This is interesting… faking community participation, not good…
Rich Kulawiec writes in to let us know that Sears.com and Kmart.com (owned by Sears) have been inviting visitors to those sites to “join our community.” However, rather than joining any actual community, what you appear to be doing is installing spyware that reports on your every move online.
You can’t buy reputation either… That’s one of Richard’s thesis I really agree with…
My central thesis is that corporations can’t buy reputation or brand loyalty any more. These are earned through performance over the long-term. The dispersion of media; people’s continuous partial attention from a surfeit of daily impressions; and the lack of trust in traditional institutions and leaders are all driving this evolution.
…The pyramid of influence, the classic C. Wright Mills description of the power elite where information moves one way from pinnacle to the mass audience below, has been eclipsed. The new reality for communications is the sphere of cross reference, in which information moves unpredictably among equal stakeholders. Conversations now occur spontaneously, in peer-to-peer discussion, with individuals creating their own webs of trust including people like themselves. Our task in PR must be to facilitate and contribute to the discussion in both the controlled vertical axis reaching traditional audiences such as investors, regulators and mainstream media, and on the horizontal axis to inform employees, passionate consumers, NGOs and communities.
Tom Friedman wrote a column in the New York Times on June 27, 2007 called, “The Whole World is Watching,” that “In this transparent world, how you live your life and conduct your business matters more than ever…Companies that get their ‘hows’ wrong won’t be able to clean up their mess by taking a couple of reporters to lunch…But this also creates opportunities…’how’ you keep your promises … build trust…collaborate…lead…that is where companies can now really differentiate themselves.”
[...] In conversations with another McKinsey colleague, Tom Hayes, a former NYT reporter, we came up with the term “corporate journalism” to describe what we were doing inside of the Firm: applying classic reporting techniques inside of an organization to determine what, if anything, was “interesting” and deserved attention. That filter, “interesting” is subjective. Through McKinsey’s lens it meant information that could enrich the firm through more client engagements and increase the effectiveness of its consultants.
This takes me back to a phrase that Mark Tolliver used lots when I was at Sun: “evidence based marketing“. In short, get rid of all the platitudes and well-worn phrases and start with the evidence – then back into they hype if you must. These two concepts together are powerful – communications, message-making, marketing, the act of business, all should start with investigative rigor and evidence. From there, a fair dose of honesty and transparency is required.
Good communicators know this and smart executives commit to it.
The Wall Street Journal has a piece this morning on how Bill Gates developed his commencement address for Harvard.
What’s intriguing is how committed Bill is to the process – this is rare in an executive.
A couple of observations:
- Pick keynotes your execs can get passionate about. As much as you want to establish a sense of importance, it can only be important to them if it is important to them.
- Pick issues, topics, themes that those same execs can get really passionate about. Chances are it isn’t the industry you are in.
- Models are useful – speeches by others provide good context and illumination. In Bill’s case: “The speech, delivered at Harvard’s commencement on June 5, 1947, outlined the Marshall Plan, the bold economic relief program that lifted Europe from the ashes of World War II. To Mr. Gates, the general was describing the challenges facing postwar Europe in terms similar to how the software billionaire sees his own, 21st-century crusade: using philanthropy as a catalyst for reducing global inequities in health, wealth and education.”
- Tone is as important as content. Don’t confuse the Exec’s tone with the tone required for the audience and speech. Bill groked that: “In late May, Mr. Gates tapped Mr. Buffett again. He wanted to press graduates to become more aware and active in helping solve global inequities but was worried about sounding “overly preachy.” Mr. Gates went to Omaha, Neb., for the annual shareholders meeting of Berkshire Hathaway, Mr. Buffett’s company on which Mr. Gates serves as a board member. After the meeting, Mr. Buffett gave Mr. Gates some tips on delivery and tone.”
- The notion of the single speech writer might work in Political circles but you are going to have a greater chance of success by bringing in collaborators. In Bill’s case: “When he started working on the speech in December, he used as a sounding board a Gates Foundation staff member who had written for Slate, the online magazine started by Microsoft. The two traded outlines and drafts of the speech. By the end, Mr. Gates and his staff had met six times for brainstorming sessions, completed six drafts and traded many long emails. Mr. Gates wrote some of the longest ones himself.”
- And, no matter how good you are at collaborating and crafting the content, the exec has to be committed to molding the speech into something special. I’m not talking about the standard rehearsal the day or hour before. I’m talking about time spent on putting their thumb-print on it.