Dreamforce—the celebrated salesforce.com Cloud Computing annual event—drummed up some buzz earlier this week when Salesforce.com announced, via its PR agency, that no tweeting and blogging will be allowed during President Bill Clinton’s keynote address at the event.
In a matter of hours, mocking posts were published and the twittersphere was filled with head-scratching tweets.
Today, ReadWriteWeb posted that the Clinton administration is revising its policy and it is only traditional media (not attendees) who will not be allowed to do live reporting over social media channels.
If you are reading this blogpost, you are probably savvy enough to know that in today’s socio-digital age, it is preposterous to demand that people (media or other) not post information—especially at a public event hosted by salesforce.com—a web pioneer.
But this isn’t about the Clinton team nor is it about Salesforce.com. This is just another light shining on a deeper issue: the fate of private and confidential information.
Social media has been forcing change on many levels. When it comes to disclosing information, it is still perplexing to most companies and organizations. Companies used to conduct regular analyst briefings, authors used to give private talks about their upcoming books, and researchers used to speak about new findings and developments in closed doors—almost no information would leak to the general public. But the practice of information disclosure is being tested these very days. And often, it is the PR agencies in the front line, trying buffer the no-longer-insulated doors of information channels and cover for lack of true understanding of the shifting psychology in the age of Social.
What should the Clinton team do now?
- Reverse the directive. Invite everyone to tweet, blog, take pictures. Accordingly, just in case Clinton’s keynote was to contain confidential information (highly doubtful), it should be revised. In a public event with hundreds of attendees, Clinton’s speech is most likely designed to inspire—and with attendees’ help, it can inspire many more than the lucky few who made it in.
- Be helpful. Just like companies do when they launch a new product or service, the Clinton team can help the media prepare for the kind of coverage the team wants to have by providing helpful information ahead of time, such as key messaging, an open Q&A channel, and ways to get connected during the event. This would give reporters time to research the topics of conversation, add their own flavor, as well as—and very importantly—build trust between the Clinton team and the tech-focused media.
- Learn. Attempting to sanction people from tweeting or blogging during the event was obviously a mistake. While we don’t know the back-story, it is a shame Outcast, the agency in charge of the PR for the Clinton team, was not able to better educate the team about the importance of free press and social openness to the Clinton brand.
The rules of the game have been changing on all levels. Trying to hold on to old ways is futile. Instead, organizations should focus on understanding, and leveraging, the power of Social and utilize it to help propel their mission. Anything short of Open is bound to backfire…as it has for the Clinton team this week.