Peter Himler, a PR exec who blogs at the refreshingly bluntly named The Flack, just told the story of his trip to Moscow and talks with big executives there about the empowered customer online. They didn’t much take to the idea:
My presentation focused on how the changed media landscape and the empowerment of citizens as journalists have caused a major re-think in how companies engage their customers. One attendee found it incredulous that a blogger would have the audacity to denigrate a company’s reputation, as was the case with the Comcast repairman video or Jeff Jarvis’s rants against Dell. Another asked whether it’s even legal to write negatively about a company or person. I cited the First Amendment, but also referenced the lawsuit brought against two former employees by Apple for divulging trade secrets.
It makes sense that a culture with a heritage of political totalitarianism would move into a culture of corporate totalitarianism: Better living through Gazprom. But I think the internet may well cause corporate dictatorships to fall faster than political ones.