A month of uprisings

When we change the way we communicate, we change society.

I have a lot of favorite passages from Clay Shirky’s 2008 Here Comes Everybody, but in 2011, this is the line that resonates most.  Our media technologies have facilitated our ability to reach out to each other; to connect in meaningful ways, without necessarily requiring the typical advance notice of a traditional intermediary.  We suddenly realize that we’re not alone in our thoughts and experiences; providing powerful reassurance that ideas can be conveyed and acted upon.  Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Jordan are testimony to what the uprisings can do.

So society changes as communication changes, but as Eric Selbin writes in my new favorite book, Revolution, Rebellion, Resistance: The Power of Story, “revolutions don’t happen without stories.”

With change in the air seemingly everywhere, I’m almost not surprised that the private sector — including corporations — are suddenly receptive to the concepts that I’m developing in Storyteller Uprising.  In the last month, I’ve been invited to give a series of lectures and workshops from coast to coast.  As I apply the premise of the book (organizations now have the opportunity to act as a trusted media outlet and engage directly with various communities) to various organizations’ specific set of circumstances, I realize that I can now paraphrase Shirky: when you change the way an organization communicates, you change the organization.

One particular multinational company I presented to wants to create an internal “newsroom” to find relevant and authentic stories (internally and externally) and share them through various channels.  Easier said than done when there are different constituents (marketing, communications, customer service, legal) controlling those channels, and as importantly, their associated budgets.

When I think about the flow of one Storyteller Uprising model within a company, it begins with the story itself (compelling content) that is released into an ecosystem.  The community interacts with the content, generates its own stories, and attracts professional communicators (bloggers, legacy media-makers) who extend its reach further out to more distant communities.  With this new flow, it’s no wonder that Ford collapsed its marketing and public relations divisions into one after it communications success of the past couple of years, including being named Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year in 2010.

I’m working on this notion of organizational change in communications strategy and culture for the next chapter of my book.  I’ll take these ideas for a test spin as I subject myself to discussion at tomorrow night’s book-of-the-month discussion at Projectline.  The following morning (Wednesday), I’ll be on Seattle’s KING5 morning show to talk about the book, and some of the projects that are emerging from it.  I’ll post the video here after it airs.