Originally Published PR Week, August 12, 2011 (subscription access only)

The old adage, "I'm from Corporate and I'm here to help" is well understood for what it implies: Corporate help is an oxymoron.

It doesn't have to be.

But research indicates that a sizable gap remains between the value Corporate practitioners believe they deliver to their companies and the perception of those practitioners who reside in business units.

Why?

The principal driver of this disconnect is the certainty with which Corporate practitioners believe it is of strategic importance that all employees know of and appreciate the work of the total enterprise, and the equally certain perspective that business unit practitioners believe the overwhelming focus must be on what is most relevant and actionable and, therefore, must be about their business unit.

What to do?

Let me preface five tips I have to share with an acknowledgment of a bias: I believe there is a strong role for Corporate.  But executing it successfully takes equal measures substance and style.

Here are five ways in which Corporate can succeed:

Define your role and earn grassroots support... What's your purpose as it relates to the businesses? Strategic guidance?  Talent management? Leveraging scale to achieve optimal cost efficiencies? Driving big enterprise-wide ideas? What are the needs in the units in which Corporate can make a meaningful difference?

Be high value...Corporate practitioners usually play two roles: one is executing purely corporate activities (e.g. investor relations; executive communications; etc.) and the other requires some level of inter-dependency with business units (e.g. reputation initiatives; CSR; digital strategies; marketing support; etc.).  In this latter category, Corporate ideally is an advisor and co-strategist. To earn its place comfortably alongside the business units, Corporate practitioners must be the best, most qualified practitioners in the company for the niches in which they advise.

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In counseling a new CEO recently on the importance of the First 100 days, we encountered a familiar challenge.

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The CEO’s organization, while successful, needs change. Old attitudes and outmoded ways of doing things have become encrusted, and the first hundred days represent a unique opportunity to break those molds at a time when change is almost universally expected and the organization is likely to be most receptive to it.

At the same time, skeptics within the organization are likely to doubt the new CEO’s fidelity to the organization’s core principles. They will almost certainly (though incorrectly) view the change as undermining those principles – and, though they surely won’t admit it, threatening to themselves and to their careers. These skeptics are especially likely to be clustered in a part of the organization most closely associated with carrying out the organization’s mission, and physically separated from the corporate headquarters.

This isn’t unusual. Consider, for example, the skepticism with which journalists at the Wall Street Journal greeted Rupert Murdoch’s takeover, or the people at IBM first reacted to the first CEO to come from outside the company. And, to be fair, the skepticism isn’t always unjustified.

In situations like this, one of the most powerful tools in the new CEO’s arsenal is symbolism. All CEO’s have a mandate for change – some more than others, to be sure, but studies show significant change, especially in strategy and in the leadership team is almost universally expected.

But some change is especially symbolic, and either by design or by accident will send a powerful and lasting message. It’s vitally important that the new CEO seize opportunities to send these symbolic messages, and avoid sending the wrong ones inadvertently. And don’t confuse “symbolic” with “superficial.” It is the substance of these key actions that makes them symbolic.

 

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PulsePoint Group
February 2, 2011

A recap of the previos week's POV posts:

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We've seen many companies struggle with the question of who "owns" social media. In one sense, you are communicating to customers, so it must be a marketing function. But, isn't marketing usually "paid" and communications "earned?" If so, most social media profiles are "free," so it must be a communications function! Well, we've seen the most successful social media companies embrace both and use cross-divisional teams to find manage the space.

who-owns-social-media

This struggle, though, may actually be less important than previously thought, as social media is quickly becoming relevant to much more than communications and marketing. In fact, the next wave of the social media revolution will likely be in customer service and sales.

Imagine that you've just tweeted that you are tired of your current vehicle breaking down, and you are ready for an upgrade! What if a car company saw your tweet and someone from their sales team reached out to you with information about their latest models in your price range?

Sales teams have gotten pretty good at e-mail marketing, but I see a real lack of innovation in sales social media. Social media can give you a tremendous amount of input and insight on your prospects; you could even catch a lead in mid-status update. Imagine a time when all of your CRM databases include Twitter and Facebook profiles. You'd be able to really get to know your prospects and tailor your sales pitches to their specific needs. You might even be able to insert your brand for consideration with a prospect that wasn't even going to look at you. There's nowhere better to learn about your customers than from their own, hand-selected social networks.

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It's an oft-discussed question in many IT departments and beyond: should employees have unrestricted access to the internet (including all the social networking they can get their hands on) while at work? A recent SocialCast report suggests that there might just be a productivity bump to be had from such access.

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Charlie Perkins, public relations director of the Americas for Ernst & Young, on the current communications landscape and how we impact our organizations.

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Have any of you ever heard of Formspring.me?  Neither had I, until recently.  Mashable.com, the popular social media blog, recently reported that Formspring raised $10MM dollars in its second round of funding.  I mention that to demonstrate that this stuff is cutting edge.  But what is it, and why does it matter to the enterprise?

formspring-funding2

Social Inquiry Defined

At its core, Formspring is essentially a Q&A platform.  You find a friend (or stranger) ask them a question, using your name or not, and they answer it.  Some of the content is highly personal, some of it is completely superficial, but in essence it is an always-on, always-open Q&A session.  It's the Twitter version of the traditional Q&A, and aside from being unbelievably addicting, I think it represents a next big thing in enterprise social media, both internally and externally.  (For this post I'll focus on internal, but the opportunities are nearly as limitless outside as they are inside.)

Simplicity Drives Usage

Imagine if, with a simple search and a one sentence question, you could access the insights and thinking of practically every employee within your organization.  Imagine if you could, in a matter of moments on your Smartphone, answer a question on the company's updated approach to manufacturing safety or its new benefits package.  For that matter, imagine you could ask the manager of supply chain in Asia how they managed to get employee buy-in to the radical changes they've already adopted and you've been banging your head against the wall to make any headway on at all.  And you could do it without spending three weeks trying to schedule a meeting.  You could do it in minutes.

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Originally Published PR Week, August 6, 2010 (subscription access only)

What’s your World Series?

As we continue a slog through a tough economy, I’ve noticed a dilemma facing many companies vis-à-vis motivating their employees. Whereas the sports world affords the clarity of a tangible, meaningful goal (e.g. World Series, Super Bowl, etc.) in which every member of the team is in complete alignment to pursue, business doesn’t have it that easy.

And, in a down environment, it’s that much more common for employees to feel that their work is just that: work.

It’s hard to imagine each Major League baseball team playing 162 games during the year and everyone then going home. It sounds absurd because what’s the purpose of playing all those games if it doesn’t really matter.

There has to be a purpose.

What is your purpose?

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Bob Feldman, Principal of PulsePoint Group, on what activities a company should undertake internally on it's journey toward becoming an Engaged Enterprise.

Seven Characteristics of the Engaged Enterprise

Originally Published PR Week, March 12, 2010

In my last column, we explored the concept of “the engaged enterprise.” This is a corporate business model that suggests an authentic, dynamic, and deeper relationship between a company and its various stakeholders, in which conversation and business ideas are shared up, down, and sideways.

A constant value-exchange is the new norm.

Due to considerable response and curiosity on this subject, this is the first of two columns that will dig deeper into the model. In my next column, I'll look at what you need to do in external engagement, but first, let's look at what you need to do internally:

Strong internal collaboration. Lots of companies have implemented Microsoft SharePoint and other collaboration tools. But the issue is: how widely are these tools used? Does your department live on the site or is it the occasional repository of random documents? Collaboration and knowledge sharing exist in real time. Success depends more on culture and leadership than on technology.

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Originally Published PR Week, February 12, 2010

The impact of social media on how business is run is just starting to mainstream in corporate America. I'm not talking about online promotional campaigns; I'm taking about the very heart of how business is conducted.

The consequence is a redefinition and reframing of how a company and its various stakeholders relate to one another and the impact each has on one another.

Call it “The Engaged Enterprise.” Engagement is the new currency. It suggests an authentic, dynamic, deeper relationship in which conversation and business ideas are shared up, down, and sideways.

In the Engaged Enterprise, stakeholders have deeper relationships with the company. Stakeholders actually talk to one another. Their voices are heard, respected, even acted upon in exchange for their loyalty. The result: The enterprise is smarter and more engaged with their constituents leading to better decisions and deeper, longer-lasting relationships.

Some examples? Consider these three:

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