Telstra starts blogging

Summary:Phil Burgess Bound by red tape and with its push for relief appearing to fall on deaf ears in Canberra, Telstra today pumped up its campaign to win over the grassroots by launching a new Web site promoting its messages -- with blogging a key feature. The site, nowwearetalking.

Phil Burgess
Phil Burgess
Bound by red tape and with its push for relief appearing to fall on deaf ears in Canberra, Telstra today pumped up its campaign to win over the grassroots by launching a new Web site promoting its messages -- with blogging a key feature.

The site, nowwearetalking.com.au, contains facts and perspectives from Telstra on -- among other things -- telecommunications regulation in Australia, the telcos' recent strategic review, past speeches by Telstra executives and case studies where Telstra services are being used.

The site was born out of a need to communicate better with Telstra's stakeholders, according to a statement on the site in the name of the company's group managing director of public policy and communications Phil Burgess.

"The idea for nowwearetalking came from a discussion with a shareholder. I was in a restaurant and he stopped by my table to say, 'Aren't you one of Sol's Three Amigos?' I said 'Yes' and we shook hands," Burgess wrote.

"My new friend said, 'Keep it up mate. I'm a Telstra shareholder. So are my kids. We didn't really know what was happening till Sol started talking. We need you all to talk more. Let us know what is going on."

"Two days later -- after discovering that a single mailing to shareholders cost close to $1.0 million -- we launched the idea of a special Web site for shareholders and the public together -- a place where we could address the digital revolution and what it can mean for how we live, work, play, learn and move about," he continued.

The site has launched with 11 blogs, one of which is written by well-known Telstra spokesperson Rod Bruem, a former journalist who works within the company's media relations team.

Bruem's first entry in his blog deals with his mother's opinion that he should install the popular Skype Internet telephony software. Technology like Skype is a direct threat to Telstra's revenue because it bypasses Telstra's fixed-line phone network and allows call to be made on the Internet.

"Janice reckons I should get Skype too, but I'm more for sticking with what already works for me," Bruem wrote.

"Despite my colleagues' urging, I refuse to part with my battered three-year-old Nokia mobile because it fits in the pocket easily, is simple to use and its SMS memory is like a dictionary of Australian vernacular. Even when accidentally left behind in shops or bars nobody seems to want to take it."

"My own family story says a lot. When sixty-somethings in rural NSW are using IP telephony, this ain't the technology of the future - it's here now."

"In order to succeed, we know Telstra has to do a lot more to get to know and stay in touch with its customers because their needs are so diverse and often hard to predict. Even I couldn't have predicted a year ago that Mum would be a Skypster!"

Another blog features the cartoon artwork of Howard Tuxworth, a group manager within Telstra's finance and administration division.

"Each week Howard will give his satirical view on the issues impacting the telecommunications industry through Australia's first 'blogtoon'," says the blog.

Tuxworth's first entry depicts new Telstra chief executive Solomon Trujillo being boiled in a pot on a stove with the heat level knobs reading 'customer', 'shareholder', 'regulator' and 'competitor'.

While Telstra's new Web site does include the ability for readers to make comments and contribute feedback, the designers appear to have left out one of the key elements of the blogging phenomenon.

No RSS feeds for Telstra's blogs appear to be available. RSS (or Really Simple Syndication) is a format that allows Web browsers to know when a blog (or any Web site) has been updated.

In addition, Telstra's communication efforts are nothing new, according to one of its competitors.

"Our staff and management have been involved in mailing lists, online forums and newsgroups for years," iiNet's managing director Michael Malone told ZDNet Australia.

"While it may be new for Telstra, talking with your customers isn't generally regarded as a new concept for most of the communications industry."

Topics: Telcos, Social Enterprise, Telstra

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