Stephen Waddington is partner and chief engagement officer at Ketchum and visiting professor at Newcastle University.
If you’re one of the 3.2 billion people, or thereabouts, with a connection to the internet you can create content and connect with anyone else that’s part of this beautiful network.
It’s wonderfully democratic. Individuals and organisations have access to exactly the same media and networks to build relationships and find and share information.
You can build gorgeous websites and apps. You can publish lovely looking branded content via Instagram and Facebook. But if your product or service doesn’t meet my expectation and you don’t give me the opportunity to have a proper conversation with you, I’m going to use those channels to call you out.
We shouldn’t be surprised. The Cluetrain Manifesto predicted exactly what would happen. In 1999 it foretold that markets are conversations and that the internet enables the world’s biggest conversation.
The book was first published in 1999, written by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls, and David Weinberger. It proposes a set of 95 theses organised as a manifesto, or call to action, for organisations operating in internet-connected markets.
Relationships vs. traffic
Marketing and media professionals divide neatly into two groups: those that have read and generally advocate Cluetrain Manifesto; and those that haven’t and don’t.
It’s a test that should apply whenever you meet someone in the digital business. It draws a clear attitudinal line across the business. Advocates view the internet as a network of relationships, non-believers see it as a network of traffic.
I’m a massive fan boy. A friend gave me a first edition signed by all four of the authors for my birthday. It’s reckoned to be one of only three in existence.
The biggest lesson from Cluetrain is that organisational change is slow, really slow. The impact of the internet on society and organisations is going to take generations to work through.
If you haven’t read the book I urge you to buy a copy. It’s a book that I re-read every 12 months or so. It’s as relevant today as the day it was first published.
20 theses for the future of marketing and public relations
Here are my favourite 20 of the 95 Cluetrain theses that I believe will continue to influence organisational communication and marketing in the next 17 years as much as they have in the last 17 years.
Stephen Waddington is chief engagement officer at Ketchum. Follow him on Twitter @wadds
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