Only Communication Skills Can Save Your Business

by francine Hardaway on February 18, 2011

The nightmare scenario of every marketing and investor relations professional is a storm of angry tweets and a single community manager who has to sleep some time. There’s no way that community manager can respond to everyone, and if he/she does, it’s not fast enough in a 24/7 world.
And Egypt showed us how quickly things can escalate if they are ignored.

How to handle the massive interactions with customers that are clearly on the horizon for all companies is a question for Frank Eliason, the pioneer Comcast customer support person on Twitter.

We would have to ask Frank how far and how fast he scaled, because I  remember people telling me,  “well, just because he helped you, doesn’t mean he helps everyone. He only helped you because you are influential.”
That was three years ago. Imagine it today.

I’m not influential, but that’s how customers feel who are not supported by social media responses from corporations. They feel like they should be helped, and if the person in front of them, before them, behind them, next to them was helped, they also deserve help.

Yes, all of this is coming. And responsible people in any organization, whether PR people, engineers, customer support people or accounts payable clerks will try to correct the exaggerations, the false accusations, or the mistaken information about the company they work for. They will make their own Twitter accounts and Facebook pages.
Some organizations, the ones where everything has to go through marketing and legal, will never survive the onslaught. Their brands will be damaged like Mubarek’s. Employees in the rank and file will be developing their own Facebook pages for their own departments and business units.
I watched this happen before; when the enterprise was too slow to deploy new collaboration tools, individual business units found web-based solutions outside the firewall and deployed them on their own.
The fact that some companies I know pretty well may not survive the change to social business weighs heavily on me. In fact, the only companies I see (they may not be the only companies, just the only ones I see) that are leading in this are Southwest,  Starbucks, and Salesforce.

Southwest has always empowered the gate attendants and flight attendants. Starbucks has empowered the barista. Salesforce is on the front end of social media tools.

The answer isn’t technology. It’s corporate culture change. It’s empowerment. It’s communication. It’s training all employees to write and speak better, and allowing them to do so. It’s choosing the people who work for you based on their communications skills.

Jay and Amber said it in The Now Revolution: you have to choose who you hire, and you have to give those people the opportunity/responsibility to respond. I think we’re going to ask completely different questions when we interview in the future. Those famous Google interview questions for smart engineers? Out the window already, because Google is losing in social.

I taught  writing and public speaking many years ago to college students. I teach it every day to startups who have to pitch investors, and have to get those first clients.Now  I’m thinking of offering to do it in the enterprise. The only way to deal with this is from the grass roots up, not the top down. And the enterprise is the only place I know where communication is discouraged, rather than encouraged. The entire idea of “only X can speak for the corporation without approval” has to go away. But that means everyone else has to be effective as a communicator.

End of rant
Enhanced by Zemanta

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew Kno February 18, 2011 at 10:05 pm

I know someone who’s working to improve her enterprise’s communication, responsiveness, collaboration, and rank-and-file empowerment, and based on her experience it looks like change needs to come from the top, as well. As a result, her company is among those poised to topple like Mubarak.

hardaway February 19, 2011 at 12:46 am

It definitely has to come from the top.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: