Jim Horton wrote today about the lack of control that companies have, especially over product announcements, in the new media era we live in. That got me thinking to the question of control vs. influence.
The mantra of the blogosphere tends to be that companies cannot and should not attempt to control the conversation. In reading countless blogs and having conversations with a lot of companies interested in, but leery of, online media, I find that many are confusing the issues of control and influence.
Controlling the conversation is not possible in the blogosphere, or for that matter in any word-of-mouth environment or even the traditional mainstream media. Even the most powerful and influential media operation in the world, the one run by the White House, can’t control the conversation, no matter the occupant of the Oval Office. All try and all fail.
But just because you can’t control what is being said doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and influence it. Some argue that companies should merely participate in the conversation honestly and allow it to follow its natural course.
To which I say: “baloney.”
Companies, individuals, and organizations with a stake in online conversations should not only join them, but view them strategically and tactically. To communicate effectively, you must understand what you are communicating, how you are doing it, and what your ultimate goal may be.
Unfortunately, for many this causes a devolution into “corporate speak,” which does not help the cause. Certainly it is a delicate balancing act, but one must walk that tightrope in order to effectively communicate online.
Don’t try to control the online conversation; you can’t. But do be smart about trying to influence it effectively.