Mathew Lowry

Quite a few people look at me in quite a puzzled way when I mention how the techniques and approaches of online community management ‘may have something to offer’ the EU in terms of communications, but that this may require ‘a change in mentality’.

When they look like that, I say “You know, something along the lines of the Cluetrain Manifesto”.

And if you’re still looking at me in a puzzled way, then I copied and pasted the following paragraphs just for you. Just make the following changes:

  • substitute ‘EU’ for ‘corporations’ and ‘companies’,
  • substitute ‘people’ for ‘markets’.

OK, ready? Here we go:

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter-and getting smarter faster than most companies.

These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can’t be faked.

Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.

But learning to speak in a human voice is not some trick, nor will corporations convince us they are human with lip service about “listening to customers.” They will only sound human when they empower real human beings to speak on their behalf.

While many such people already work for companies today, most companies ignore their ability to deliver genuine knowledge, opting instead to crank out sterile happytalk that insults the intelligence of markets literally too smart to buy it.

However, employees are getting hyperlinked even as markets are. Companies need to listen carefully to both. Mostly, they need to get out of the way so intranetworked employees can converse directly with internetworked markets.

Corporate firewalls have kept smart employees in and smart markets out. It’s going to cause real pain to tear those walls down. But the result will be a new kind of conversation. And it will be the most exciting conversation business has ever engaged in.”

Cluetrain manifesto, April 1999

Yep, that’s right. Cluetrain is 10 years old. There’s even a ‘ten years anniversary edition’ available for pre-order.

So, a decade on, isn’t it about time the EU starting at least thinking about this? After all, the image, left, which I found on the original site, doesn’t just apply to companies. And I’m not talking about a few Commissioner blogs (cf paragraph 4 of the quote, above), but real engagement by real people.

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