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Archive for July 2009

The buck now stops at everyone’s desk

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I’ve often criticised government bureaucrats for hastening slowly with ‘social media’.

But, to be fair, employers in both the public and private sectors are in unchartered waters, trying to adapt and apply traditional management methods to a change in general community behaviour.

There are no boundaries around what we are calling ‘social media’: new connected communities are not  left behind when you enter the workplace. And nor should they be. This change in behaviour is a step forward with great benefits for  businesses and public bodies.

Admittedly, the questions for employers are many, as staff meld professional and personal lives as never before. And this is one issue that won’t go away.

Smart employers realise that such changing life practices will automatically affect work practices – and they must relinquish some of their traditional control. Employees equally must show utmost  professionalism and responsibility, worthy of the trust that underpins social media.

So called  ‘charters of operation’ or ‘templates’ like those drawn up this week by the UK and US governments, in part, are rather painful attempts to impose  order (on the plus side, they do also contain some subtle and intelligent guides for clarifying responsibility)

But what is really needed is firstly an acceptance by both management and staff of the enormity of this behavioural change and the impact that it is having on life generally, including the workplace. If organisations tout their ‘values’,  then here is an opportunity to see them in action.

Then, with a recognition of what is actually happening, it should be easier to handle questions such as who is trusted with operating the workplace Twitter site;  who should nurture and liaise with the organisation’s connected community;  should there be a the line between professional and personal online life; and whether personal blogs and social media sites represent career development.

Crucially, these issues should not be decided and imposed in the traditional top-down management style, but should be the result of online collaboration in the spirit of social media.

After all, this type of change requires trust and acceptance of responsibility all round. Management is also feeling its way tentatively in this changed environment, so it shouldn’t carry all the weight.  In a social media world, it’s only fair that the buck stops at everyone’s desk.

Have a good weekend all.



Written by ianandsue

July 30, 2009 at 11:56 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Are Twitter templates only reflecting a fading era?

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Hands up those who read newsletters mailed from your local politicians.

Ha! I thought so.

Now, who reads government advertisements in newspapers?


That second question should probably have been “who still reads newspapers”, however the point of all this is still the same.

Bureaucrats simply transferring their old newsletter and marketing ‘thinking’ to the micro-blogger, Twitter, seems to me like two steps forward and one-and-a-half steps back.

The Twitter templates unveiled this week by the UK and US governments underwhelmed me, despite their complexity.  Fair enough, they get top marks for acknowledging that the times are a changing around them (governments here in Australia are a lot slower to see the bleeding obvious)

However, I believe that both the UK and US boffins either missed the point or refused to recognise that the change is largely about a new type of consultation – placing real and effective power in the hands of citizens, not simply maintaining a status quo via a new tool.

It will be great to see institutions Twittering, but not with an odour of red tape and unsubtle spin. For example, ‘clearing’ individual tweets to ensure they push the current positive message and reinforce the day’s media releases, may quickly destroy credibility and render the Twittering pointless.

One of the reasons we have something like Twitter is because the power of the digital age allows people to have a say  – and not just at election time.

Systems like Twitter are helping connect digital communities  of people with different interests, backgrounds and ages.  The hope of many is that the resulting conversations will bring greater resources, energy, aspirations and thinking to some of the social challenges that currently are proving either too big or too hard to solve.

Am I being unreasonably idealistic here – or is the reality that bureaucracies everywhere say only what their masters want to hear.

The changes being rung by social media are too important to become tangled in the business of government.  And, one way or another, the bureaucrats will need to accept that this is not something that they can control in their traditional way.  In fact, it’s all about releasing control.

I’m keen to see what you think?


Written by ianandsue

July 29, 2009 at 5:16 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Will government need to be dragged into the new reality

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In the past, politicians and bureaucrats generally saw themselves as deciding what services the public needed – and then arranging to have those services delivered, either directly or through outsourcing.

In a ‘social media’ environment, that role can be defined as simply ‘meeting the needs of the community’.

The difference is subtle, but extremely important.  However, I fear  it may well be beyond the grasp of much of our current bureaucracy, even though the public increasingly ‘gets it’.  Many elected representatives and unelected bureaucrats  believe they automatically know what’s best for the populace.  With a few notable exceptions, it’s called delusion.

I started thinking along these lines after  one of my favourite bloggers, Carl Haggerty, recently suggested that social media would require the public sector to allow local people to determine how resources should be delivered”.  The key words here are “local people” and “determine”.

Another excellent writer on the subject, Paul Clarke, said that government would need to engage and listen to the public so it could  find out what was really needed to serve a community.

Paul admits that there are financial hurdles, as well as “an enormous amount of established practice and ‘habit’ to address.

“It’s not easy to throw everything in the air and start from the beginning.

“It takes a seriously sensitive hand to guide and shape services without reverting to pale, top-down reflections of what was really needed.

“It might not involve the services as they’ve traditionally been delivered. It might not involve some of the services at all. It’s very likely to involve some that haven’t even been designed yet…

“Aim to deliver a set of services, and you’ll do just that. Perhaps a little better each year, perhaps with a few innovations, but by and large you’ll always do what you’ve always done.

“Aim to serve a community, and things really could change…”

It’s not rocket science but, unfortunately, our bureaucracy rarely seems to contains Obama-style visionaries. For many of them, the old untargeted marketing of ‘messages’ lives on, despite a changing, connected world.

The great wall of bureaucracy

The great wall of bureaucracy



Written by ianandsue

July 21, 2009 at 2:26 pm

PR versus marketing debate is also outdated

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Recent discussion about whether in-house marketing should answer to the public relations function, or vice versa, seems pointless.

I agree that the old style of public relations is clearly reputation management and is therefore a ‘whole of operation’ function.  However, it’s also the bleeding obvious that the PR role cannot be achieved without  marketing, the old style of which  is undeniably a commercial ‘ selling’ process .  Graphic design, logos, advertising, customer sevice and the like are important in any reputation management.

The  problem I see is where companies or organisations attempt to experiment and save money by either trying to get PR to do everything, or vice versa. Attempting to be all things to all people in this way simply doesn’t work and will fail — if not today, then certainly tomorrow.

But, another reason why it is a pointless debate is that, the behavioural change that is currently dubbed ‘social media’ is rapidly making all these titles redundant anyway. What’s the point of relying on media relations only, or focusing strongly on advertising when the public is fast abandoning traditional media models and treats advertising with more wariness than ever.  

No matter what the size of your logo  …. ignore the writing on the wall at your peril.

Attempting to roll together PR and marketing

Attempting to roll together PR and marketing

Written by ianandsue

July 13, 2009 at 11:43 pm

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Why look for websites when you have an iPhone and Twitter

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The evolution of digital communication is continuing apace, with websites rapidly losing their significance as destinations.

Social media and mobile delivery are changing the landscape so much that content is now coming to us when, where and how we want it – without the need to go looking.

And, in turn, this is diminishing the value of static websites and has virtually consigned the term “surfing the web” to the dustbin of history.

The way we find information has changed so dramatically in such a short time, that the advent of real time searching and micro-blogging has caught large areas of both business and government by surprize.  As they struggle to understand that traditional one-way marketing concepts are out of touch with a connected populace, tools such as corporate websites that present so-called key messages look more and more like relics of a bygone era.

As leading blogger, Jeremiah Owyang, said recently information and connection is coming  to you dynamically and within your personal context.

Jeremiah said  social components were emerging in areas such as e-commerce and entertainment platforms.  He predicted that even solitary digital applications such as Word would soon be forced to operate with social functionality.

Another blogger, Neil Perkin,  adds that content owners need to reach out and engage their audiences wherever they are.

 Neil says that it’s easy to slip back into old ‘destination’ thinking about attempting to put information on a website and then attempt to draw people to it .  But, communities already exist, so the job instead should be to think about how you can help that community do what it wants to do.

Fashions come and go within the new media e.g. Twitter continues to soar in popularity;  women now make up more than 60% of all Facebook users;  teenagers and 20-somethings increasingly show no loyalty to any particular social application; and newspapers still have no idea how to keep interest in their off-line products.

However, one thing is abundantly clear amid all this – what is broadly termed ‘social media’ is truly one of the biggest behavioural shifts of our lifetime and, as in the case of one-way marketing, the change is claiming some casualties that will not be greatly mourned.


Written by ianandsue

July 7, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized