business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

It certainly has been a couple of weeks in which email has been top of mind.

First it was revealed that when she was Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton used a private email system, not the official State Department system ... which she explained this week as being a matter of "convenience," not an obsessive desire for secrecy. (She's about to be inconvenienced in a big way and give up a lot of her secrets. So much for obsession.) The business lesson here was simple - don't ever delude yourself that you can control the narrative by not being transparent. It doesn't work.

Then, there was the admission by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), a potential GOP presidential contender, that he could never find himself in a similar position, since he's never sent an email. I also found a business lesson in here ... as in, how many boards of directors would hire a CEO who had never sent an email? Wouldn't that at least create the appearance of being out of touch not just with modern technology, but with real life?

Now, I've gotten some email on this subject, which you can read in "Your Views." But the New York Times had a story yesterday about how Graham is in a fairly sizable club, because there are a bunch of senators who use email rarely, if at all.

Like ... Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona). Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York). Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Sen. Tom Carper (D-Delaware). (A bipartisan group, to be sure.)

There was even a story this week about how former President Bill Clinton has sent only two emails in his entire life (though he a Twitter user). And the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts)? When he was issued a Blackberry by the Senate leadership back in the day, he handed it to an assistant and it was never seen again. (The Times coins a name for the politicians who are technology-challenged: The Flip Phone Caucus.)

I have to admit, this has been an Eye-Opener. It never occurred to me that so many people leading this country would be so against the use of a modern and ubiquitous technology, and in some cases would even take pride in their disaffection.

Different people will view this mini-trend in different ways. Some politicians say that the use of email would get them in trouble, because it would allow them to say what they think and feel without a filter. Personally, I'm a little concerned that public officials are willing to admit so openly that they need a filter to keep them from being honest ... that their stated opinions are far more calculated than that. (I always knew this was the case ... but I didn't expect them to admit it.) For me, this is less about politics, and more about being relevant to and engaged with the time in which you exist and the people that you are supposed to be serving and leading. (Just as in business, it is about being relevant to and engaged with your customers. Get that wrong, and you're out of business.)

Again, it is all about controlling the narrative. Except that now, the narrative is gaining its own momentum ... and I have to wonder if there will be electoral consequences to be paid by all sides.

I hope so. But then again, maybe that's just me.
KC's View: