I’m a bit obsessed with corporate communication, broadly defined: how do organized groups of people talk to each other? More specifically, I’m obsessed with the culture of the all-hands email or memo. The fiery rally-the-troops memo, the anodyne corp-speak memo, the new-hire announcement memo, the he’s-fired departure memo—I think they’re all fascinating.
Corporate communication needs context, though. Nick Denton gives good memo, of course, and his latest is no exception—or is it? I wonder sometimes: do Gawker Media staffers roll their eyes at Denton’s memos? Do they say: “Not this again. He’s writing for the Observer, not for us”? Optimistically (maybe naively) I would like to believe that no, they say, maybe quietly to themselves: “Damn. I’m proud to work for a guy who can write something like that.”
Now I’m trying to think of famous memos. Maybe there aren’t that many that we know about? You’d probably have to go looking for subpoenaed corporate corpuses available to the public, right? And then you’d have to find the memos. Researchers went to work on the Enron emails, and I’m sure they’re hungrily devouring the State Department cables, but the focus there is on the entire corpus, and I really am just interested in one particular kind of message: the one-to-many announcement.
So you’d be looking for cc: all. You’d be looking for the email describing the re-org, the printout announcing the acquisition, the mimeograph detailing the new cost-cutting measures. You’d be looking at the length, the vocabulary, the style. You might even be looking for Nabokovs among the cubicles.
So seriously: famous memos? (Post-2000 tech-company murmurings are disqualified.)