Embrace the Transparency

If you asked me ten years ago whether I would be writing a blog, I would have been more than a little skeptical. You probably would have gotten a sarcastic quip as a response. Blogging! Ha! Even now, I still have a hard time understanding how it is that we came to be in such a digitally connected world, socially, within a short time frame. Even more surprising are the success of corporate blogs. Who knew blogging was more than personal? Or is it……isn’t a corporate blog just another person sharing their take on things?

In the corporate world, taking on social media is a challenge at first, building up effective community forums takes a huge resource load and what about blogging? Including a blog in a company’s social strategy is a risk and may not be at the top of the list for many. I’m sure many executives are hesitant to touch the “weblog” world and receive instant feedback on their product mix’s minimal or giant flaws. But, we’ve learned that this risk might be worth taking, as demonstrated by a tech giant, Dell.

Dell started facilitating offshore support in 2001 and was in a downward spiral of customer dissatisfaction, as shown by one blogger in 2005. After two failed repairs and a false or non-existent in home service plan, he took to the web and really let the world know about his troubles. He created an audience for Dell’s flaws and he finally got their attention. This set in action what is now Dell’s blog resolution team, where they monitor blogs then coordinate with all departments to respond appropriately (groundswell, 2011). But they definitely should have been involved in the conversation earlier on.

To be most successful, the first recommendation is to start small. Instead of jumping in head first to all aspects of social technology, it’s best to strategically choose one and let its plan be completed and evaluated. Look for current issues and use the technology to solve them (groundswell, 2011), while focusing on the success and impact of the step instead of its grandeur.

26354592713_e49a79f066_zThe next tip is to have a plan. Want to post to Facebook, Twitter and create a blog? How about envision what conversations you will be having with your customers in a year, or two. Or describe the relationship you will have with them at that point (groundswell, 2011). How will you get there?  A good example is the Canadian Red Cross. They have an interesting and informative blog and on May 5th, one blog post in particular, The Red Cross Responds to Alberta Fires, attracted a lot of attention due to the Fort McMurray wildfires dire situation. It’s a summary of what was happening, how they were helping and who to contact to register for assistance. The 96 odd comments range from support phone numbers not working to international donations to accommodation offerings to mental health services support. They responded to the comments requiring assistance but let some others be owned by the online community and rightfully so. The Canadian Red Cross also had a huge Twitter and Facebook presence during the fires and still do. They are doing an amazing job at communicating and set a good example of how it’s best to focus on the communication instead of the medium. #AlbertaStrong.

Now, how do you choose who will communicate the most effectively? A surprising expert blogger is executive Bill Marriott, Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Marriott International, Inc. His blog, Bill Marriott On The Move, is as interesting as it is broad. From a self-described “technophobe”, he has written blogs such as Smiles Are Better Than Smiley Faces and My First Twitter Chat, and also tackles politics, religion and education. But be warned, not all executives might fare so well. Make sure to have the right people blogging. Like Bill, they are passionate and customer-centric (groundswell, 2011), being both interesting and trusting to the readers. As Bill says himself, “in this fascinating information age, you have to be transparent” (Marriott).

This brings me to the next step. Ensure to include the leaders in the planning. Management at all levels will need to be on board and feel empowered by the groundswell, just as those executing the plan. You’ll need to be persuasive in explaining how with this method, you’ll become so engaged with your customers that you walk in step with their needs and wants (groundswell, 2011). Wait…isn’t this what we’ve been waiting for?! As stated by Best Buy CEO Brad Anderson, a legitimate groundswell guru, they saw their employee base as a “natural asset” with ideas of “authenticity” that could more easily “develop a community”(Hirshberg). They soon learned that Management needed to have the “curiosity to listen” to the ideas generated by these employees to continue to be motivating leaders.

I’m sure for every successful company, there are a few that fail, but even in this new world of communication, there are strategic steps you can take to avoid the mishap. Remember Dell? They quickly learned to join the conversation and be more transparent in doing so (groundswell, 2011). Don’t forget, authenticity is key. You might as well blog about your blunders – everyone else is!

 

 

References

 

Canadian Red Cross. (2016, 05 05). Red Cross Blog. Retrieved from http://www.redcross.ca/blog/2016/5/the-red-cross-responds-to-alberta-fires

Canadian Red Cross. (2016, 05 06). Flickr. Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/canadian_redcross/26354592713/in/album-72157668277599135/

Charlene Li, J. B. (2011). groundswell. Forrester Research, Inc.

Hirshberg, P. (2009). Retrieved from Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/2085435

Marriott, B. (n.d.). Marriott On The Move. Retrieved from http://www.blogs.marriott.com/marriott-on-the-move/about-marriott-blog.html

Schaefer, M. (2011, 01 05). businessgrow.com. Retrieved from http://www.businessesgrow.com/2011/01/05/the-10-best-corporate-blogs-in-the-world/

World Travel and Tourism Council. (2016, 04 06). Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-YZYn16TaNs

Photo By: Ian Schneidere:https://unsplash.com/photos/TamMbr4okv4

 

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