It used to be that company communication was all top down. Messages that are 'pushed down' from the C suite to the cubes and the employees. Missions are proclaimed. Messages are delivered. Employees and partners are fed the party line.
Today, things are changing fast -- as the tools and networks for communication are broken wide open.
Within the world of corporate communication, there are two schools of thought on this. There are those that say clamp down. No tweeting without authorization. No posts, no photos. No messaging outside of approved channels. And then there are the thinkers who are looking to turn this big noisy mess into value for their brands and corporate parents.
I think you know what side I'm on.
But you may be surprised to learn just how quickly the tide is turning.
As Ben Edwards, the VP Digital Strategy and Development for IBM, explains it: "We're 470,000 people, we made this historical shift from hardware and software to hardware software and services. We have 30,00 business consultants. We have 3,000 IBM researchers out in the field with the clients. And we think employees want to connect and share -- that's how work is done."
Historically, communications professionals 'manufactured' official IBM content by the official communicators. And pushed it out to the employees and the public.
Edwards is a communicator who looks forward, not back. He explains: "I think there are some emerging roles, potential roles for you know, coms professionals to think about. One of them I think a lot about is this notion of curation."
At IBM, the voice of the company is increasingly coming from the intranet, known internally as W3. W3 has been leading a transformation from professional to user-generated content within IBM. Mark Ragan of Ragan Communications interviewed Edwards on corporate communications and curation.
Says Edwards: "We had 260,000 registered users to that product internally in 2009 and between them they created 600,000 webpages." To put that in perspective, IBM.com has 4.2 million pages, created over 15 years, making it one of the largest corporate websites in the world. In one year alone IBM employees created 600,000 webpages.
The IBM vision is to embrace, rather than ignore the growing voice and knowledge of their community. "One of the measures that we like to talk about is called 'Professionally Produced Content versus Employee Published Content' and if I had graph to show you and put up in a wall here, what you see is the employee generated content follows an exponent like this and its probably about ten to fifteen times the volume of professionally produced content. Professionally produced content grew, has topped out, and is actually about to go into absent volume, it's about to go into decline."
"We think we have a role in bringing the external perspective into the employee base" says Edwards. That makes IBM a curator as much as a communicator.
Welcome to the new world of corporate curation.