Sep 1, 2006

It's about much more than the next hip marketing tactic.

I work in the communications department of a large corporation. Mostly, I get paid to make words and images tell an interesting story. I also help other people in our company figure out different ways to tell these stories. It's a pretty nice gig.

Even better, marketing communications has changed drastically in the past three or four years, so I'm kinda in the middle of this transition from one-way comms (the "goose liver pate" method) to the multi-way comms (the "free-range beef" method).

Change is generally good. It keeps people like me employed. Change is also always interesting. But it's almost always difficult. Especially for large corporations, and doubly so for communications departments in large corporations--for a bunch of Harvard Business School reasons I can't name precisely but can sense like a cat does water.

So, I often find myself working on projects in which we're trying to do the right thing but just can't quite figure out how, or why it's such a good idea in the first place. It's more complicated than just a lack of knowledge about "Web 2.0" or social networking. (Note: My company has a great advertising campaign. But making that campaign live inside and out of the company is the real challenge.)

I think it comes down to this: Companies need to make a dramatic shift in how they view themselves. Are they confident among their competitors and open to their customers? Or are they running scared on both fronts? Until they move more toward the former, they won't be able to embrace this new "free-range beef" reality, this whole Web 2./Social Networking/Cluetrain thing.

Why? Because to do that you've got to be comfortable with not having control. You've got to have an honest, interesting story that can stand up to and even thrive on criticism and inexact retellings. Because it will happen, whether you like it or not.

You've also got to really want to talk to your customers, even if they don't really want to talk to you.*

Here are some random places I stumbled across today where people smarter than me talk about this phenomenon:

Three Minds
Logic + Emotion

And of course, The Cluetrain.

*Cluetrain states "all markets are conversations," and they're right in the aggregate. But on the micro level, I don't think many people actually want to have an ongoing dialogue with their insurance broker or the company that makes their running shoes. I sure don't. However, I do want to be heard, and I want those companies to offer products that make sense for my situation. One of the ways they can do that is by asking me my opinion, which is fine, but quite a bit different than having a conversation.

1 comment:

EVK4 said...

How do you mean a cat senses water? Will cats eventually replace divining rods?