Is social software heresy for internal communicators?

There’s been a great discussion recently amongst The 2.0 Adoption Council crew on what we’re trying to achieve and the role of traditional corporate and internal comms. What more than a few members have experienced in one form or another is resistance from their Comms colleagues. This has got me thinking as to what the core reasons might be and how a reconciliation of interests might be possible.

My own background is in part Comms based  & so I can empathise with where the Comms teams are coming from. With this in mind it might be helpful to step back and look at where the Comms guys are coming from (and particularly internal comms, my own area). And where better than to turn to than Melcrum. I had a mail today promoting their Melcrum Black Belt Course which asked:

  1. When planning your communication activities, which is more true?
    A: I focus on delivering outputs.
    B: I focus on achieving outcomes.
  2. Was the completion of your last communication project:
    A: An end in itself?
    B: A means to an end?
  3. When you gauge the success of a communication initiative, do you measure:
    A: Levels of awareness and satisfaction with the channels used?
    B: Attitudes, behaviours and whether business objectives were achieved?

In many of these instances I would answer both A & B, and I would also say we need to look at more than this, but let’s not jump ahead. If we look at the questions we can see that there is a tangible and controlled exercise taking place here: clearly defined aims, objectives, possible outcomes and measurable media and objectives are all part of The Plan. The Comms person is trying to achieve something and it’s specific and of course it’s timely measurable and all those SMART things.

There’s a message to be communicated, one I’d argue that should be tied into the strategic objectives of the business, and one that needs to be measured. Then along comes Jonny 2.0 come-lately and upsets that whole apple cart. Or at least that’s how it seems to the Comms person. The Comms person often thinks in terms of Signal Noise Ratio metaphors, their message is the Signal and anything in its way is Noise. Thus adding uncontrolled conversation, feedback and the whole social shabang is to add uncertainty, unpredictability and chaos. Absolute Heresy! Or at least this is how it can seem to the Comms person.

For the 2.0 Evangelist, the Comms person becomes seen as a roadblock, they just don’t get it and they block the roll out of social software in the business. An impasse develops, people can fall out, even change jobs…(& the most traditionally ‘connected’ usually win in such instances, at least in the short term).

There is a way forward here though. I think it entails each party looking at where the other is coming from. From an E 2.0 perspective I think we need to recognise that the Comms person has a job to do, a highly legitimate one and that in no small way their job is to produce a managed and measured message. They need to achieve both the Outputs and Outcomes and to be shown to do so. So from a 2.0 perspective we need to play by their rules.

But, for this to work the Comms person needs to also recognise where the 2.0 person is coming from. That dialogue and conversation are not a threat, but are aspects of the message that can help achieve the aims and objectives and often in more productive or unthought of ways. This is where Melcum’s Black Belts can become true masters of the art, by both managing the message and facilitating the conversation. As E 2.0 practitioners and evangelists, our job is to help achieve this.

It’s these sorts of ideas that are leading me to think of a new way of defining this holistic and social approach to communications and dialogue. Maybe we’re all becoming Social Business Communicators or IC 2.0 people. Or maybe I’m just a heretic!

Refs
The 2.0 Adoption Council

Melcrum Black Belt Course

Towards deconstructing the Signal / Noise Theory

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