Why the ‘Future Directions’ Firewall Won’t Work

Squidoo_LogoTo:  John Fahey, CEO of NGS
Re:  Our Brand, in Public

Although National Geographic’s new Future Directions blog is hidden behind the Society’s firewall, other conversations about NGS are popping up all over the web. Here at Society Matters, of course. But also, as of today, at a new site called Brands In Public (BiP):


Home Depot, Allstate, Pizza Hut, and hundreds of other companies all have BiP pages, which are divided into two parts. One half is an unedited aggregation of what people are saying on the web about a company—the good, the bad, and the ugly; the other half is the voice of the company itself, but only if it’s willing to pony up $400 per month to curate that content.

What’s especially noteworthy is the title of BiP pages. For instance: “Welcome to National Geographic Central.” (Any thoughts on this digital land grab, John Caldwell and Robert Michael Murray?)

People can now discuss the NGS brand virtually anywhere, and they do. But where is the Society talking back? Where are the executives, managers, and staffers who speak for our Society and its future? Yes, there’s Future Directions, but employees who participate will be talking amongst themselves, locked behind the NGS firewall.

And that, John, leaves us wondering: Where exactly do you think the fire is burning? Outside that wall… or inside?

Our respectful suggestion: Take down the firewall. Open the Society’s windows and doors. Step outside and take a stroll. Meet and greet the people. We think you’ll like it out here—and discover that it’s a lot cooler than being trapped inside.


UPDATE: 26 September 2009

Seth Godin took some heat for his recent attempt at brandjacking, prompting him to quickly redesign his initial roll-0ut of Brands in Public. As a result, the BiP page for National Geographic now doesn’t feature much more than this:

BiP_HiSeth explains his change of thinking here. Clearly, he’s going to have difficulty making money by aggregating online chatter about brands—but that doesn’t mean the conversation won’t continue anyway.

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