Gini Dietrich

WikiLeaks End Our Perception of Control

By: Gini Dietrich | December 21, 2010 | 
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When I speak, my audiences are typically white men over the age of 50 and the vast majority of them don’t believe (or don’t want to believe) the web is changing not only the way we do business, but the way we communicate with one another. I always hear, “Oh my kids shop online” or “My younger employees use Facebook” but they believe the use of the web really is for the kids.

Because of that attitude, I always lead up to a very important point when speaking to that particular audience. It’s the issue of control. You see, the use of the web (not just social media, but the web) hasn’t been adopted yet by these audiences because they’re hanging on to to the one thing they think they can’t live without…and that’s control.

We’ve always thought we have control in business and in our personal lives, but it’s only been a perception. The truth of the matter is, jilted employees have always talked badly about you. Angry customers have always told their friends you suck. And upset stakeholders have complained about you. The difference is now they direct their anger at you online and you can no longer bury your head in the sand and pretend everything is fine. And I try to hit home the point that using the web is not just for the kids…American adults, on average, use the Internet for four hours every day. It’s affecting the way all of us do business and it’s affecting our perception of control.

Which leads me to our perception of control, as it’s been broken by WikiLeaks. As is customary of me, I’ve been reading everything I can about WikiLeaks and, subsequently, about the arrest of Julian Assange, before I formed an opinion I could share here. But I was asked, when I spoke last week, what I think about WikiLeaks, so I thought it was time to write about them.

WikiLeaks isn’t anything new. They’re only speeding up the way we get our information and the way secrets are shared, but it feels like lack of control to the government (and probably to some of us, too). But you see, not even the government has ever really had control. Sure, it used to be if there were a rogue CIA agent, he or she would have to carry out boxes and boxes of information in order to share secrets (remember “The Firm” and how they rented an apartment to copy documents while Gene Hackman’s character was passed out?). Now those secrets can be downloaded onto a flash drive and shared in milliseconds.

We don’t have control. We have only the perception of control.

WikiLeaks has given power to transparency, which is something those of us who use the social web for business preach every day. Nothing has changed, in terms of secrets being released (hello Richard Nixon?). What has changed is the speed at which the secrets get out and the speed at which we learn what’s really going on.

Because of that, I think WikiLeaks are good. I think they’re good for the U.S. government, I think they’re good our for relations with other countries, and I think they’re good for business.

But business be warned: You may think this is all about the government and it won’t affect you. You’re wrong. If a jilted employee knows a secret, it will get out there and it will have the opportunity to go viral. Be prepared. Be transparent. Live the Golden Rule. If you do those three things, you won’t be caught with your pants down.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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58 Comments on "WikiLeaks End Our Perception of Control"

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kunter
5 years 9 months ago
Be prepared (updating ourselves to make valid business strategies?)Be transparent (go social as ‘sickly’ as possible? to the bitter end?)and … the Golden Rule? (here lemme explain some):– One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself– One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated (also called the Silver Rule) So that everybody may shout at your behind “the King is naked!!” – and since you’re the one who made himself transparent in the first place, you won’t bother it even a bit. After all, no such thing as bad… Read more »
CLGraphics
CLGraphics
5 years 9 months ago
Hallelujah sister! Can I get an Amen? I said… Can I get an Amen? Within our Social Media 101 seminars, we see much the same audience that you described. Men and women both attend, with the majority being 50+, and a few 20 to 30 folks generally round out our attendees. Very few fall into my own 40+ age group. During these seminars specifically, I always talk about how “we no longer have control of our brand” (as if we ever did, as you pointed out very well above). People have a hard time wrapping their heads around the fact… Read more »
meganbeausang
meganbeausang
5 years 9 months ago

I think it is fascinating that there are still people out there that believe only ‘kids’ use the internet…I truly believe they know they need to get educated but saying the internent is ‘just for kids’ is a lot easier…When I was in financial services, my mantra used to be “I just don’t get twitter.” It took a 90 minute webinar and 30 minutes to set up an account and my hootsuite and I was hooked. Sadly though, that came after two years of ‘poo-pooing’ twitter.

jamesjdonnelly
jamesjdonnelly
5 years 9 months ago

Gini,Transparency is a good thing. Forced transparency is both good and bad, in my opinion. It depends on the disclosures.If you or your readers are interested, I’ve written about WikiLeaks implications for business fairly extensively. The two main blog posts can be found under this tag: http://www.jamesjdonnelly.com/tag/wikileaks/Cheers,J.D.

EricPudalov
EricPudalov
5 years 9 months ago
I had heard about this site through a friend, and yes, I think overall, it’s a good thing. Like “meganbeausang” below, I also find it fascinating that there are adults who think only “kids” use the Internet…who are these people and what rock have they been living under? The Web, and all of its associated tools, are the primary drivers behind business for the most part (or is that an over-generalization?). If a company (or a branch of government) is engaging in unorthodox or illegal practices, I think people have a right to know. While it may frighten us, at… Read more »
EricPudalov
EricPudalov
5 years 9 months ago

@meganbeausang Megan, do you actually know anyone who’s come out and said that about the Internet? If that’s the case, I can only conclude that such people (no offense to them) are living in the “Dark Ages,” so to speak.

I love your statement about how you used to say “I just don’t get Twitter,” and then simply took a webinar and educated yourself to correct that. If only more people were so forward-thinking.

pacebutlercorp
pacebutlercorp
5 years 9 months ago

I agree with the others here that transparency is a good thing. It either provides an actual motivation for people to do business honestly, what a novel concept, or it forces people to become more cynical and trust in the inherent good of others less. Seth Godin has been preaching this for years. Wouldn’t it be easier to just do business honestly? Isn’t it way harder to be deceptive (it definitely takes more work and provides a much higher level of stress)?

rachaelseda
5 years 9 months ago
I know this type of sentiment oh to well and unfortunately this type of resistance and need for control ultimately brings down morale in the people who are trying to create the shift. It can be exhausting for people who are merely trying to do their job and bring everyone on board with using the web & social media as an integral part of the communication strategy of the organization only to be denied. When you are eager and enthusiastic to teach/show others (aka the 50 year old white male CEO you reference) the importance of the web for the… Read more »
rachaelseda
5 years 9 months ago

@meganbeausang Yes! I think Twitter is one thing that you don’t fully understand (no matter how much someone tries to sell you on it) until you do it yourself…and after a little bit of playing with it – you’re hooked!

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg
5 years 9 months ago
We see the same thing. We have many clients who come to us with big visions for their website or app, but then say “what about this Twitter thing/stuff…do you do that too, isnt that for college kids or something?” And it’s not just the older crowd either (although we do see it there heavily). We have plenty of clients in their 30’s who just dont embrace it, they do what they consider to be just enough, until one day they find out there was a negative tweet…they sure learn quickly then! I agree we don’t have “control”, but we… Read more »
gregorylent
gregorylent
5 years 9 months ago

full transparency already exists! nothing is hidden! it is all present on subtle planes, already. our world that we live in is already the aggregate of all that ever happened. the only change currently is … we are all become more subtle. the tech enables it.

pacebutlercorp
pacebutlercorp
5 years 9 months ago

Well said, “Rachaelseda”. This is obviously the line that Wikileaks and the rest of the world is trying to walk. Who do we have to blame for this? Who can we pin this to? In this case it is Julian Assange. “Gregorylent” could you explain better what you mean by “full transparency”? Not sure I quite agree with that wording.

EricPudalov
EricPudalov
5 years 9 months ago
@rachaelseda You know, Rachel, although in my earlier comment I had expressed that transparency is a good thing, I also agree that in some cases, confidentiality is important. I watch a lot of crime shows, and constantly, there are cases in which someone has to reveal very personal information relevant to a case. While I believe there are exceptions when it comes to the law, I think that individuals, especially, still have the right to privacy. However, in the instance of large corporations and branches of government, I also feel that if these entities are supposedly acting in our interest,… Read more »
jacobvar
jacobvar
5 years 9 months ago

Hi Gini, thanks for your thoughts. I agree that businesses are going to face the same problems that the govt is faced with in dealing with sectrets being ‘outed’. In fact, quite a few questionable businesses practices have already been mentioned in the wikileaks capers (Shell, Pfizer etc). As mass adoption of the social platform seems to be underway…I dont think anyone can hold back the tide.
The choice businesses and governments, hopefully the world over, will have to make :
Trying to hide questionable practises
VS.
learning to operate without questionable practises in the first place.

FollowtheLawyer
FollowtheLawyer
5 years 9 months ago

The watershed 1979 prior restraint media case United States of America v. The Progressive (467 F. Supp. 990) was the Wikileaks of its day. It grabbed national attention, raising issues of state secrets, national security and free speech. It seems kind of quaint today.

punchakpr
punchakpr
5 years 9 months ago

I love teaching people about social media! As soon as they overcome their fear of digital they embrace it. When it comes to twitter in particular, I hear a lot of “oooh, that’s what it’s for.”

Regarding Wikileaks, it’s about time we have an effective and inexpensive way to hold government/corporations accountable.

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 9 months ago
Geez Gini I have to hook you up with my multi-cultural posse from the West Coast. Oh wait none of them have corp jobs unless they work making movies, and the only speech they want to hear is about world peace, love + hugs, save the environment and the next great art project for burningman. Sorry you are stuck with the old white men. There is a great discussion on the last Beancast regarding the illusion of privacy from an online perspective. We do have privacy, it is not as complete as we expect. When it comes to managing a… Read more »
HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 9 months ago

took me 10 minutes to write this post and 2.5hrs to get it posted. I better get me at least 2.7 Livefyre points for this!

JulioRVarela
JulioRVarela
5 years 9 months ago

Wow, people these days leave a lot of great comments on your blog. Am so proud you, Gini.

JulioRVarela
JulioRVarela
5 years 9 months ago

Wow, people are saying some very intelligent things here on this blog. Am so proud of you, Gini. The businesses that can balance transparency with trade secrets will be the winners in all this.

JMattHicks
5 years 9 months ago
I respectfully disagree about Wikileaks, gini dietrich . I just don’t see much good coming from them. Illegally received documents illegally released may cause SOME people to be more transparent out of fear, but more companies and governments will be much more restrictive of the information they release, they managing of that information, and will up the severity of the punishments for those who do leak them. My older brother is in Intelligence for the Air Force analyzing Predator (remotely piloted aircraft) and the little he can say about the situation points toward stricter controls; the Air Force just blocked… Read more »
JMattHicks
5 years 9 months ago
I respectfully disagree about Wikileaks, gini dietrich . I just don’t see much good coming from them. Illegally received documents illegally released may cause SOME people to be more transparent out of fear, but more companies and governments will be much more restrictive of the information they release, they managing of that information, and will up the severity of the punishments for those who do leak them. My older brother is in Intelligence for the Air Force analyzing Predator (remotely piloted aircraft) video feeds and the little he can say about the situation points toward stricter controls; the Air Force… Read more »
JMattHicks
5 years 9 months ago
I respectfully disagree about Wikileaks, gini dietrich . I just don’t see much good coming from them. Illegally received documents illegally released may cause SOME people to be more transparent out of fear, but more companies and governments will be much more restrictive of the information they release, they managing of that information, and will up the severity of the punishments for those who do leak them. My older brother is in Intelligence for the Air Force analyzing Predator (remotely piloted aircraft) video feeds and the little he can say about the situation points toward stricter controls; the Air Force… Read more »
wabbitoid
5 years 9 months ago
I have to take issue with the use of the word “we”. “We” do not have control as some kind of establishment any longer, that is true. In fact, the expert classes and those with the perception of power have not had control over things for a long time (approximately since 1968, but I digress). That has a lot to do with why our politics is so pedantic and divisive – the only enemy that can be dealt with is a cartoon or a strawman. This may appear to have nothing to do with advertising, but it has everything to… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago

@kunter The Silver Rule! LOL!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago

@CLGraphics Amen! 🙂

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago

@rachaelseda @meganbeausang And guess what?! Megan and I met through Twitter and now we work together! All because she educated herself and got out there. And @EricPudalov ? I have people that say that about the Internet ALL THE TIME.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago

@jamesjdonnelly Thanks! I’ll head over and read in a minute.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago

@EricPudalov You are right! Very right. And you’re monitoring the web, which puts you eons ahead of everyone else.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago

@pacebutlercorp It’s MUCH harder to do business in an unethical manner. Yet people do it all the time. I don’t get it. I’d be stressed out all the time.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago
@EricPudalov @rachaelseda I’m with Eric and I totally see what you’re presenting Rachael. I think there is a huge difference between transparency and confidentiality. I mean, in my example of The Firm, I said so in jest to prove how easy it is to walk away with secrets and post them anonymously to a site such as WikiLeaks. I do think if it the leak is at the detriment of someone’s health or the health of our country, freedom of speech doesn’t apply. But I also don’t think Assange is responsible for what people are leaking. Tomorrow I’m going to… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago

@jacobvar I like the distinction you make…which really is ethics or no ethics. Some people just suck.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago

@FollowtheLawyer It does seem kind of quaint today!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago

@HowieSPM How many points did you get?!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago

@JulioRVarela Crazy fun over here, Julito! You haven’t been by in a while and it makes me so happy to see you!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago

@JMattHicks What?! You disagree? WITH ME?!? 🙂 I see your point. I don’t agree, but I definitely think there is a way to balance your way and my way. Care to meet me in the middle?

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 9 months ago

@ginidietrich one! after all that! sigh

JulioRVarela
JulioRVarela
5 years 9 months ago

@ginidietrich @JulioRVarela I feel like I have to write like a whole paragraph here. These people are so much smarter than me.

Doug_Davidoff
Doug_Davidoff
5 years 9 months ago
Uh-oh. Gini, I respectfully disagree as well. I don’t want to get lost in the politics of WikiLeaks, so I’ll avoid that issue. My concern is your point about the power of transparency. My feeling: All good things in doses. Yes, on balance transparency is good. Too much transparency is bad. For two reasons:1. The signal to noise ratio makes it impossible to understand anything. The “maker” of prospectuses learned this long ago. When laws and regulations required public companies to disclose potential negative information it wreaked havoc on businesses. How can they raise money AND be honest. That’s when… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago

@JulioRVarela Puh-lease! I know where you went to school. You can hold your own!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago
@Doug_Davidoff LOL! I wouldn’t want most people to know what you’re thinking, either! I don’t know. Like I said to @JMattHicks I think there is some middle ground. And I think the middle ground is do business ethically and live the Golden Rule. If you do that, everything will work out in the end. After all, there are things we shouldn’t tell our staff or clients (for instance, I’m having a terrible day, but if I ran around here telling everyone that, it’d shoot morale), but transparency is good around the idea of not sticking our heads in the sand… Read more »
zn_moment
zn_moment
5 years 9 months ago

I wonder whether the way how internet opens a convinient transperancy will survive without power holders interruption/regulation. Anyways, there is another great article about this “Just watch us: The utopian dream of total openness” and worth to read at http://goo.gl/aERdn.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago

@zn_moment Thanks! I’ll check it out.

Frank_Strong
Frank_Strong
5 years 9 months ago
Gini, I agree with your premise, I disagree with your analogy. Apples and oranges. Governments can and should have secrets. There’s case law that establishes as much. Stealing secrets is no different than you stealing a bike and selling it to me. I’m an accessory after the fact. People, that is citizens living in the countries we operate, won’t talk to us at all if they fear someone might find out. Because if someone does find out their lives — and those of their families — are in jeopardy. Real human lives. It’s not a game. It’s not posturing. I’ve… Read more »
kunter
5 years 9 months ago

@ginidietrich as it was suggested in Wikipedia..

kunter
5 years 9 months ago
@rachaelseda @meganbeausang Everybody seems convinced enough that without paying a buck they could keep hassling the people with unsolicited matterial. And I’ll see you, with all due respect my friends, how hard you might wanna run away from those people, no different than ‘us’ people, having their “hooks” on you and begun bombarding you with tons of bizzare – if not commercial stuff. One problem about humanity, not actually for twitter, is that, we are awfully crowded, as everything in the universe perhaps, we are getting to be abundant as well 🙂 yet, only us want to grow in business… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago

@Frank_Strong Very fair. I think we actually agree. I was making the point of WikiLeaks from a business perspective. But I also think Assange being arrested is dumb.

JMattHicks
5 years 9 months ago

@ginidietrich Venture to the middle? Sure, I’m always down to visit new destinations 😉 Hopefully it’s sunny and NOT rainy like SF right now.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 9 months ago

@JMattHicks Or snowy with mountains so we can ski!

JMattHicks
5 years 9 months ago

@ginidietrich Every since I met jenna langer , I’ve felt the overwhelming urge to snowboard.

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