Thursday, May 25, 2006

A good cheerleader also brings home the bacon

I've been writing a lot lately about Web 2.0 and social media and the whole world coming together in peace and harmony, brought about by our wholesale adoption of the ideals embodied in open and honest communications -- sorry. Got carried away there.

It's easy for me to get carried away with things I enjoy. I like thinking about possibilities and how some new thing could be used to make my life a lot better - or at least more interesting.

But not everyone shares that enthusiasm.

The morning after the Mesh Conference wrapped up, I attended a breakfast seminar put on by my local IABC chapter. I sat down next to a guy about my age, who was also in corporate communications. So, naturally, I was gushing about how much fun I'd just had and how exciting this whole social media thing was and then I looked at his face.

I might as well have been speaking in another language He wasn't interested at all. Sure, he used a computer, but only because he had to. He wasn't interested in any of the technical stuff. And he certainly had no interest in tagging, or IM, or get the picture.

If I were trying to sell this guy on the benefits of blogging or other Web 2.0 applications, I figure it would be a tough sell. And I know that as much as I think this is the leading edge of a revolution, a lot of my colleagues don't see it the same way.

Lee Hopkins has an interesting post about this issue. Lee's feeling frustrated that despite a lot of effort on his part talking about all the benefits of this new way of communicating, few of his business clients are embracing his ideas.
But pounding the pavement and pounding the keyboard about this new technology is having little to no effect. My one client that has ‘got it’ has ‘got it’ in a major way and we’ll be rolling out stage two of several stages just as soon as they can figure out how to cope with the substantially-increased requests for their time that stage one — a blog — has generated. I’ve got another client who is about to launch into blogging because they trust me when I tell them it is the right thing for them to do (and I believe that for them it is). Another client has started a blog, but still don’t publish anywhere near as often as they should to build up momentum. Another client has put the construction of their blog on temporary hold while they cope with ‘Business As Usual’ with two of the three partners off on maternity leave.

It can be tough work to be an evangelist. And Lee is wondering whether the effort is worth it.

I think it is. I think the effort is worth it. Especially when you're trying to sell a business on the benefit of trying something new. The old saw about "the importance of the bottom line" is true. It's got to be good for business.

The growth of the Web has made it easy to deliver really cool applications to a wide audience - but often they aren't feasible for business. Businesses have a responsibility to be be, well, responsible. They can’t just try out every new idea and see how things go.

They need need to be convinced that it’s worth their while and that it will ultimately be good for shareholders, customers and employees alike.

One thing I’ve noticed is that for an idea to gain traction, it has to be proven to be a time-saver. People are too busy to implement something that means more work - either for them or their team - no matter how appealing the results might be.

So we need to come up with a way to demonstrate how implementing these Web 2.0 ideas will result in improvements across the board - time savings, costs savings, revenue generation etc. If not, they won’t fly.

One encouraging example of demonstrating how these new ideas can make a business work is a new way of delivering news releases from Shift Communications. They're using the Web, RSS, tags, Flickr, Skype -- you name it. It's all packaged into a very useable template and is designed to add something tangible to the discussion about whether the press release is dead or not in today's' Web-enabled world.

For a great description of the benefits of this, read Shel Holtz's post about it. He does a far better job of breaking it down than I can.

It's just one example, but it's a good one, of how we as communicators need to come up with tools that our clients can use to improve their business. It doesn't mean we stop being cheerleaders. But if we're going to really be effective, we've got to be able to follow through and deliver "bottom line results."

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1 comment:

donna papacosta said...

Very thoughtful post, Dave!

My two cents: Whether our clients "get it" now is irrelevant. We need to position ourselves as the experts they will turn to WHEN THEY ARE READY to use new technologies. In my own business, traditional communications makes up about 95% of my revenue at this point. But I won't lose heart. ;-)