This was the rather breathless title for a side track at the Business for Social Responsibility conference in San Francisco last week. As it turned out the session was somewhat chaotic with most of the panel predictably trying to demonstrate hands on web campaigning but with poor AV and patchy wifi. Nevertheless, there were some really good moments. (I will post more on the BSR conference again)
The panel was made up with reps from Fleishman Hillard, YouTube, BSR, New Politics Institute, Carmot Strategic, Witness and BuzzLogic. Fleishmann Hillard memorably showed these videos as a, sort of, stark warning to corporates.
I was a bit disappointed not to get a balance of perspective on how business and civil society can also collaborate positively together for mutual benefit. Such partnerships are becoming more common place today though they will never and should never supplant the primary role of civil society actors as advocates. But who would have ever thought, the odd couple, McDonalds and Greenpeace could ever work together? Well they have.
I asked the panel if CEO’s should blog on CSR and the unanimous answer was ‘yes’ (though in a controlled & limited manner), even from Fleishmann Hillard. This surprised me a bit as they were tending to play to the fear factor a bit with the Starbucks videos and also given their own experience. FH UK MD Kevin Bell now seems to have taken his blog down after a fire storm of criticism last year when he discussed his PR work on behalf of the Mauritius government. Some objected to the government retaining a PR firm to shape it’s message to citizens. I guess even the PR pros have to learn some tough lessons on social media communications.
I don’t know about an onslaught but I predict a bumpy road ahead as we all figure out how to utilize social media so corporations can become more transparent and accountable corporate citizens. However, I am convinced that social media can not only be a tool for advocacy campaigning but also can be used for positive collaboration between erstwhile strange bedfellows.