Watching Robert Scoble's video interview with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is the confirmation for me that formal, pre-planned and carefully-controlled organizational communication has now reached an evolutionary end point.
Traditionally, planning and managing communication in organizations is a function managed by people skilled in particular areas of communication (corporate, marketing, PR, investor, internal, etc). So planning and doing an interview like this would typically involve quite a few people in different functions, all of whom would participate in arriving at a decision about it.
Yet an interview like this one turns much of the traditional approach to communication - and, indeed, the traditional communication function - upside down.
Here we have Robert Scoble (who's not part of a formal and traditional communication function) who can set up an interview with the CEO that's highly informal and unstructured, discuss topics that would be carefully pre-planned and controlled - scripted, even - in a typical company, and then immediately publish the resulting video on a public website for all the world to see. That includes employees.
While Microsoft may not (yet) be typical of the average company in terms of its sheer openness and transparency - meaning that most companies would be unlikely to bare all, so to speak, in this way - an interview like this is a tremendous example of some new and different thinking that can be employed alongside traditional thinking. And I'm not suggesting that, in this example, Robert just went ahead and did the interview without consultation with, let's say, the formal communication structure in Microsoft.
If I were a communicator at Microsoft, I'd want to find out what different people think about this video interview. While you could do that through informal means like quick surveys and just asking people, I'd want to measure it a bit more formally and see how it's perceived in the context of overall (yes, formal) communication.
However it was planned and whatever the objectives are that it will try and achieve, it's a great example. It also gives you some sense of Ballmer the person in a far more authentic way than the dry and formal bio you see on the Microsoft website.
Technical note re video still image
The image of Ballmer you see above is a frame from the video. Trying to capture a still image from the video proved to be very tricky indeed using the screen capture programs I tried (Paint Shop Pro 8, Snag-It and HyperSnap DX 5, and even the printscreen function in Windows XP). In each case, all I got was a solid black object.
I figured it must be something to do with things like video layers, codecs and even needing hardware like a video capture card. Reading a paper on video capture in the Windows XP Resource Kits helped me understand things a bit more but not find an easy solution. All I wanted to do was quickly capture a still image from this video, not deeply understand all the technical stuff about it.
Then I found TopazMoment. What a terrific program! All I did was download it, install it, open the video in it and capture a still image. That's it. If I needed to do this a lot, I would buy this program. Free to try for 30 days then $39.99.