Cisco Disco Very Video: Cisco Uses Vlogs.

I’m at blogwell in San Jose, listening to John Earnhardt Cisco Systems and Ken Kaplan from Intel discuss corporate blogging strategies. Cisco favors video, which is in keeping with its own telepresence efforts. Video has been more natural fit for Cisco because it is faster (to make), and more immediate and direct than writing. Drafts do not have to circulate before being published to a public-facing blog. According to Earnhardt, video is used by executives for corporate communication purposes and CEO John Chambers himself instituted regular video blogging in part to motivate his executive team (leading by example).

Video blogging does make sense for Cisco. Earnhardt called it “the future.” Whether used for technology demos (he cited their ecofriendly Green Bus) or for executive interviews and statements, its directness offers a clear advantage over blogging. I think it’s interesting that these companies have developed communities of practice internally — achieving a comfort level and sharing accountability (brand managers, IT, legal, executives, marcomm) inside the company to build a public-facing practice.

I wonder whether or not a preference for writing or video might also be a matter of executive personality. And whether the preferred medium of communication might also be intrinsic to a brand’s product or business. That doesn’t come up much at events like these: we tend to look for global solutions, generalizable learnings and best practices. But if a company has a very visual business, or one in which personality is the brand’s identity, it may wish to use video. By contrast, a company whose products require arguments, claims, or explanations for positioning may wish to use the advantages of written communication to develop public appeal. I don’t know if there’s a correlation between mode of media and the nature of what’s being communicated. Worth thinking about.

Interestingly, I recently saw a short Cisco video “From Frisco to Cisco.” (it’s been renamed: Cisco to Launch a Car? Why not call it “Driving the Cisco Kid” or “Cisco: not kidding around” or .. ) In contrast to what I heard today, which focused on the authenticity of having the company CEO describe company efforts in his own words, without scripting, this video was scripted, acted, and staged. It was marginally funny, and did little over its 2 and half minutes other than to build up to a meeting with CEO John Chambers (an encounter lost on the PR/press person sent to speak with him).

I suppose the idea was to raise the entertainment value of the video. But if you’re going to do that, and use your CEO, either your CEO has to have celebrity value (e.g. Steve Jobs) or your video has to be really good. Given the difficulty of pulling off something truly funny while staging it, and given that the CEO appears in his own vlogs already, I don’t see how the strategy can work. It walks a fine line (being too corny; being disingenuous; bad or poor taste) — and would seem to risk the investment Cisco has already made in transparency and straight-laced corporate integrity.

If I were Cisco I’d develop the cheesy narrative such that in the end it falls on the corporate chopping block, and is replaced with the original, genuine and authentic CEO chat. A sort of new coke, old coke thing. But those are just my 2 cents.

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