Here’s an example of how the blogosphere enriches the public sphere. The background is that Peter Morgan, the Communications Director of Rolls-Royce (the aero-engine manufacturer, not the car maker) made some dismissive comments about social media which were reported under the headline “Social media is [sic] a complete waste of time”. “I was communications director at BT for five and a half years”, he said. “I’ve been communications director at Rolls-Royce for about six months. I don’t think there is a single example where social media has impacted directly on the reputation or share price of either of these significant organisations.”
Andrew Bruce Smith, a blogger, picked up on this and wrote a thoughtful post which politely but firmly dissected Mr Morgan’s observations.
Picking up on one of the Rolls-Royce man’s comments that what really matters is the phone call from the Daily Mail, Andrew observes:
But how can the Daily Mail call Peter Morgan? Although he is listed on the Rolls Royce corporate website as a media contact, he stands out from the rest of his colleagues as being the only one who doesn’t have his phone number listed (reminded me of the Director of Customer Relations for a FTSE 250 firm, who, as a matter of policy, refused to talk to customers).
Morgan seems to view social networks as simply feeder channels for the mainstream media. In other words, a social media topic is only validated if it is picked up by a traditional big media outlet. Dealing with the Daily Mail et al should therefore still be the top priority for a corporate comms director. Presumably Morgan isn’t one of the 54pc of senior communications directors who think that their key challenge for 2010 is executing a digital strategy.
He continues: “For decades, there have been people in pubs all around Britain saying how much they hate BT or how frustrated they are with Virgin Atlantic or whatever. The fact that they now spout their opinions on a social networking site doesn’t make them any more important or more alarming.”
If I’ve understood his comment correctly then – in Morgan’s opinion – BT and Virgin Atlantic customers (or any organisations customers for that matter) are simply annoying oiks whose opinions are worthless. They are an irritating distraction to the main goal of making sure the share price is propped up at all costs.
So, concludes Andrew, “is he [Morgan] a PR dinosaur? Or a voice of sanity? I wonder if he’ll stop by to comment on this post? Given his apparent attitude to social media, I assume he’ll never even be aware of its existence. But I’d be delighted to be proved wrong. I’d even be happy to take a phone call.”
The first thing to note about this post is that it is thoughtful, courteous and well-informed. The second thing is that the comment stream is likewise informed and well-argued. To appreciate it you need to go to the post and follow the threads.
The nicest touch of all, though, comes at the end. A guy called Peter Morgan comments:
You know what? I regret having made these comments. I think there’s enormous power in social media, and that it is creating a new media environment which we need to learn how to respond to. It must be right that social media’s more important to some companies that others……eg very important for a consumer electronics company – less to a re-insurance broker……and you should not let the social media obsess you. But I hold my hand up! I was unwise enough to agree to be on a panel opposing a couple of social media evangelists and paid the price!
Now — mainstream publications pay attention — when is the last time you saw such an interesting and useful exchange in a mass-media publication?