In this BusinessWeek interview, Ray Lane of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers calls standard media and press releases "a waste of time." The best way for enterprises and vendors to reach their communities: "blogs and wikis and podcasts and videos." Says Ray,
What's going to happen is, employees are going to start podcasting and blogging about what's really going on in the company. It's going to cause huge legal concerns on the company's part. But companies are not going to be able to stop it. Outside the company, you can't tell people not to talk about their products. We're not China. We can't shut it down.
The reality of how employees feel, and the reality of how customers and partners get information about your company, are going to change in the next five years from standard media and press releases -- which are a waste of time now -- to these other methods like blogs and wikis and podcasts and videos.
I give great credence to Ray's perspective, but I think more will be done to sanction employee-driven content within the best interests of the corporation. Just as many companies have provided the means for unfettered internal and external blogs, based on a set of common-sense boundaries and guidelines, soon they should also provide the means for employee-driven podcasts, using the same or similar guidelines.
Imagine employees creating easily accessed podcasts (maybe via Ray's darling, Podshow) that explain why certain features and functions were added to a popular product. Imagine listening to an auto or consumer electronics or software engineer explain how they chose the features and functions for these products -- before you buy them. Imagine a designer actually explaining why something looks and feels as it does? Might prompt you to want to look at it and feel it.
I'd sure like to hear some reality bites, straight from the horse's mouth, from the creative minds that actually plan and make the stuff I use. It would really bind me to the company, the brand, and allow me as a consumer to much better appreciate the human faces (voices?) behind the products and tools I love and rely on. When I do research on big purchases, like a car or computer, I would like to hear more from the creative process, to better know what I'm getting and why.
I'm a big Mac OS X fan, for example, but other than Steve Jobs's keynotes, I don't have a voice for my beloved OS. If John Lasseter can chat about what goes on behind the scenes at Pixar, why can't I get podcast "bonus materials" on who designed my favorite widget? Or my favorite iTunes feature? Or probe the accounting minds behind my QuickBooks Pro application?
Maybe a blog with comments spawned from the podcast would provide valuable user feedback and powerful market research for future products and brands. You can't beat the value of an actual ongoing conversation on what makes people love or hate the products and brands they use ... and they give it to you for free, if you let them.
It's time for corporate podcasting to take a clue from Ray Lane, and make the creative employees the stars of the their product and service offerings. Let the world hear them. Heck, they may even want an industry analyst to host and moderate the show.