Tag Archives | Wikipedia

Social Media as the Court of Public Opinion

Source: Causes.com

“Wow. Just wow.” Those were the leading words of Cecile Richards‘ letter to Planned Parenthood supporters about the impact of social media on her organization. This was the second example in just two weeks in which advocates using social media caused big organizations to reverse their positions.

Let’s run the numbers, shall we?

Susan G. Komen vs. Planned Parenthood:

The Entertainment Industry vs the Internet Industry (SOPA/PIPA debate):

Wow, indeed.

So what went wrong for these chastened organizations? Poor decision-making, sure. Total disregard for two-way communications? Uh-huh. Completely underestimating the wisdom of the crowd? Oh yeah.

For all people might scoff and criticize Mark Zuckerberg, this is exactly the type of open discourse that he imagines Facebook can help create. In his letter to investors, he says:

We believe building tools to help people share can bring a more honest and transparent dialogue around government that could lead to more direct empowerment of people, more accountability for officials and better solutions to some of the biggest problems of our time.

Amazing, actually, that these three events (Komen, SOPA, Facebook IPO) happened within days of each other. I’m not sure if there is some greater god trying to tell us something or if it’s mere coincidence. Whatever it is, there are some important communications lessons here:

  • Behind-closed-doors decisions are gone forever. Transparency is essential for success in today’s marketplace. Every decision you make will be tried in the court of public opinion – and that court is much larger, and its voices much more amplified, than ever before.
  • Your stakeholders expect dialogue – before a decision is made. Communications theorists have called this two-way communications. In the days of mass media (yes, they are long gone), it was one (organization) to many (stakeholders). Now, it’s many stakeholders talking to one organization, and you’d better…
  • Listen, and I mean really listen – and don’t deny. It’s one thing to stand your ground. It’s another to be blind to reality. Komen apparently scrubbed negative comments from their Facebook wall (only in rare cases should you ever do this, and then only when it violates someone’s privacy). Organizations must take what their stakeholders say to heart and incorporate these views into the organization’s decision-making. Today, it’s the only path to success.

What leaders today need to realize: We no longer have a top-down command structure. It’s bottom up. The court of public opinion rules.

Diane Thieke is trying to reinforce her control over her kitchen. But, the dialogue isn’t going well. The three kittens are not budging from the kitchen counter. Follow her on Twitter.

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Against SOPA and Piracy

Image representing Wikipedia as depicted in Cr...

Today, many major Internet companies, including Wikipedia and Reddit, have gone dark in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, a House bill, and its Senate sister, Protect IP Act, or PIPA. SOPA and PIPA are backed by the entertainment industry and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

It’s virtually impossible to find an unbiased, objective description of SOPA and PIPA on the Web, although this one from CBS does a fairly decent job describing each side’s positions at a high level (the Huffington Post link is actually better but far more detailed). You can read the full text of the bill yourself, but you’ll likely need a couple of lawyers to interpret what it means.

Everyone seems to have taken a side, and I agree with Green in the CBS article, it is a battle between old and new. I’ve been in digital media since the early days, and as a former media industry employee, I can understand both sides. I firmly believe that copyright owners have the right to be paid for their work, and the law needs to put in place protections for these owners.

Throughout my career, I’ve advocated for copyright protection, while also recognizing that disruptive technologies were changing human behavior – and these changes did benefit the flow of information overall. I’ve always contended that the media and entertainment industries are complicit in the liberal content sharing economy we have today.

If the media industry truly believed that content had value, we should not have given it away for free when the Internet became commercialized in the mid-90s. Doing so changed human expectations for all kinds of media, not just print.

Still, that’s only one cause. The other is that technologists, for all the talk of innovation, haven’t really been enthusiastic about creating technologies that help protect copyright. There are notable exceptions, including iTunes and Spotify, but other than paywalls, where are we?

I don’t think blocking entire web domains is the answer. We need a combination of technologies and smart laws. One of the problems of SOPA/PIPA is that it was developed without much input from the big tech players. Perhaps we’re overdue for that kind of collaboration?

In the meantime, here are some views about what SOPA/PIPA means for everyday users of the web, PR pros, and content providers.

Simply Talk Media will not be going black today, but welcomes a dialogue about this issue on our pages. Just mind your links.

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