Returned from Ljubljana, Slovenia yesterday after several fun-filled days with IABC colleagues from all over Europe and of course the North American HQ. ZenGuide’s pix from the event here.
I presented a session on building the local brand within the context of a global association — really a microcosm of what most global organisations with a masterbrand approach face. How do you balance the need for local context and differentiation while ensuring that the core brand is presented credibly and consistently? Presented a simple brand modeling process/tool which we will make available on the IABC.com site shortly. In essence: Turn up the masterbrand when you need it, downplay it when you need to leverage the local angle.
Thoughts and observations — these are general and not pointed at anyone individually — more the ‘zeitgeist’ I guess:
- Cross-cultural communication. Have we really covered so little distance? The same issues / solutions / ideas are still being presented 10 years later. I’d like to see more real-life case studies and pragmatic examples rather than frankly old theory. For example, the use of religious and sex-based humour/images in a presentation to a mixed group from like 7 different countries… In my experience, doing business globally, we are in fact turning a corner — so while the traveler/guest needs to do his or her homework, increasingly the host needs to do their homework as well. Because communication requires two parties meeting in the middle to share meaning. And as trust and respect is so important, I won’t force you to do what I ‘normally’ do if you don’t force me to do what you ‘normally’ do. Does this cause moments that are awkward and uncomfortable and different from the quasi-diplomatic protocols of big business meetings of yesterday? You bet. Does it move us into the same space and share and experience and build from there? I think so. Everybody’s human.So yes, I disagreed quite fundamentally with the “If you want to do business/communicate here, do it our way” proposition. Not a cooperative or global perspective. (interesting aside … communication in its oldest context is about the movement of goods and services using infrastructure, isn’t it?)
- Social media. Some great discussion and debate about social media in internal and external communication. A couple points I took away:- These rules are still being written. A lot of theory out there, but where is the practice and proof?
– There are no gurus. (Though Shel, Steve, Neville et al would like to disagree I expect… ).
– It is the biggest change ever in stakeholder engagement. Potentially, if done perfectly.
– It is just another communication channel. Remember ‘dot com’? Potentially, if used that way.
– Focus on the business issue. Much of the discussion seemed message, content and channel driven, or alternatively on the soft/fuzzy ‘community’ agenda, when all the evidence I have seen is that the ones that work are useful in building competitive advantage — e.g., helping people do things faster, cheaper, higher quality based on sharing information and expertise in a better way than email, phone, intranet.
– Participation. I tested Mike Williams’ and my idea that ‘participation’ as a key metric in social media applications is actually the key measurement — forget satisfaction etc. With so much choice and competition for people’s time, attention and bandwidth, the media that are valued are the media that get used. Therefore, I stand more strongly than ever on Keohane’s “Participate or Perish“(TM) rule of success in social media. After all the hype, promotion, engagement etc., if you’re not getting people using it, shut it off. And shut up about it. (And, be willing to try again or try something else).
– Humanity. Although it was in different conversations and different contexts, it’s clear that successful communication in the near term will see a deliberate shift towards maximising the premium of face to face ‘channel’ and leveraging this across other touchpoints. The real challenge will be (like in the environmental/green movement) when the tipping point is reached and suddenly everyone is “human” and “personal”. Because I guarantee 2007-8 will see every major brand and organisation suddenly getting personal and simple and real and ‘human.’Colt firearms: Your new M-4 carbine packs 30 rounds of 5.56mm and has options allowing you to prepare it for a range of mission-specific configurations. We give you choice. We make it simple. You’re in control. Because we care about your needs. Colt: the human face of assault rifles.
- Ethics. I was unexpectedly fired up about the implications of a session about communication ethics and the explicit and implicit links to business ethics. Can an organisation legislate/enforce ethical communications practices? When at the end of the day it comes down to people and how they react to the different pressures of modern-day work-life?I was surprised to find that, acynically (is that a word?) I think we need to do more, and should do more. It’s not whether the ethical standards exist or not — it’s whether they are communicated, reinforced, built into day to day operational processes and systems. Just reminding people regularly would be a big step. And modeling the right behaviours at all levels. If one person stands up, they’re an easy target. If 100 stand up, it’s harder to ignore the issue. I plan to bring this back to work on Monday and action it.
A great couple of days, fantastic people. I feel energised by it.
Well, don’t want to gasbag too much (did plenty of that in the wee hours after the sessions). Oh yeah – I won 260 Euros playing roulette. That was fun.