Who Has Control?

For decades, the overriding construct of good marketing and public relations was that you had to tightly control the message your company was broadcasting to the world. Commercials, press releases, and other materials were carefully meted, checked, and rechecked to make sure everything was “on message”.

In the 00’s (the “aughts,” if you’re wondering how to pronounce that), we like to call these things “talking points.” Even though we are still in an environment where the method by which we share information is changing on a frequent basis, companies still like to make sure that everyone is toeing the line. After all, you want to make sure that everything is portrayed in the most positive light possible, right?

The problem with this approach is that in this post-Cluetrain, post-information-revolution age, control is an illusion.

Companies don’t have control anymore.

The control has passed to the consumers. To the rank-and-file. Your company might try to stay on-message, but look at the statistics. People don’t trust “official” communication now. They see it as too closely managed, too dishonest and impersonal. They want to hear from someone they trust.

Your customers have already taken the conversation to places you possibly haven’t thought. Are they on Facebook? Twitter? A forum somewhere? Email lists of their colleagues? You’re not going to reach them by elbowing in on their turf with an impersonal, robotic corporate mouthpiece and a few posts somewhere. They don’t want subversion; they don’t want to be crushed. They might even be avoiding you.

They want you to participate. And they want you to participate—as in you, the person who is reading this. Not your company. Not some official place for them to gather information. They want to hear from people on the inside, from people very much like them. They want to “get to know you” and to build a relationship of trust.

Sometimes, they want to lavish praise on you. Sometimes, they want to dump on you. They want to share their opinions, and they want honest, personal responses and discussion. The reward for your participation in this conversation is that you earn a measure of trust and can then share with them things that interest you—and those are very likely the things you are working on. (At least, they should be, or you should find a different job.)

They’re in the driver’s seat now.

What are you going to do about it?

We Need Blogging Ghostbusters

Michael Hyatt tells a story of meeting with another publishing CEO regarding blogging:

He asked, “How do I get started blogging?” My heart lept (sic). I knew he would have an instant audience. I, for one, would love to read what he had to say. I imagined all kinds of things I could learn from him.

Then he dashed my hopes. “Who do you use to ghost write your blog?” he asked.“Excuse me?” I choked.

“I mean, who do you use to write your blog? Could I possibly hire him or could you recommend someone that is really good?”

Honestly, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The guy obviously did not get it. I blurted out, “I don’t use a ghost writer. I write every word myself.”

He then said, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly do that. I don’t have the time.”

Without thinking, I said, “Then you shouldn’t do it at all.”

The worst thing you can do with blogging or Twitter or social networking of any kind is to set it up and then make someone else do all the work for you (the second-worst is to begin something and then let it lay fallow). Engaging with people on the Internet and within social media spheres is about making personal connections, not about being a company mouthpiece. Read through Mike’s quote up above: he recounts his anticipation of another CEO from a large publisher actively blogging about what he finds interesting and what he can share about the industry and his unique position.

He’s then very disappointed at the impersonality of his peer’s request. Why? Because he was looking to make a connection. To learn and grow within the industry by reading what someone else has to say—and to engage in conversation.

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