By Nathan Rudyk
After several hard-fought strategy meetings, your CEO has finally agreed to participate in a blog, and maybe even write a few posts herself, so long as all incoming comments to that blog are vetted by the communications team or better yet, banned altogether. And she's absolutely right.
Not. Let me tell you a story:
My daughter Stephanie's been a big fan of the Dixie Chicks since she was a sing-song little girl and they were a bluegrass band with big hair asking cowboys to take them away at Lilith Fair in the late 90s.
So when Steph, now a thoughtful 15, asked me to pick up the new Dixie Chicks DVD "Shut Up & Sing" so she could watch it with a friend of hers, I beetled right over to the local video store.
As somebody who's questioned the current U.S. President in my own artistic life, like many Canadians I didn't think too much about Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines' comments at a U.K. concert in the run-up to the Iraq quagmire, other than "Duh!".
As the Dixie Chicks documentary makes clear, a "Duh!" in Canada and the rest of the world in 2003 was much more of a Bart Simpson "D'oh!" in Heartland U.S.A., replete with death threats, radio bans, and CD burning demonstrations.
Yet the Dixie Chicks have prevailed. Honesty (plus fine songwriting, brilliant harmonies, excellent musicianship and three great-looking ladies who know how to entertain) can triumph if given a chance against a regime U.S. historians have rated either the worst or one of the worst presidencies in the history of their country.
As the Dixie Chicks respositioned over the last four years to leave hoop skirts and country stations behind for rock couture and urban media superstardom (including the five Grammy awards they won last month) they also adopted an no-holds-barred blogging strategy.
Here's a March 11th comment from AlaskaMan:
I just have to laugh at the way MSN is writhing around trying to revive these girls lost careers. Buying Grammy's that your own poll finds unlikely. Your own polls reject the idea that they are being censored. They are marginally talented, their best work being funny songs like "Earl's Gotta Die", and have no future. The answer is simple, all of your fans are in Canada. Go there, I'm sure you'll find the Canadians much more aligned with you both politically and intellectually. They're stupid and gutless too.........LMAO.
And here's a March 13th comment from Timothy:
Ok, so I have been reading the blog, and I have to say I LOVE IT. but its not a big surprise, I have always loved the dixie chicks and never in a million years I would get rid of any of the cd's. I was out of the country for a few months and I came back to read the blog and stay up to date on dixie-news, today I saw the documentary for the first time, and I was painfully reminded of what we as americans look at, we have become mindless zombies in a war against the media and their control over (even) politics and our opinions of it. CHICKS my heart was, is and always will be with you and your music, PLEASE keep being as talented as you have always been. LOVE YA!
There are thousands of comments in the Dixie Chicks blog. And the band, now a global brand, leaves it to the reader to sort, sift and align himself with the opinions that suit him. A click on either of the comments above will show you that all the "bad" contributors have done is inspire incredible brand loyalty among Dixie Chicks fans. It's a classic example of collective intelligence in action.
I should also note that the Dixie Chicks have employed an "embedded blogger" - a California law professor named Junichi Semitsu who was the designated social media dude for their summer tour and seems to be sticking with it. If you read his stuff, which he freely admits is vetted before it goes online, you'll see the Chicks chose well. Junichi isn't pretending to be one of the band members, he's a blogging member of the band, and writes what he sees and personally experiences.
So your fearless leader doesn't actually have to write her own posts. But if she delegates the job, the person doing it might think about taking a pixel or two out of the Dixie Chicks blogging playbook, including allowing the commenters do their thing so loyal customers build your brand - inspired by the skeptics.