Traditional Communications Disrupted: Bigger, Faster, Riskier.
The rise of social technologies over the last few years has impacted the corporate communications department the first and often most severe. From angry bloggers to ratings and reviews these departments were some of the first to respond, and take ownership. In fact, Altimeter’s Research (figure 6.3) indicates that 30% of Corporate Social Strategists report to Corp Comm, 41% report to Marketing, where Corp Comm may reside under. Despite this adoption, these departments have undergone three major changes.
- Nearly all Employees are ‘Corporate Representatives’. Both a blessing and a curse, now traditional corporate spokespersons are spread to any employee who participates in social communications –even if they don’t ‘officially’ represent the company. Furthermore, we found in a recent survey that the average enterprise corporation has a whopping 178 social media accounts globally, the amount of communication touch points has drastically increased. To make matters more complicated, the blur between personal and work usage of social accounts like Twitter and Facebook confused communication professionals and employees alike.
- Companies Must Respond Faster to Customer Woes in Public. Forever gone is the days of sweeping customer complaints under the carpet, as in an easily findable ‘Google world’ corporations must address customers in public as many watch on. Furthermore we see that the speed required to respond increase, as minor issues can escalate to larger issues within a number of hours. Business communications is no longer limited to 9-5, but now a watchful eye has to be put in place, we see an increase of outsourcing to agencies that offer brand monitoring, community management, and real-time response increase.
- Comunication Crises On The Rise. Lastly, our recent research peering into 50 case examples has found that social media crises are on the rise year to year (see data). Ironically, we’ve segmented this by mentions of corporations in multiple ‘mainstream’ media rags, as those get the attention of executives and beyond. Why this increase? The media love to stick-it-to-the-man by telling stories of single consumers bucking a big nasty corporation, and with the pile-on-effect from social media these stories glean heavy traffic and comments.
Three Actionable Imperatives for Corporate Communications Groups
I’ve peered into many a corporate communications departments as I spend time with the world’s largest corporations and have found a trend among the most savvy. I’ve seen three clear trends which we’ve articulated in our latest report on Social Business Readiness (slides too), which you should download and distribute today, among them are:
- Relinquish Mindset of Control, Instead Usher ‘Enablement’. In business school, we were taught to foster message control and encourage all corporate representatives to stay on message. Yet today, as multiple business units from support, sales, HR and beyond participate in social technologies, communication is spread to the edges of the company –not just from executive comms. As a result, corporate communications groups have changed their mindset to safely enabling business units to communicate, based on pre-set parameters they put in place through governance, coordination, and workflow.
- Roll out Enterprise Workflows; Education Programs at Four Levels. We’ve found that savvy corporations have detailed workflows, one insurance company I’ve worked with has multiple workflows in place, including sample language in which employees should respond. Beyond creating these workflows, they must be distributed throughout the enterprise through education programs, and drilled. We’ve found savvy corporations have up to four types of education programs spanning: Executive team, social media team, business stakeholder teams, and finally all associates. Even if the mandate is for rank and file employees to not respond in social on behalf of the company, reinforcing education is still required.
- Host Mock Crises Across the Enterprise Today. Lastly, we’ve found a few savvy corporations working with agency partners have setup mock fire drills where they approach a week long crises in a number of hours in private. Not only does this test the mettle of the organization it provides useful training so companies can respond faster, in a more coordinated approach. We should expect compliance programs to eventually require corporations get ‘social-crises-ready’, I know of two brands that have already gone through this.
That’s my perspective on what I’m seeing in this space, would love to hear from you, what are savvy corporate communications departments doing today?