From mass communications to masses of communicators

When it comes to social media, IBM, the self proclaimed most forward looking company in the world have led the way for many years. In 1997 they were encouraging their staff to get out there and mix it on the world wide web when many companies were doing their damnest to restrict their employees access.

Seven years later their blogging policy was being held up as an example to us all at a time when many of us thought a blog was some kind of nasty medical condition.

I’ve been reading their current Social Computing Guidelines and I see no reason not to think they continue to lead the way. The guidelines themselves are pretty standard; no doubt due to bulk plagiarism across the globe for many years. No – what made them stand out to me was the following line in the preamble:

“IBM is increasingly exploring how online discourse through social computing can empower IBMers as global professionals, innovators and citizens. These individual interactions represent a new model: not mass communications, but masses of communicators.”

It’s a phenomena that the PR and Corporate Communications industry has been debating for a while. Some see it as a threat to their profession, others as an opportunity and some as a passing irrelevance.

Personally, I think IBM are spot on and I intend to spend some time over the next few months taking a closer look at what I see as the inevitable convergence between external and internal communications as the new masses of communicators model forces the old mass communications model to either adapt or die.

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