Shovelware Revisited

When the www first came along, the  new medium was celebrated as a second coming for corporate communication.  Customers and shareholders would have unparalleled access to corporate information and corporations would be able to reach over the heads of traditional media into the hearts and minds of their stakeholders.

Intoxicated by this opportunity, communicators digitized annual reports, shareholder presentations, product descriptions, corporate photo shoots and dumped them unedited and in their native formats onto the corporate website.  This tsunami of undigested, unpurposed verbiage came all too quickly to be mocked as shovelware.  It took a few years, but eventually web-appropriate formats, sophisticated (i.e. simple) navigation took hold and intuitive pathways to corporate information was combined with easy to use contact channels.

Alas, we are in shovelware land once again, but this time it’s the shovelware 3.0 of social media.  Inspired by the evangelists of corporate social media to create a new type of conversation, a two way dialogue (what is a one way dialogue?), communicators have boldly passed the next milestone — multi-channel shovelware.

No need to create content appropriate for the different potential in FB, Twitter, blogs or Youtube.  Just TinyURL your earnings release to Twitter and post your CEO’s op-ed piece in The New York Times to the Facebook page.  Put photos of the company picnic on Flickr and the ribbon-cutting for the new research facility on YouTube. 

A new conversation?  Yes, of the “so, enough about you” kind.  It will take time, but I’m confident we’ll make the same leap into real discussions with stakeholders.  Chairman Mao didn’t say: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single question to which we don’t already know the answer.”


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