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Adjunct Professor, Public Relations and Communications Graduate Program,
Georgetown University, and
CEO, EnviroComm International
June 14, 2011
While journalists and the public are poring through 24,000 pages of Sarah Palin's e-mails, corporate communicators may well be asking, could it happen with us? Are there e-mails bouncing around in and out of our offices that could come back to haunt us? And — scary to contemplate, but — is the boss tweeting personally, without our knowledge and without thinking what happens if the pages go public?
There was a time — a few of us remember it — when we were trying to get the CEO to get into computers. While we front-line communicators were happily pounding into big fat standalone PCs and excited by the prospect of little computers you could carry around and treat like notebooks, we were dismayed — or maybe just irritated — because our bosses were resisting. They either didn't want to learn how to operate this new-fangled thing, or they figured it was undignified and inappropriate and their secretary could handle it, or they just didn't like the idea of plopping one of those big toasters on their nice orderly desks.
Slowly they came around. Their kids were doing it, their wives or husbands were doing it, and of course the younger executives were all into it, and a group of sharp, pleasant, patient and discreet sales people and consultants were available to ease them into digital in the privacy of their own well-ordered public lives.
Some relished it, really got into it, raising pride in the ranks that the leader was so modern and — access! They, those in the ranks, got emails from the boss and, wonder of wonders, they could actually email her!
Executive communication went digital, then wireless and with acceptance was excess. Some executives went overboard. Some, worse, went tricky. There was the case of the CEO who blogged at night from home, using a pseudonym to interact with other bloggers — not about anything naughty — but about the CEO's company. He was touting himself (and his company's reputation and stock) anonymously. Which...was found out.
What are CCO's doing today to manage the leader's leadership communication and to assure it's known in the C-suite and beyond, as politicians certainly know, that, as David Carr points out in his New York Times piece about former Governor Palin's years of tweets, "digital culture is the opposite of private"?
Bruce Harrison is an adjunct professor in the master's program at
Georgetown University, Washington, DC. He and Judith Muhlberger teach
courses in leadership communications and corporate crisis communications.
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