Monday, October 22, 2012

Rethinking Communities - Big Blue Thoughts

I'm currently curating what I believe to be some of the best discussions on YouTube about the next step for media. You quickly realize that every company is a media company, a term coined by Silicon Valley journalist Tom Foremski. We both share an interest in the world of startups and the shifting sands under the feet of traditional media. I note that his blog hasn't been updated in a while, - but it always take longer to implement the ideas.

I would argue that every company is now a media company – including many of the startups I am currently working with in Amsterdam. However, not every company knows how to share stories. In the case of broadcast media, the audience wants to participate as social media integrates with traditional media. But few broadcasters understand what the audiences are sharing with them, always going on the defensive and hiding behind big numbers as proof of their "success".  They are still in one-way push communications, especially the commercial broadcasters who have sold the audience to advertisers without asking the audience's permission.

Tom points to an excellent presentation by Jon Iwata, Senior VP Communications and Marketing at IBM at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism in March 2010. Don't let the date put you off. You could change it to October 2012 and everything still fits into place. Since Western Europe is at least two years behind Silicon Valley in it's thinking, reviewing this now makes a lot of sense. Please skip to around the 24 minute mark to cut out lengthy welcoming remarks.

Tom also did a profile of Jon Iwata in which he quotes from the speech in the video above. I believe it deserves re-reading - and then action. Just replace PR with the word broadcast, or start-up. 

"When you think about the PR profession -- what it'll look like 10 years from now - start not with PR but with the world at large; not with the decade, but the century," said Iwata, adding that a century from now, the world will look back on the early 20th century as a time when "civilization took a great leap forward," marked by "changes in what people know, changes in what people expect and ultimately changes in behaviour."
Though attempting to analyse such a period of change while simultaneously experiencing it continues to prove difficult, Iwata identified new disciplines in the corporate function, emerging from an environment characterized by transparency and readily available information. At the core of these emergent disciplines is a stress on behaviour management--a sense of corporate integrity permeated down to and communicated directly from the individual employee.
"Lincoln said character is like a tree, reputation is like its shadow," Iwata said. "Many believe their job is to manipulate the shadow rather than tend to the health of the tree. In this world of transparency and democratized media, it is increasingly difficult for organizations and individuals to lead double lives. There can be no image management without behaviour management.
"People care about the corporation behind the soft drink, or bank account, or computer - they do not divorce their opinions of that company from the company's products and services."
Iwata went on to suggest that the behaviour and subsequent image of a company goes far beyond the surface, indicating a need for the instilment of unique corporate values among all employees, as "they only matter if lived and applied consistently by everyone in the company."
According to Iwata, it is through the consistent maintenance of and adherence to a brand's values and promise that they are able to succeed in another emerging discipline--that of building constituencies. The idea of merely reaching an audience and achieving message penetration is not enough. "Pumping out information only adds to the noise and compounds the challenge of being heard... Value will come from offering perspective and useful information and providing a contribution to our audience's knowledge."
Citing Apple as a company that does this well, Iwata suggested, "They don't just advertise, they teach. They don't just sell, they create learning experiences in their stores. They want you to learn everything their product can do, so then you will teach others... In the process they recruit new and loyal customers that become advocates and evangelists."
Crafting and disseminating a valuable message and building this constituency is no longer, however, the task of solely communications professionals. Iwata described a third and final major shift as the development of the eminence of a company's workforce--training employees to act and communicate as experts who produce valuable information for the public and extend the power of the brand.
"2010 is the year that corps grapple with and ultimately accept that their employees are engaging with social media... But simply having your people on the net is not the differentiator. It's what they do once they get there."

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