Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

The e-opportunity

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate, social media on July 28, 2010 at 7:02 am

What do you call it when three-quarters of your potential customers want something, but only 4 percent get it?

 In most industries, it’s called opportunity. In the case of electronic communications in the field of health care, it’s a dilemma. But it’s a dilemma we all should examine.

A few years ago, a Harris Poll survey revealed that  74 percent of adults would like to use e-mail to communicate with their doctors, but only 4 percent had physicians who offered that service. A similar gap existed — 77 percent vs. 4 percent — between the percentage of people who would like to receive reminders about physician appointments via e-mail and those who were receiving them.

In fact, in question after question — about access to electronic medical records, scheduling physician visits, receiving test results via e-mail, and more — adults overwhelmingly said they’d like to be more connected to their doctors via e-mail and the Internet.

 But few of us have seen any progress on this front.

Of course, the world of health care presents plenty of legitimate hurdles to such connectivity, including privacy and security. And that forms the heart of the dilemma: Physicians, practices and health care organizations generally say that, for those reasons, they can’t engage in e-communications with their patients. But some physicians do, if only on such small matters as appointment reminders. Others go further, by providing Web sites with health tips and wellness information or offering online appointment scheduling.

 In other words, though an overwhelming number of physicians say something is impossible, a small percentage is making it possible.

 Why would that matter? Because more than half of the respondents to that same Harris Poll said their decision about choosing a physician would take into account whether or not a doctor uses e-communications.

 Anybody see an opportunity for tech-friendly physicians?

 But what about the rest of us, in other industries and professions? We all should be asking ourselves: What is it that my customers want that my industry says is impossible? And how can the evolving world of social media help me deliver added benefits to my customers?

 You don’t need a national poll to tell you that answering that question and providing that wanted benefit will boost your bottom line.


Focus your message for greater impact and success

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate, Nonprofit Communications on July 16, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Sometimes, getting your message out there is easy. You know what your organization does and you can sum it up nicely.

When it’s not easy, the problem usually isn’t finding a message. More often, you can’t decide which message to put out there. You do so many things, in so many ways, how can you possibly narrow it all down to one succinct statement?

That’s the dilemma I was trying to address when I put together the slide above for my recent participation in a “Developing Effective Messaging” webinar conducted by Achieve for its nonprofit clients.  I admit it’s a pretty crude, inelegant illustration, but I hope it makes the point: Put too many messages out there, and they’ll get lost in your own clutter, confuse your team, diffuse your impact and, every now and then, crash a couple of metaphoric planes together.

 Why is it so hard to focus the message? Often, it’s because every time you choose to communicate one message, you’re choosing not to communicate others. And every time you choose not to communicate something, somebody says, “Yeah, but …”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve helped a client focus its message – defining objectives, wrestling words, sharpening syntax – only to have an executive or department head come in at the end of the process and say, “Perfect! Except it doesn’t say anything about our … [quality control, customer services, longevity, etc.]. Can you add that? And maybe something about … [cost-effectiveness, environmental awareness, fun culture, etc.]?”

Here’s the deal: I’m not suggesting that an organization can’t have a lot to offer, or that a company can’t provide a bunch of benefits. I’m simply saying that, when it comes to communicating, simple is best. Forge your primary message, and communicate others as appropriate.

How do you choose? By asking yourself a couple of questions:

  • “What are we trying to achieve with this communication effort?”
  • “What message will help us achieve that objective most efficiently?”

Other messages might be true, but if they won’t help you reach your objective, they simply create interference.  

Remember the old Miller Lite “Less filling! Tastes great!” campaign? I can almost guarantee that someone at Miller wanted to add “Incredible bargain!” “American-brewed!” and other messages. But “Less filling! Tastes great!” made the point that needed to be made and nothing more. As a result, it worked.

Choosing is hard, but not nearly as hard as watching a communications effort fail. Make hard choices, focus your message, and you’ll be a lot more successful.

Is your nonprofit dropping the ball on communications?

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate, Nonprofit Communications, social media on July 12, 2010 at 5:10 pm

As I was preparing for tomorrow’s gig as a panelist on a webinar about effective communications, I ran across some stats that made me suddenly feel I’m doing some pretty important work.

The stats come from a survey of nonprofit communicators conducted by Nancy Schwartz & Co. The study offers a lot of good info, but the numbers I find most compelling are these:

  • 86 percent of the communicators said their messages are difficult to remember.
  • 73 percent said their messages lack inspiration.
  • 70 percent said their organization does a poor job of addressing audience wants and needs.

In a word, yikes.

For tomorrow’s webinar — being conducted in conjunction with  Achieve, an Indianapolis-based consulting firm serving nonprofit organizations — I’ll offer tips for organizations wanting to do a better job of communicating. The presentation will include steps you can follow to put together a good communications plan, and some suggestions of what you need to keep in mind to make it all work well.

For more information on the webinar, go to http://www.achieveguidance.com/webinars/.

Shortly after the webinar, I’ll post some of my notes and slides, but I do recommend tuning in if you can … throughout my presentation, Achieve CEO Derrick Feldmann will ask questions and provide his sharp-minded perspective. It will definitely add value.

Seeking that social-media lightning rod

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate, social media, uhm on June 11, 2010 at 9:48 am

One of the frustrations of social media is its apparent randomness. One blog post, Tweet, Facebook status update, etc., will provoke a wave of hits and comments while another – seemingly similar – will be virtually ignored. As a result, using social media to build your business can be like trying to get struck by lightning – over and over again.

Think about your personal social media adventures. One day you post a Facebook picture of your cute little niece with ice cream smeared all over her face, and – lightning strikes! – the crowd goes crazy. A day later, you post one of your nephew looking all Norman Rockwell-esque as he takes a bite out of his hot dog at a parade, and … nothing. Tweet about last night’s episode of The Office and – zap! – you’re the reTweet champ; a week later, Tweet out a witty remark about Michael Scott’s latest gaffe and you’re the Omega Man – all alone.

While this unpredictability is annoying in the personal social media space, it can be devastating if you’ve made social media a key part of your marketing and communications strategy. Suddenly, it’s not just a matter of personal pride that you scored an extra 50 followers on Twitter – it’s a matter of bread on the table.

So, if social media is about as reliable as getting struck by lightning, how do you achieve success? Well, to beat the metaphor to death, you find the right lightning rod, hold it up nice and high, and connect it to the right objectives and outcomes.

 And I’m going to tell you how to do that, right?

 Not exactly. I don’t think anyone’s fully uncovered that secret. But some people have found ways to improve the odds. Here are five things I’ve noticed that they do (and a few really bad weather-related analogies to make the ideas “sticky”): 

  • Track the storms. When you’re planning a picnic and the clouds turn black, what do you do? You check the weather radar so you know where the storms are headed. Granted, in real life you do that to avoid being struck by lightning; in the social media world, you do it to anticipate the next lightning strike. How? By watching social media, “listening” to what’s going on out there, assessing the opportunities and making educated guesses. Hey: You can’t do any worse than your average wacky weather guy on TV, right?
  • Chase the right storm. Where do you find the most lightning? Where there’s a storm. Where will you find the most people inclined to pay attention to your posts/Tweets/etc.? Where a relevant conversation is already taking place. Engage in other social media outlets related to the topic you’re addressing. Then hold your lightning rod up nice and high.    
  • Find the highest ground. Lightning typically jumps to the highest point in the area – at first glance, this appears to be a matter of elevation. For the sake of our already tired metaphor, though, we’ll say it’s a matter of standing out in the crowd.  Offering the same thing people can find elsewhere on the Web won’t do you much good. Sure, go where the storms are, but, then, find a way to “rise above the crowd.”
  • Go fly a kite. Not great advice in a thunderstorm, but it did work for Ben Franklin. The point? When ol’ Ben put that legendary kite in the air with a key on the string, he discovered something extraordinary in the ordinary. Social media begs for innovation, creativity and smart thinking. Put them to work and you just might end up with, uhm, shocking results.
  • Seed the clouds. As with any other media, you’ll find the most success by cultivating and maintaining an audience. This takes time and persistence. But once you bring the right “atmospheric conditions” together, you improve the odds of making lightning strike.

Certainly, adopting those five practices won’t automatically make you a lightning rod for social media success, and I don’t pretend they’re the only practices that will jolt you to the next level. On the contrary: I believe no single process will work for everyone. But I do believe adopting a strategic process is important. Without one (to torture the metaphor one last time), you’ll probably find yourself standing on a crowded hill on a sunny day, shocked by nothing more than your failure.

Social media and integration – go beyond buzz words

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate, social media on June 3, 2010 at 7:01 am

Any communicator worth his or her salt knows to throw the word “integration” into every conversation, presentation, planning meeting or performance review. Even if you’re certain the person on the other side of the conversation has no idea what the word means, you know you have to use it once or twice or risk seeming out of touch and behind the times.

 Social media has only sharpened this truth. As more and more communicators accept the fact that social media is here to stay, they’ve also accepted the fact that, even if they’ve never so much as Twirped or posted an update on Facespace, they have to claim to be integrating social media into every strategy.

 On second thought, a lot of communicators seem to think integration is a strategy.

 So, let’s back up for a minute and look at the notion of integration. What does it mean?

 At the obvious, literal level, integration means bringing various elements together to create a whole. In communications, we’ve come to think of it as weaving together various communications tools, tactics and strategies in pursuit of a single objective.

 Fair enough. But what does this mean on a practical level? Well, a lot of things.

 In social media, for example, it means pulling together all the useful tools – using Twitter to promote a blog, or using Facebook to push people to a YouTube site, or something along those lines.  In the more traditional world of communications, it can mean using media relations to support an advertising campaign, or using a letter-writing campaign to encourage participation in an event. And in the holistic, bring-it-all-together world communicators should live in, it means blending social media with old media, new tools with time-tested tools, and outrageous ideas with tried-and-true approaches.

 In other words, it means using whatever you’ve got in whatever combination necessary to achieve your goals.

 But here’s the sneaky truth: Integration isn’t an option. Maybe once upon a time, you could truly rely on only one medium or tool to get a job done, but I doubt it.

Christianity? To get its start, it integrated the written word with direct communications, developed a network of buzz agents and used miraculous and powerful events to make its point.

Democracy? Again, a lot of the written word, media relations, a speakers bureau, pyrotechnics, customer evangelists, and so forth.

Disco? Radio, events, street teams, movies, print, aftershave commercials, whatever.

OK: Silly examples, perhaps, but a hard truth: Integration is neither a new idea nor an option. It’s imperative. But that doesn’t mean you can use Twitter to promote your CEO’s blog and declare your organization integrated while, down the hall, your media relations team is sending out its own messages and your marketing folks are branding the firm in a vacuum. Your whole communications program has to be working together, in sync, in alignment with your brand and your organization’s central, core message.

Otherwise, you’ll not only fail to integrate, you’ll fail to succeed. And no buzz word in the world is going to change that.

The view from the dishwasher

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate, social media on March 18, 2010 at 10:15 am

To illustrate the value of open-book management, the folks at Zingerman’s like to tell a dishwasher story. And, while it’s primarily a story about how front-line insights can affect the bottom line, it also demonstrates a mindset that has become increasingly important in today’s highly connected marketplace.

A few months after the Michigan-based company opened its Roadhouse restaurant, the new eatery’s food costs were running high. While this is not unusual in a new venture, the folks at Zingerman’s (recently described by Inc. magazine as the “Coolest Small Company in America”) struggled to find the cause of the cost overruns.

So they did something unusual: They asked a guy back in the dish room for his thoughts. And this dishwasher noted that a lot of the dirty plates that came to him had French fries on them. Did the customers not like the fries? Quite the contrary; they loved them. But the portions were too big. So the company cut fry portions in half and offered free refills. Customers appreciated the offer of seconds, but few asked for them. As a result, the restaurant saved thousands of dollars.

Why would a company turn to a dishwasher—or anyone else outside the management suite—for financial insight? For Zingerman’s (as the company notes in a piece that can be accessed via http://zingtrain.com/more_samples.php), there are five good reasons:

  • It leads to better results. Letting people know the bottom line helps them see how they can add to it—and allows them to offer solutions to problems only they can see.
  • It’s in line with company values. While the Zingerman’s “community of businesses” seems to be particularly employee-focused, just about every organization seems to embrace some level of employee involvement these days. Opening the books is the ultimate embodiment of that philosophy.
  • It builds commitment. Give people information and they feel included. Make them feel included and they get more engaged. Engage them and they’ll feel more committed to your organization’s success.
  • It leads to better decisions. No one can make good decisions without good information. More information means more good decisions.
  • It teaches everyone to think like owners. Think about it: Do your employees think and act as though they are ultimately responsible for the organization’s success? No? Maybe that’s because they don’t have the big-picture perspective leaders have. Let them understand how your sales, costs and profits work, and they just might take a more personal stake in the organization’s success.

Certainly, these practices are timeless, but they hold special importance in today’s hyper-connected world. New media and social media put more of your people in touch with the public than ever before. That means your leadership and PR people are no longer your primary spokespeople – your people are, and they have greater access to the public than the front office ever did.

How can you trust them to say the right things? By equipping them and empowering them to think like owners. They’ll feel engaged and important. They’ll believe in what your brand stands for and truly want the organization to succeed. And, as a result, they’ll become the most powerful marketing machine you could ever imagine.

Social Media Debrief: Lessons from Atlanta

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate, social media on February 25, 2010 at 10:01 am

I’ve got those post-conference/my-brain-is-full/now-what-do-I-do blues.

The good news is that my brain is full of good, useful information. The bad news is that now I’ve got to sort it out, maintain that post-conference enthusiasm for new information and put it to work for clients.

I spent the first three days of this week at a Ragan Communications Social Media for Communicators conference in Atlanta, listening to gurus and pros give their insights into social media and how to make the most of it. I’m still processing and decompressing – which means I’ll probably have fodder for plenty of upcoming social media posts – but, for now, I can offer a few key concepts that rose to the top.

Social media is huge. OK, no great revelation there, but a little context: Ragan CEO Mark Ragan pointed out (I’ll track down the primary source ASAP), if the number of people on Facebook were a country, they’d be the fourth-largest country in the world. (I can’t imagine what the GDP would be.)

You don’t own your brand. Your customers do. This isn’t new information – when you think about it, consumers have always owned the brand – but consumers’ ownership stake has increased with social media because they have greater control over the communication of that brand. (This idea was repeated in a number of ways by a number of speakers.)

Every day is Election Day. Always be campaigning, says Clyde Tuggle, Coca-Cola SVP Global Public Affairs and Comm, because consumers are constantly voting. You can lose an election (or competitive position) every day.

Sometimes it’s a good-enough world. A number of speakers (most notably, perhaps, Shel Holtz) pointed out that quality standards (especially for video, but also in terms of grammar, style, etc.) relax in the social media world. A shaky, hand-held video is acceptable if the content is good enough. On the other hand, too shaky and too amateurish (notes Brian Solis), and we’ll ignore it. So “good enough” means just that: GOOD enough – not, “Well, it’s bad but who cares?”

It’s all about ‘communitainment.’ That’s Mark Ragan’s word for what the world wants – real information, real communication, and really entertaining stuff. My take: It’s kind of like dating. Meet someone funny but shallow? Fun for a while, but it ain’t gonna last. Smart and boring? We’ll put up with THAT even less. Funny and smart? This might be love.

Mom rocks. It makes sense that Mommy Bloggers have the power: Women make the vast majority of household buying decisions. What do they want, according to Mommy Blogger Ace Beth Rosen? Engagement, genuine interest, lasting connections and empowerment. Wait: Are we dating again? (And, by the way, DON’T call them mommy bloggers.)

If I had a hammer. Renee Hamilton, formerly of Operation Smile, had the analogy of the week: The way a lot of organizations approach social media is akin to someone buying a hammer and then looking for something (anything!) to build. In other words, don’t grab the tool (social media) unless you know what you want to build and why. Otherwise, you’ll probably just end up running around hitting things.  

Technology comes and goes; relationships last. SocMed and PR guru Brian Solis points out that, while the social media focus tends to be on the tools (Twitter, Facebook, Tweetdeck, etc. etc.), social media is not about technology – it’s about sociology and psychology. Just like old-school communications.

I’ve got plenty more in my notes, detail on these points and resources to offer in future posts. But, for now, one final thought:

It takes resources and tenacity. The people who are making social media work are dedicating time, energy and other resources, and they’re sticking with it. You have to be smart, relentless and untiring. Or you have to be willing to watch from the sidelines.

Talk amongst yourselves

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate on February 3, 2010 at 9:35 am

As businesses and organizations talk about the audiences they need to target in order to reach their goals and objectives, they often overlook the one audience that has the greatest impact on success: employees.

Typically, this isn’t because leadership doesn’t appreciate employees – even the worst leaders know that the workers are the people who actually make things happen. No, it’s usually because they assume employees have been given all the information they need, and that they’ve heard it and understood it.

In a way, such leaders might be right. If all you want an employee to do is his or her job, then all you have to do is make sure that employee knows how to do that job and what tools to use (in simplest terms, which nut to tighten and which wrench to use).

But the best leaders know that, while putting these kinds of blinders on employees might get specific jobs done, it won’t generate the kind of engagement required to get the best from people. To illustrate this, biz gurus often point to a study involving an airplane manufacturer. One group of employees was trained fully and put to work; another group of workers was similarly trained, but also taken to the engineering lab to see how the parts they made helped the company build jets capable of flying higher and faster than any other jets.

Guess which group saw productivity soar?

I’ve thought a lot about these sorts of things in recent weeks as we’ve worked with a client that’s stepping up internal comm. – recognizing its value, the firm has committed considerable time and energy to getting it right. And that process reminded me of a set of “Rules for Internal Communications” I developed a few years ago.

I won’t pretend I invented these rules – but I will note that these kinds of guidelines often are overlooked when companies get focused on survival or recovery (as most are now). Oddly, it seems that many organizations consider dedicated internal comm to be a “luxury” only affordable when things are good. The best organizations realize they are a key part of any success.

So, with all of that as prelude, I offer “John’s Rules for Internal Communications.”

  1. Tell employees everything you can when you can.
  2. Don’t lie. (This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many organizations justify lying to employees, or at least not telling the full truth.)
  3. Tell employees first – before anyone outside the company’s walls – and never let them learn anything about the organization through the media unless it is absolutely unavoidable (for public companies, for example, legal or SEC regs sometimes dictate timing, and any organization could encounter a rare exception based on business developments or relationships … however, even in those cases, employees must be informed as soon as is legal and feasible).
  4. Never put out vague or incomplete communications – you’ll raise more questions than you answer.
  5. Never leave employees to draw their own conclusions.
  6. Understand that any information void will fill quickly with rumor, speculation and gossip.
  7. Treat employees like adults – give them bad news as well as good news. Be clear, don’t sugarcoat, don’t try to sell them on a particular point of view.
  8. Always assume that a question raised by a number of employees is on the minds of many more – but don’t respond on a global scale to a localized problem – and always be prepared to answer calmly and directly the most cynical questions.
  9. Overcommunicate … but remember that burying employees in useless information will dull their senses to real information.
  10. Consider: Is there a chance I will regret what I am saying? Will I have to eat my words, or explain myself later?

Looking at this list in today’s context, I might add one more rule: Go with the flow in terms of communications vehicles. Take the time to learn how your employees like to get information, and then provide it that way. For example, don’t assume a newsletter and an email will get the job done if your people value face-to-face communications and more cutting-edge communications.

So, if you compare your practices to the list above, how many rules are you breaking? And which ones do you break most frequently? And, most important, what are you going to do about it?

Extreme Makeover, Brand Edition — Will it be a “Love Shack”?

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate on January 22, 2010 at 10:08 am

At any given moment, too many people in funky glasses and expensive t-shirts are sitting in conference rooms having “brand discussions.” They’re trying to “capture the essence of the brand” or “leverage the brand’s full synergistic opportunities.” (Sorry: But these people really do talk like that.)

Now, full disclosure: I have participated in such conversations. I have done so in all seriousness and, occasionally, with some success. As I’ve done so, I’ve learned a few things.

First of all, most clients believe in the power of the world-changing brand (see: Nike, Pixar, FedEx, etc.). They want you to give them a brand that will set the world on fire, or a subtle tweak to an existing brand that will make it emerge from the crowd. They want miracles.

In pursuit of such miracles, I’ve seen great brand-development processes, and I’ve endured horrible ones. I’ve seen success and failure from both. That’s the nature of the beast: When you’re panning for gold, sometimes you succeed through a brilliant and focused process; other times, you trip over a nugget while fumbling around like an idiot.

I thought of these realities when I read a recent blog post from the smart people at Hetrick Communications (www.tellhetrick.com). Creative Director Mary Hayes mused out loud about the recent shift in the Radio Shack brand. The holder of a sharp brand brain, Mary summed up much of the brand conundrum with her headline: Radio Shack drops the Radio and threatens my brand experience. (Click headline to view blog.)

The key words are “my brand experience.” That’s what a brand is about these days: Making the “brand experience” personal. The responses to Mary’s blog supported this: People talked less about the wisdom or idiocy of the new “Shack” brand, and more about how it resonated with their personal experiences with Radio Shack.

I added these thoughts:

Sure, I always knew the radio geeks at Radio Shack could come up with that odd cable, bizarre converter, or funky universal remote, but I more often thought of them as sellers of cheap remote control cars, whiz-bang electronic gadgets and inexpensive versions of things I buy because I can’t afford the “real thing.” I’ve never gone unless I needed one specific thing, and I never left with more than that one thing. If I had to sum up the brand impression for me, it would be something like “Shabby Geek.”

Still, as a cycling geek, I have to suggest that Radio Shack’s masterstroke — beyond all renaming and rebranding — is signing on as sponsor of Lance Armstrong’s cycling team. Lance and his teammates (some of cycling’s top dogs) have wasted no time embracing the brand and talking it up as “cool.” The guy who put added new zip to the United Postal Service and Discovery Channel brands; who put the name of the capital of Kazakhstan on the lips of Americans; who made a global passion out of the Tour de France, a race that had a dedicated but tiny following prior to the Attack of the Texan; and who made the colors yellow and black synonymous with cancer fighting and little rubber wrist bands a global phenom … he now is powering The Shack brand. Frankly, I think they change the name to anything — Telegraph Hut? Morse Code Bungalow? — and Lance could pedal them to the top of the marketing mountain.

The challenge of a brand is to make as many people as possible feel like it is their own personal brand. I have until now felt zero connection to Radio Shack, but its relationship with Lance Armstrong and a US cycling team make me see it in a new way. A personal way.

Now, that’s all well and good, but will I translate my Lance-worship into buying gadgets at The Shack? Will you change your Radio Shack perceptions and buying habits as a result of its evolution into The Shack? That’s what matters. Because, let’s face it: The world is littered with “cool brands” that did nothing for their organizations. Why? They failed to translate a “brand relationship” into a cash transaction. And it doesn’t get any more personal than that.

Social Media — Lead, don’t follow

In Business Class, Connecting to Communicate on January 18, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Recently, we discussed social media with a longtime client’s leadership team. The client, a nonprofit human services organization, has taken a leadership role in its sector with progressive thinking and groundbreaking practices. However, while the organization has begun to dabble in social media, it hasn’t plunged into it fully.

These days, it would be easy to think of such an organization as being behind the times, but anyone who sat in on the conversation would see that the lack of social media involvement isn’t a result of backwards thinking; instead, it’s a product of the same kind of thinking that put the organization ahead of its peers.

Following are a few examples of that thinking.

Lead, don’t follow. It might seem odd to suggest that an organization not engaged in social media is a leader, but sometimes leaders are the ones who simply refuse to follow the herd. A lot of nonprofits invested quickly and heavily in social media – and then didn’t know what to do with it. Our client chose to wait, watch and do it right. Sometimes, that takes more leadership than blazing a trail.

Tell me more. We opened our social media discussion with a Social Media 101. When we finished, we braced for, “That’s great, but it’s not for us.” Instead, the discussion quickly progressed from “What if?” to “When?” The execs had good questions, not about the basics of social media, but about implementation and potential impact.

Perspective. Ultimately, the execs said their organization’s involvement in social media is “inevitable,” but they know it’s not a silver bullet that will solve all their problems. Instead, they see it as one more weapon in their arsenal for fundraising, client engagement, community-building and operations.

More than ‘cool.’ Everybody gets excited about the ‘cool factor’ inherent in social media, and about the impact it can have on an organization’s reputation (especially with younger audiences). While our client’s execs are excited by the ‘cool factor,’ they refuse to let that distract them from more meaningful considerations, such as whether social media is the best way to increase engagement, impact and effectiveness.

Points of concern, not roadblocks. As a human service nonprofit, our client must consider issues of privacy that can hinder communications efforts. While the execs recognized those challenges, they refuse to let them stifle social media efforts. Instead, they simply said, “We’ll have to resolve those issues.”

Personal investment. One of our key recommendations is that this organization spend the next six months in a “listening” phase, seeing what their peers are doing, paying attention to how their audiences use social media, and so forth. The execs agreed, but they also went one step further: Each of them pledged to plunge into social media individually – setting up Facebook pages, opening Twitter accounts, etc. – so they could get a firsthand feel for the new landscape.

Leading is like anything else – to be successful, you have to master a number of approaches, keep a number of tools handy and know which approaches and tools are right for each situation. Often, our client is a charge-ahead-with-new-ideas organization; other times, it has been more cautious, more studious and more resistant to following the herd.

We’re confident that, when it identifies the right approach and fully enters the world of social media, our client, once again, will be a leader.