Monday, December 01, 2008

IBM, Trust and the Great Global Conversation

At least once a month our firm invites a thought leader to present and discuss a topic of particular interest to our PR professionals and others on our staff. Last month’s guest speaker was Adam Christensen, IBM’s social media communications manager. Adam provided us with an excellent overview of how IBM is integrating all aspects of Web 2.0/social media — including social networking, blogging and podcasting — into its communications efforts.

For me, the two most significant takeaways were 1) the staggering numbers of IBM employees worldwide who are involved in blogging and other forms of social media and 2) the freedom and respect for their independence that they receive from their employer.

IBM realized, Adam said, that the general public’s perception of the IBM brand will be significantly shaped by their interaction with its 380,000 employees, and the opinions they spread among their families and friends. Further, the perception of the IBM brand among its employees also will be shaped by collaboration with each other.

Thus, in 2003, at a time of great change for the company, IBM was exploring what its brand stood for. Employees were invited to post their responses on a message board. Many of the earliest responses were negative in tone. IBM could have shut down the message board, but it had faith in its people — and that faith was not misplaced. Sure enough, once people had had a chance to express their doubts and fears, they began to express their feelings about the strengths of the brand, the company and its people, products and services.

Today, with IBM’s 380,000 employees now in 170 countries, IBM has 60,000 registered bloggers. About 15,000 are individuals who post with some regularity. Their involvement in the social media is an important expression of IBM’s culture of collaboration … one of the technology leader’s special strengths.

Even IBM’s corporate blogging policy was developed collaboratively by its bloggers. There is no IBM staff person dedicated to monitoring blogs.

IBM’s collaboration platforms also extend to clients, partners and competitors, as well as key opinion leaders. According to Adam anyone on the outside can have contact with anyone on the inside.

I’ve often said that “trust is where it’s at.” IBM employees’ leadership in the social media is a testament to the central importance of trust in the corporate culture at IBM.

Technorati Tags: Adam Christensen, IBM, social media communications, blogging, IBM brand, corporate blogging policy, social networking, business, communications, public relations


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