Thoughts from the Walkley Public Affairs conference


Today I spoke at the Walkley Public Affairs conference, organized by the MEAA, the peak body representing workers in the Australian media industry. I spoke on the Enterprise 2.0 panel, running through many of the issues I’ve raised on the Enterprise 2.0 Forum blog.

Here are a few summarized comments and reflections on what I heard while I was at the event from late morning to the end of the first day.

As I walked in, Sam Mostyn of IAG was saying, reflecting on what she’d seen at the insurer, that ‘what builds loyalty and commitment is trust’. That is a fundamentally important point. Corporate loyalty is evanescent today, particularly with younger workers. The only potential source of loyalty is trusting your employees. Not trusting them automatically results in zero loyalty. This is deeply relevant to the issue of blocking or allowing social networks in the enterprise.

On the next panel, Mark Pesce commented that social networks in Australia are extremely shallow. Outrageous news travels very fast. At the Future of Journalism conference comments that Roy Greenslade made about Andrew Jaspan, editor of The Age, were immediately heard. Messages propagate ubiquitously, in this case enabled by journalists in the audience live-blogging the event. Those who were interested in what Greenslade said heard about it almost instantaneously. Mark describes Twitter as his twenty-first century brain trust, extending his capabilities by giving him access to many with complementary knowledge. He describes this as ‘hyperempowerment’.

Mark told the story of how a friend of his, Gregory P, had twittered about a very poor experience consulting to a large company, and word had very quickly spread, despite Gregory’s declining to share – so far – the company’s name. If he does name the company, it will find it harder to hire and engage talented people. Reputation can directly impact a company’s value. According to Mark, there are many companies that will not stand the scrutiny of a connected world. This story and the Greenslade-Jaspan event is covered in detail on Mark’s blog under the title The Nuclear Option, while the slides plus audio of his presentation today is on his blog and below.

In question time Mark said that he has a strict view that there are only successful and unsuccessful strategies, and he believes that this view will eventually become dominant. Successful short-term strategies may not be successful in the long-term.

This is an interesting perspective, and I think is very relevant in the context of organizational change. There are many companies that are currently successful and seem to believe that this implies future success. However their underlying strategies may in fact be substantially different from each other, and result in significant differences in their success over the next decade or more as the environment shifts dramatically.

Sheryle Moon, who recently moved from her role as CEO of Australian Information Industry Association to Director of Julia Ross, a large recruitment firm, spoke about her experiences at the two organizations.

Sheryle said that two things were important to her when she left AIIA: her mobile phone number and the content on her blog. The latter she has transferred to a new blog, Talking Technology.

When Sheryle was recruited to Julia Ross, she was surprised to be asked by the headhunter for references. She asked him why he didn’t look at her Facebook friends, and told him that’s who she’d put him in touch with in any case.

Colin MacLeod runs communications for the Australian Football League (AFL), where despite moving over from Goldman Sachs, he has been staggered him by the degree of scrutiny they get. Five times as many journalists in Australia cover AFL as cover federal parliament. One player, Ben Cousins, has received 100,000 media mentions. He believes that checking facts “is no longer a core media discipline”. Talkback radio is rife with misinformation with no corrections.

The AFL draws on Young & Rubicam’s SEER product to track blog connections and influence, and use this to respond to online conversations. Colin acknowledges that they haven’t yet worked out precisely how to respond yet, but they’re working on it. One of the insights from the SEER analyzes they did is that the second most influential online source in last year’s Australian federal election, after the Australian Broadcasting Corporation website, was Larvatus Prodeo, a group blog of academics and commentators.

Sam Roggeveen of the Lowy Institute discussed the Institute’s blogging activities. Sam wrote on their blog, The Interpreter, how blueprints had been sold by an Australian company to the Chinese Navy. While this was not news in that this had already been published in specialist defence journals, putting it on the blog resulted in mainstream media coverage for the story.

Sam believes that Australian political blogging is not mature, and is behind that of other modern economies. The Lowy Institute has, for now, chosen not to enable comments on the blog, primarily because of the risk of defamation.

Kylie Johnson of the federal science research agency CSIRO “had a go”, plunged in, and has implemented some very interesting initiatives. Coming from a broadcast background, she decided to build a simple studio and do podcasts. Initially management didn’t want to do it, but a leaked audio file became very popular, making it a fait accompli. For over a month the CSIRO podcasts were the #1 Australian science show on iTunes, beating out very popular science shows on mainstream radio programs. CSIRO is now creating foreign language podcasts, including in Mandarin.

Another success was a video of a scientist who had created an air guitar, which CSIRO recreated and released on YouTube (see below). In addition to being a big success on YouTube, it was covered by BBC, CBC, CBS, Guardian, and was the seventh most viewed story on Yahoo! that day.

Steven Lewis has fairly recently joined the innovation team at AMP. He blogs internally and externally. Steven does the internal comms for Lee Barnett, the head of [email protected], and has turned her internal email communications into a blog. After initially languishing, the blog took off when they did an April Fool post saying that as their performance agreement everyone would have to lose weight, post their current weight on a wiki, and clock in and out to the gym. What happened once the blog took off is that staff started using the blog to communicate internally, to topics ranging as far as where to catch up for lunch. Lee started making more personal posts, now dividing her communication between formal communication on email and more informal communication on her internal blog.

Another initiative supported the move of AMP’s Melbourne office, which some staff found out about in the national business newspaper. A blog was used to communicate news about the office move, while a wiki was created so staff could share where to eat, how to use public transport to get to the new office, and other useful tips.

In one case there was an inappropriate comment on Lee’s blog. The HR Director and CIO went to Steven to tell him he needed to delete the comment. Steven suggested instead responding with other comments, which the senior executives did. Others chipped in, and the original commenter ended up retracting their comment. As a result the exchange was far more constructive than if the comment had simply been deleted.

The final panel on online media brought up many reflections on last week’s Future of Journalism conference and is worth a separate post, which I’ll hopefully get up shortly.

5 replies
  1. Corporate Engagement
    Corporate Engagement says:

    Blog coverage of the Media Alliance Public Affairs conference

    Ross Dawson has detailed coverage of most of the first day: Thoughts from the Walkley Public Affairs conference: Today I spoke at the Walkley Public Affairs conference, organized by the MEAA, the peak body representing workers in the Australian media i…

  2. Trevor Cook
    Trevor Cook says:

    Thanks for the wrapup Ross and thanks for your contribution yesterday – it was great as usual – I’m sorry we didn’t have time for questions and discussion. But on the positive side, many of the audience appreciated a range of perspectives from many different speakers in short bursts.

  3. Ben Haslem
    Ben Haslem says:

    Ditto what Trev said Ross.
    I’ve recently subscribed to your blog and really enjoy it.

  4. Karen Jamal
    Karen Jamal says:

    Sheryle’s new blog is actually called Talking Talent ( Talking Technology is her old blog, soon to be defunct, which she wrote while at AIIA.

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