Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Resources for Your Applied Research Reports: NewPR Wiki and Creative Commons

Here's a great resource on corporate blogging and "new" forms of public relations: NewPR Wiki. There's also a really helpful timeline of bloggers in the PR industry.

We will also be discussing in class the use of a Creative Commons license for your applied research reports. You can learn about licenses specifically for text documents like the reports you will be writing. By the way, while you're there, I would encourage you to read about Kembrew McLeod who is a faculty member in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa, my Ph.D. alma mater. Kembrew arrived as a new faculty member the year I defended my dissertation. He has tremendous insight into intellectual property and copyright issues, and is a huge prankster (like the time he sold his soul on eBay!). Extremely sharp and witty, definitely learn more about him!

Class thoughts to Tompkins

In response to Tompkins email, the class came up with a few ideas collectively. We decided that we need more information, because we would have to make a decision depending on the following factors: Seriousness of the situation, whether the “background source” has tried to rock the boat previously, verification of the information, speaking truth to power, and automatic responsibility.

First off, we need to know how serious the situation was. How many lives were lost, if any? Were lives damaged emotionally or professionally? Was there damage to the project as a whole? If there was not a huge amount of damage done, then perhaps the whistle should be blown on something a little more serious.

The next question to ask is this: Has this “background source” tried to rock the boat before? If he or she has, then it makes sense to then talk to someone about it. But if not, we think the best strategy would be to advise the source to rock the boat or whistle blow because they have the most information and are the most directly involved with the situation.

Tompkins should also verify that the information is correct. If the background source is not telling the truth, it could affect Tompkins credibility if he were to act upon this person’s word without confirming the information first.

Next, we have to relate this decision to Tompkins book. According to his book, you should speak truth to power, regardless of the situation. He said himself, “In the end, however, it is the individual who must be upright, who must stand up against the system when it violates the ultimate values. The system cannot save itself.” With that said, we have to ask, if he wrote this, then why even ask? Is this a mere test?

Lastly, we have to question whether Tompkins has considered this part of automatic responsibility. Though he is not affiliated with NASA now, it is very possible that he still feels a strong connection to the organization. Automatic responsibility requires that a person follow through with something that is off point, even if it is not in their area of expertise. If Tompkins considers this to be automatic responsibility, then by all means, say something. The only argument against this would be the question, “Is it really your responsibility?”

Hope this was helpful!

PostSecret Blog

This morning, I was watching a news show and caught an interview with Frank Warren. He is an artist who asked people to participate on a project he was working on, "You are invited to anonymously contribute your secrets to PostSecret. Each secret can be a regret, hope, funny experience, unseen kindness, fantasy, belief, fear, betrayal, erotic desire, feeling, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything - as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before". The secrets have been made into a book, but are also posted on a blog. This is one of the most interesting and entertaining blogs I have ever seen. Everyone should take a look!

Controversy Surrounding Anonymous Blogs

Anonymous blogs seems to be a touchy subject. Those who support and refute their use both have solid points. The "blogosphere" by its very nature is supposed to be an outlet for bloggers to let their creativity and ideas flow with the opportunity for feedback (or is it turning into something else?) Supporters could claim that they want to participate in this new, interactive technology without exposing their identity. Their reasons for this could be personal or work-related.

On the other hand, those who oppose using anonymous blogs could claim that using names requires those who blog to truly think about and be held accountable for their published content. It also allows the blogger to establish their credibility and personality online and potentially build a following. Since blogging is still new, I suppose that only time will tell whether or not it is functional to use anonymous names when blogging.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Big Blog Company

I came upon this website called The Big Blog Company. I thought it was really interesting because it offers so much information on blogs including brand blogs, crisis blogs, internal blogs and there is a blog glossary. They say "We are a team of ardent bloggers who understand the impact of blogging and the network of blogs on communication. It gives individuals and companies the ability to generate and distribute their ideas more widely and effectively. We can help businesses and organisations to improve their reach and initiate genuine interaction with their audiences. We believe that markets are conversations and engaging them increases your chances of being heard.We know that there is a great deal more to establishing a successful blog than setting up the publishing software. It is in our understanding of the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of effective blogging and how it can enhance a company’s business that the true value of the Big Blog Company lies." It seems like a pretty interesting site.

Fictional Blogs

While flipping through Cosmopolitan Magazine, I found a fictional blog about dating. I findd this interesting because it shows how blogs are spreading and their purposes are becoming varied. I have read books where the story is told through emails and this makes me wonder if soon there will be books that tell the story through blogs?

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Scary Consequences with Automatic Responsibility

On Friday, Becky, Sarah and I attended one of the NCA sessions at the Marriott. Julie Novak from North Dakota State University was presenting her paper "Reducing Health Risk but Increasing Organizational Mindfulness: Rethinking the Conceptual Equation for Risk". It was based on a situation at the Duke University Medical Center where a lung transplant killed a teenager because of a mismatch in the blood types. Julie Novak looked into the situation and found that it stemed from everyone assuming that the multi step process was taking care of that "minor" detail and that someone else looked into the blood match, that wasn't their job. Just an example of many of the theories we've covered, included, as Julie stated, the "silo" effect where each department sees itself as a seperate entity and there is lack of communication between them. I just thought this was an interesting exmple of an extremely tragic accident that could have been prevented and was based on miscommuication.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Celebrity Blogs

In going with recent posts about the rising popularity of blogs and the power that they have, I remembered in class how we talked about different celebrity blogs such as Zach Braff. I decided I wanted to see what some of them were writing and I did a search for celebrity blogs online. The most interesting article I found was the "Best Celebrity Blogs" from Forbes Magazine. I didn't recognize all of the celebrities, but I found it interesting that Barbara Streisand even has a blog! (When you read the article you have to click on the link box that says Click Here for the Best Celebrity Blogs to see the list and keep hitting next- I found it a little confusing). I couldn't get her blog to open, the link did not work, but it seems rather well rounded from the article covering everything from the War in Iraq to her fan base. Like in her article there is a complaint about how often she posts, as seems to be the case with most other celebrities- but seeing as how they are so busy all the time I just think it's great that they do this at all.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Blogs ARE taking over!

After checking out my interviewee’s blog, I found some interesting statistics. As we have learned in our Media, Culture, and Society course- teens are often looked at for direction toward the next trend- well blogging is it according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project research. Some interesting statistics included: 19% of online youth ages 12-17 have created their own blog. That’s almost four million people! 38% of teens (almost 8 million people) read blogs. Interestingly, 27% of online adults blog. I wonder how many of these adults are blogging about their corporations? I urge everyone to check out the statistics because you can learn more interesting facts about why many people use blogs to write about other things than their corporation.

More Tompkins

Hi everyone,

So Phil Tompkins emailed me awhile ago about putting his response in the blog and he actually had a question for the class as a whole:

Dear Gretchen,

Do put it on the blog. Let me give you some more information you might want to add to it. Despite the subtitle of my book, NASA invited me to speak and post a paper on a website last month. I spoke at the Ronald Reagan Building. I usually get a bit nervous speaking to an audience of rocket scientists but it went well. They took notes, stopped me with questions, nodded and otherwise expessed their excitement about how von Braun did organizational communication. They were intriguied by the practice of Penetration and peppered me with questions about it. I had the floor for about an hour. They took a break after my presentation but I stayed there because some wanted to continue with questions and comments. There was a former astronaut in the audience, Thomas Jones, who introduced himself and complimented me. He was there promoting his book, THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO NASA. We inscribed copies of our books and exchanged them. Since then I learned that he will be in Denver this winter to promote another book, so we will get together for a drink or two.

I read the first chapter of his book immediately and found out how they go to the bathroom in space (men and women). I'll give you that information for you blog if you insist.

After the morning session was over we had to walk to another room for lunch. A NASA official took me by the arm and walked me the long way to lunch. He told me about some terrible incidents in NASA that violate the best practices we had during Apollo. He/she wants to be on "Background," an unidentified source. If I reveal these incidents I might get indicted for not revealing my source. Here is a question for the class to answer: Should I reveal the information and take the risk of going to jail? I'd like to know your collective and individual answers.

Warmly, Phil


Wht do you think?

Helpful blog research

The woman I am interviewing is crunched for time. A lot of times they have answered these questions before. Ask them if they have written a blog relating to some of the questions you are asking. My blogger sent me a link of a previous blog where she answered a lot of my questions. Just a helpful tip to kind of help the person you interview out!

Blogging: The Best PR Tool yet?

I have been reading CorporatePR's blogs and have been able to see how blogging can be used as a PR resource on many levels. Public relations has a lot to do with creating and promoting "brands," all the while staying closely connected to media members, peers, etc. Blogging can be used to update others on the state of business, as well as promoting clients. Blogging is viewed as (and most likely is in actuality) a credible and reliable source of information. Public relations professionals should make use of this mentality to create positive brand awareness for their clients.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Call Center Abuse

Hi everyone,
I wanted to follow up on Tuesday’s discussion on call centers and Indian outsourcing. While searching other blogs on blogger, I came upon an interesting article from the San Francisco Chronicle that describes the daily abuse many Indian call center employees have to go through. I encourage everyone to read the article because it gives an interesting perspective, as well as an inside look at Indian call centers and outsourcing. Mike McPhate reports that American citizens are constantly verbally abusing call center employees. The following quote is an example of the verbal abuse many call center employees have to go through on a daily basis: “The caller greeted her with a torrent of racial and sexual slurs, accused her of "roaming about naked without food and clothes" and asked, 'What do you know about computers?'” The anti-outsourcing movement from many Americans has spawned the creation of a new Indian sitcom that documents life at a call center, depicting many westerners as arrogant, and “comically rude.” As a country stricken by poverty, McPhate reports that many of the call center employees feel lucky to bring home a monthly salary of $200-400 and feel as though it comes with the territory to swallow these insults and move on with their job.
For call centers I think there should be a new movement to control the customers, but how? As human beings no one should have to go through this daily abuse, and I think the US corporations who have outsourced their company need to gain more control and enforce stronger policies to dissuade callers from this verbal abuse. This behavoir would not be tolerated in the United States, so why should it be tolerated elsewhere?

Research on Blogs, Blog on Research

Over the next two days students will be conducting research on blogs as part of their Blog Analysis Report and then will be blogging on selected findings of that research. These findings will be posted in the comments to this post.

The content of their comments/post is up to each student but one guideline provided was that the comment should help others to learn about blogging as organizational communication (such as an important insight they learned, or a resource where more information can be found, etc.).

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Call Centers

After our discussion of call centers on Tuesday I wanted to show you all this blog that I found. It is from an employee, actually a supervisor, of a call center of a "huge, multi-national corporation." From the title of his blog alone "The Supervisor of Customer Service Hell" I could tell that he probably had alot to say about some of the disadvantages of call center work that we have talked about. He discusses some of the stress of dealing with customers and feelings of apathy. On his July 2 post he includes a script of an encounter with an employee or agent at his company. Just from the fact that he decided to include this particular exchange shows his frustration with his job and even his co-workers.
If you look to the right of his blog he has a list of other call center blogs. After referencing those, you can references others. There seems to be a whole community of call center bloggers. After I looked at these I seem to get the feeling that most of these employees are not happy with their jobs. Maybe Cameron was right, call center work stinks...look at these blogs, what do you think?

Blogging for charity

Advanced Organizational Communication

As I was looking for blogs for my project I came across a website called Instapundit.comthat listed a number of organizations that were using blogs as a way to donate money to charity. This blog post was specifically talking about donating to hurricane Katrina relief. There are many charitable organizations listed such as the American Red Cross, Mennonite Disaster Services, The Humane Society, and many more.

I think its extremely interesting that blogs are being used for this purpose. It shows the progress blogs are making. Blogs are not just a place to vent frustration, but they are being used to connect and inform for a greater good as well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Blog Searches!

I had a lot of trouble finding a suitable blog for this project, but looking at these searches and websites last night really helped me out--

Blog Business World has a ton of blog search engines listed on the bottom right when you scroll down. I used "search4blogs" and "blog search directory" to find mine, however I'm sure all of them are good! Even AskJeeves was very helpful if you search for "organization blogs" a few came up that I found useful as well.

Good luck!

A Useful Blogging Website

This is probably more user-friendly than the two websites we discussed in class today. I came across this site after checking out the blog that Leigh mentioned in class today, it's at www.icerocket.com

Its basically a blog search engine, and also allows you to look at trends. And yes, it does include our own blog postings.

Corporate Blogging and Transparency or Corporate Blogging and Sincerity?

As the discussion about "synthetic transparency" has gone on, I started to wonder whether transparency is the only issue we should be talking about, or if it is just one issue among others. For example, it seems to me that people look to company blogs to get a sense that the company is "human," or that there are real people at the company, or that the company is one we feel like we can "relate to." Thus, should we be talking about a sense of sincerity rather than transparency as a criterion to assess blogs? We can always talk about both, of course, or others, but what's the most important?

Findory Neighbors

Here is the link to the site we discussed in class -- Findory Neighbors. You can learn more about this at from Steve Rubel's post on Ten Blogging Hacks (Hack #7).

Steve Rubel Tells Us How To Find Corporate Bloggers

If there are students who are still looking for corporate bloggers as part of the Blog Analysis Assignment, see Steve Rubel's excellent suggestions:

There are lots of corporate bloggers out there. They just may be hard to find because they are not sanctioned bloggers. They blog on personal sites, but occasionally they mention where they work.

Here's a tip. To find these bloggers simply search for “I work for [insert company name here]” in quotes as I have it here and you will find bloggers. Some might be spam blogs and others might be lying, but many of them are the real deal.

For example, I found: Ford bloggers, HP bloggers, AOL bloggers, Disney bloggers and believe it or not, Dell bloggers.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

McDonaldization

Recently in class we have been discussing the growing trend toward McDonaldization, which was elaborated on in Cameron's book. Cameron's book also briefly mentioned George Ritzer's study on McDonaldization. Coincidentally, in my Sociology of Work class we are discussing similar concepts and have read excerpts from Ritzer's work. Ritzer talks about how McDonaldization has led to an increase in "McJobs" which relies mostly on teenage, part-time workers and minorities. McJobs are also low paying jobs and they entail simple tasks and predictable work.

Moreover, I thought Ritzer made a very interesting point in his piece about customers becoming more involved in the labor process. For example, he points out that things like ATM machines and Self-Service gas stations are requiring the customer to do more work then ever before. Do you think that increasing customer involvement is a good practice or more importantly, an ethical practice?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Please Note the Question Mark: Not All Corporate Blogging Constitutes "Synthetic Transparency"

I am excited to see that several bloggers have visited our class blog and picked up on my post "Corporate Blogging as Synthetic Transparency?"

Please note that question mark in the title of my original post.

I am not claiming that all corporate blogging constitutes "synthetic transparency." For example, one blogger stated that I claimed all corporate blogging represents synthetic transparency, suggested that I made an "illogical leap," that my post represents "anti-establishment rhetoric," and indirectly suggested that I fit the bill for a favorite phrase among teachers of all kinds -- "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." Ouch! In this blogger's favor he makes the excellent point that all communication is selective, which I agree with. Here's my response:

Hi Kip,

Thanks for your comments on our class blog. I agree with you on one point and would also ask that you read the whole of my post on another. First, the part I agree with you on is this: blogging, like all forms of communication, is necessarily a selective activity. In fact, I have made the same point myself in the "Inaugural Post" of my own blog "Word Of Mouth Communication Study." Here's what I wrote:

"Although blogs are exercises in transparency and openness (selection) we must also recognize that they are equally practices of deflection (as the rhetorician Kenneth Burke reminds us). Of course, the deflections, absences, omissions, or silences need not necessarily be borne of ill intent, but certainly they represent alternative rhetorical versions and visions of how things are or could be. This tension between openness and closedness is one I hope to reflect on in this blog, especially as it relates to the construction of personal and institutional identities."


Second, I invite you to read my whole post on synthetic transparency. Here's what I wrote at the end of my post and what many who have picked up on the notion have missed:


"Please note that I have a cautious sense of optimism about the potential for blogging to create a greater sense of openness and transparency in corporate communication efforts. So I introduce this phrase to give us a way to call out companies who are not using blogs to their fullest, and ideal(istic), potential."


Not all corporate blogging activity constitutes "synthetic transparency." However, I see blogging gaining momentum among companies and I want to help ensure companies are doing it for the right reasons. I introduced this term as a way of empowering people to call out firms who are just using blogs because they hear "everyone else is doing it" or are not really committed to the ideals espoused by blogging. Like all terms, there is nothing inherently "synthetic" about blogging, just like there is nothing inherently "authentic" about it either. Both terms do not have intrinsic meanings; rather, those meanings shift over time subject to the agreements (and disagreements) within and among discourse communities.

Thanks again for your interest!

Walter (aka, Dr. Carl)

How do you make employees care?

Dr. Carl’s idea of synthetic transparency and our talk about scripts and call centers in Cameron’s book made me critically rethink organizational culture and organizational identity. When a company has ideals and a direction they want their company to go, is it wrong for them to encourage their employees to act a certain way? Even if it’s completely fake? All I can think about is checking out at a chain grocery store. Those are not happy people for the most part and I often leave thinking how they could’ve cared less that I was there (not that they need to) but a smile or a "have a nice night" would’ve been a little more encouraging. Though if they’re reading it off of a sticker on their register, I’m not sure that’s any better either. I don’t know what the right answer is but it has to be a combination of finding employees that believe in the values of the company or the right motivation from the management. Is scripting so bad for employees that wouldn’t bother to acknowledge the customer otherwise?

I don’t know how I feel one way or the other, I would like to think every employee cares but I know that’s not the case so I wanted to see if anyone had any insight into this phenomenon.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Corporate Blogging as Synthetic Transparency?

The purpose of this post is to introduce a new phrase (or at least I think it is) into the discourse about corporate blogging -- synthetic transparency. Synthetic transparency involves using blogs to give the impression of openness, honesty, and transparency but without really doing so.

This notion is based on Norman Fairclough's* idea of "synthetic personalization"** which he defines as:

... a compensatory tendency to give the impression of treating each of the people 'handled' en masse as an individual. Examples would be air travel (have a nice day!), restaurants (Welcome to Wimpy!) and the simulated conversation (for example, chat shows) and bonhomie which litter the media. (p. 62)

Of course companies can engage in all kinds of practices, besides blogging, to give a false sense of openness. However, given the purported sense of transparency that blogs are supposed to provide, we should be especially attentive.

Please note that I have a cautious sense of optimism about the potential for blogging to create a greater sense of openness and transparency in corporate communication efforts. So I introduce this phrase to give us a way to call out companies who are not using blogs to their fullest, and ideal(istic), potential.

---

* Fairclough, Norman (1989). Language and Power. London: Longman.

** Also see Deborah Cameron's use of synthetic personalization as applied to customer care philosophies and practices in organizations. Cameron, Deborah (2000). Good to Talk? Living and Working in a Communication Culture. London: Sage.

The Customer is Always Right

Today in class we were discussing customer service and the relatively new The Customer is Always Right policy that many companies have adopted. For the past three years, I have been working in the front-end of Stew Leonard's which for those of you who do not know, is a huge animated grocery store in Connecticut and New York (there are only three of them). At Stew Leonard's there are two main rules that almost every customer and employee lives by: 1) The customer is always right 2) If the customer is wrong, re-read rule number one. As you can probably see, this store will do anything and everything to please the customers and that is one of the main reasons why Stew Leonard's is so well-known throughout New England.

My experiences working at Stew's have been mostly positive for the most part because the working environment is very encouraging and optimistic. However, as someone mentioned in class today, there comes a point when customers start to abuse their rights. I have had frustrating experiences with customers because they feel they can get away with anything because "the customer is always right." An extreme example of this is when customers think they can steal from the store or lie about product prices because, "hey, they are always right." I think there is a fine line between companies providing excellent customer service to their customers and letting customers do whatever they please. What do you guys think?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Corporate Blogging: Is It Worth the Hype?

While reading the article by Backbone dealing with corporate blogging, I found the results to the question, "How quickly did you see the results from your blog on the following factors..." very interesting. For the majority of the factors listed, the companies who had blogs saw results from the blog within the first week. This surprised me because I thought it would take much longer for the companies to see changes and reactions from the blogs then after just one week of participating in blogging. This really proved to me that corporate blogging can be very influential and effective if used correctly for organizations. What do you think about this?