The clue-train stopped and no-one bought a ticket

“The Cluetrain stopped there four times a day for 10 years and no one ever took delivery” is in the opening pages of ‘The Cluetrain Manifesto, the end of business as usual‘.  It’s as relevant now as when it first published in 1999.

I was at a large organisation recently where the head was so disconnected from the feet it had forgotten how to wriggle its toes.  The company’s reputation was taking a battering, ‘ethics’ ‘dubious publications’ had been reported and conversations about them in the social networks such as FriendFeed and Twitter are still none too complementary.

The company’s response was two fold – Internally the global edict went out.  ‘No-one, and I mean no-one, is to talk to the press in any way, shape or pixel (and please make sure you adhere to the Code of Conduct) and Externally, well, there was no interaction, no conversation with some of the social network groups [read paying customers] — which would have had much more effect than issuing press releases.

The Cluetrain was stopping, but no-one bought a ticket

Reading Cluetrain recently these quotes stood out for me:

Companies feel a tremendous urge to control communications… they create org charts to define who gets to do the talking.  They issue policy statements: only PR can talk to the press… We can’t afford to muddy our message or dislocate our positioning.  God knows what some disgruntled worker might tell valuable customers!  So let’s set up a command hierarchy and station in a hardened communications bunker. You might as well try to sew closed a fishing net.

“let us speak, though we show all our faults and weaknesses – for it is a sign of strength to be weak, to know it, and out with it…” Herman Melville

..there is no demand for messages.  The customer doesn’t want to hear from business, thank you very much.  The message that gets broadcast to me…. has nothing to do with me in particular.  It’s worse than noise.  It’s an interruption.  It’s the Anti-Conversation.

In a networked market, the best way for a company to ‘advertise’ will be to provide a public window….  Instead of putting pup slick images of what they’d like people to believe, corporations will open up so people can see what’s really going on.

Giant companies tend to look only over the tops of the trees at other giants they consider worthy competitors.  Few bother to look down at their feet.  If they did, many would see their foundations being nibbled away by competitors many times smaller, yet  committed to do battle…

Companies currently have a lot of motivation to get serious.  And to get really serious they first have to get a sense of humor and relax.  They need to relax to break the obsessive-compulsive control habit.  They need to understand that employees already know how to do the work far better than the company cold ever hope to dictate.

Web-savvy consumers are ignoring online brochures.  An organization, as presented via the Web, must have a human voice, must stand for something, mean something, want to meet people, and show they’re trying to understand those people.

Companies can now communicate with their markets directly.  If they blow it it could be their last chance…but first they must belong to a community.

We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto, and we might as well get used to it.

Read The Cluetrain Manifesto on line for free via