight.
“The generally lukewarm perception of U.S. corporations on social responsibility, along with the prevailing belief that Congress may need to get involved, could lead to increased oversight of the private sector on Capitol Hill,” Talent said.
"Government Oversight"! That could scare anyone into hiring a PR firm to help impliment a CSR program. Ya think?
On Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 7:41 AM, Ronn Torossian, President and CEO of 5WPR, emphatically promised that he was going to sue us. No real reason, he was just irritated by our teasing him about getting in bed with pornographer Joe Francis. Anyway, Ronn gave his obscenity-laced word that we'd see the complaint in 72 hours. It's now late by
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