What the White House rickroll (kind of) means

The book Cluetrain Manifesto is often regarded as an early vision (from 1999) of informal and authentic communication between human beings online. It contrasts that with the often insincere brochure-speak beloved of corporations and institutions.

Now, I’m sure this will be misinterpreted by humourless columnists and equally derided on forums for even being a bit passé. But I like it: on Tuesday the person given legitimate control of the White House Twitter account rickrolled somebody. That is, he did a little prank which you can read about in the news item. It’s a little glimpse of humanity at work.

Is it a sign that the Cluetrain lessons and practices have truly reached trusted staff, at least over in the USA?

I can’t imagine any public organisation or council doing something like this in Wales just yet, where often there are attempts by management to block social media platforms like Twitter.

It’s not that I”m asking for a big rickrolling craze to start in the public sector. That would be boring. And I’m not asking for a bunch of press coverage around some ‘cheeky’ branding campaign that’s been constructed in detail. This is for everyone, not just about whoever’s responsible for PR, publicity, branding and marketing, although it’s relevant for them.

The point I’m trying to make is: are people in your organisation allowed to use whatever tools they want or need to use, to enjoy their work and to communicate with people outside the building without having to adopt a false, guarded corporate tone? In other words can they converse online they way they’re inclined to talk anyway, like human beings? If they’re not, what is stopping them?