The art of conversation is dying, but not in business. A 'conversation' is a civilised exchange of thoughts and words, to which both parties contribute. That makes it an odd word to describe what happens between a company and its customers, where what is normally exchanged are goods and money. But that was before the 'brand conversation', a fashionable concept in which you encourage people to talk about your product and then listen (and perhaps respond) to what they say. Thanks to modern developments in communications, creating a 'brand buzz' is easier than ever: blogs, messaging, chat, podcasts, texts, social networking sites and virals can all do their bit. When it works, it's great, because it's cheap. Google, you'll note, has never spent a penny on advertising to consumers. But these are not discussions you can control. Brand conversation can easily slip into brand gossip, brand bitching, and full-scale brand assassination. And then it won't be the art of conversation that's dying, it'll be you.