Marketing and communications today is not be about the number of Instagram followers or Facebook likes your brand has, or the really cool app you develop, or the YouTube video you produce in the hope it will ‘go viral’.
Of course these can be nice measures to show off in quarterly reports and who knows, they might actually be relevant in some way to your business. But they’re merely the sideshow.
The main game today is about staying fresh, vital, relevant, visible and respected in what is a noisy, always-on world, a marketplace full of distrusting consumers, one that’s driven by the empowered many at the expense of the privileged few.
Today’s digitally-savvy consumer often prefers peer opinion over media commentary and values user-generated content ahead of advertising messages.
They don’t like your hype and they care even less for your spin. They want companies to be open and active participants in the community and on the social web – not the closed impenetrable beasts they have traditionally been.
And organisational leaders are at the pointy end of all this as they influence whether or not their organisation is open and connected, or closed off from the community they serve.
Depth of connection
Building your brand today increasingly hinges on the depth of connection you have with the people who matter the most to the success of your business, or cause, or issue, if you’re a non-profit.
It’s easy to say, but difficult to do.
True connection with consumers and market influencers can’t be bought, it needs to be earned. And earning people’s respect and trust requires genuine, sustained effort. In particular it needs to be driven by an organisation’s leadership team.
Importantly, it cannot be achieved without showing your face, without being front and centre as real human beings, adding value, being useful, being interesting and interested in others.
Sorry, but commissioning an expensive new whizz-bang ad campaign ain’t gonna cut it.
What can business leaders and senior executives do?
You can start by fully embracing social technologies that help tear down the walls that exist between corporation and public, to actively foster genuine human interaction with people, your constituents – clients and customers, employees, partners and influencers.
With this in mind, here are eight things business owners and corporate leaders can do to help make their organisation more publicly visible, accessible and connected:
- Write regular blog posts (without any hint of jargon or gobbledygook language) that help bring the business to life by taking the public behind-the-scenes of the organisation.
- Use smartphone video live-streaming apps such as Facebook Live or Periscope (or Twitter’s ‘Live’ function) to document what’s happening in the world of the C-suite and the organisation more broadly. What exciting things are you doing you can tell the world about (and that they’ll be interested in)? N.B. video doesn’t have to be live, it’s just that live streaming brings with it a layer of rawness that tends to resonate with people. By way of example, I’ve embedded a couple of behind-the-scenes videos of ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott.
- Instigate the development of a company-produced podcast series (or video webcast) and then participate in it from time to time.
- Challenge the PR or marketing team to create a series of free downloadable PDF ebooks that help solve the most crucial pain-points experienced by your customers (and maybe get involved somehow – write the foreword perhaps?).
- Create a think-tank with competitors to address a particular issue confronting your industry and then document the outcome in a blog post, or alternatively hold a public YouTube Live broadcast, a real-time online video broadcast incorporating two-way social interaction, and invite people within the industry to participate.
- Participate in an online webinar that demonstrates your company’s expertise on a particular relevant topic. Give away your knowledge away, record the presentation and post on the company blog, share via branded social channels etc.
- Sit down and chat over coffee with bloggers and ‘power tweeters’ who have a particular interest in your product or industry.
- Identify the experts within your organisation and give them the imprimatur (and tools and training) to share their ideas, knowledge and expertise with the broader marketplace using the plethora of social channels available.
Throw down the gauntlet!
All of these activities will work better when the organisational leaders get involved to participate – don’t stay hidden away in the shadows of the boardroom, start moving more and more into the ‘social spotlight’ – ignite discussion with your senior colleagues and the industry more broadly using online audio and video platforms.
Throw down the gauntlet to the PR and marketing teams. Challenge your people to come up with creative ideas using social publishing technologies that will help better connect your brand with the marketplace in a useful and respectful way.
Today, those companies that open up, provide genuine value over and above their products and services, and super-importantly, add a human dimension to their marketing and organisational communications, are the brands that will get noticed and be talked about in a positive way.
Who knows? Your story might start resonating with the very same people who have increasingly been ignoring your brand over the years.