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THe New Communications Playbook

Having been in communications for much of my career it is rare to see any company communicate with courage. So often intent is made opaque by murky language and hyperbole. Corporate word bingo can be played off most announcements. But not Google’s yesterday.

Google’s move last night ushers in a new order in communications. Protocols and the business-as-usual approach to government and business get replaced with transparency and honesty. The first priority, it would seem, is their shareholder and users.

From over at the Merc:

"In a world in which we are so used to public relations massaging of messages, this stands out as a direct declaration. It’s amazing," said Jonathan Zittrain, professor of Internet law at Harvard Law School and co-director of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. 

Imagethief beats me to the punch on this one… but it is dead-on.

Google has taken the China corporate communications playbook, wrapped it in oily rags, doused it in gasoline and dropped a lit match on it. In China, foreign companies tend to be deferential to the authorities to the point of obsequiousness, in a way that you would almost certainly never encounter in the United States or Europe. Scan any foreign company’s China press releases and count the number of times you see the phrase, "commitment to China". Demonstrating "alignment with the Chinese government’s agenda" is an accepted tenet of corporate positioning and corporate social responsibility work in China. This is testament to the degree of direct power that the Chinese authorities wield over the fortunes of foreign businesses in China. Even when foreign companies are in dispute with the Chinese government they tend to offer criticism obliquely as long as they have a business stake or operations in the country. Note, for example, the scrupulous diplomacy of Rio Tinto’s communications concerning the detention of its employees last summer, a far more serious situation than anything Google has encountered (although also with far more money at stake).

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