The see through world


Published on

Published in: Technology, Business
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

The see through world

  1. 1. The See-Through WorldBarry Thomas, Shirlaws Business CoachWe now take for granted the availability, from wherever we happen to be, ofaccess to supercomputer-based search engines that can direct us to justabout everything that has ever been written about anything. Whether wewant to know which ancient Greek wrote the tragedy Antigone, or are curiousabout Ashton Kucherʼs thoughts about what he ate for breakfast this morning,the device on our desktop or in our pocket can tell us.In a related development we are all now individually capable of broadcastinginformation globally. This trend has been kicked into hyperdrive by theemergence of social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter. Vastnumbers of people now regularly take the opportunity to express themselveson every imaginable topic, from the unquestionably serious to the utterlytrivial.As these trends have been emerging many forms of traditional media haveslipped into perhaps terminal decline. The ubiquity, universality and sheerspeed of the Internet is pretty tough to compete with - for instance news of arecent earthquake in California was available via Google eight minutesbefore it was announced by the US Geological Survey.The connection problemSo what does all this mean for business?Connecting with stakeholders, be they clients, partners, investors or potentialemployees, has always been a challenge, made even harder by the fact thatwe are all awash in a daily cacophony of commercial messages and havelearned to ignore virtually all of it. Our perceptual filters have now been sodeveloped by decades of ever-escalating marketing offensives that it is nosurprise that only 13% of us trust corporate or product advertising any more.In the 20th century businesses pushed information to consumers in the formof advertising and PR, and consumers really had little choice in the matter. Inthe 21st century the situation has changed with head-spinning speed asBarry Thomas © 2010" 1 of 4
  2. 2. consumers have embraced their new-found ability to pull whateverinformation they want to them, when and where they want it. Businesses nolonger control their own story - their story is in large part written for them byeverybody else.86% of Australians now read online consumer reviews about products,services or brands. But again it is social media that is pushing this well-established trend into new territory. A casual “tweet” expressing disgust (ordelight) about a bagel, a band or a balance sheet is instantly just as availableon the Internet as a carefully researched article, or carefully constructed ad,in the mainstream press. To add insult to injury research suggests that weare, perhaps perversely, more inclined to trust the casual Twitterer than anyjournalist, politician or marketing maven. Naive perhaps but this doespowerfully illustrate how well the marketers, PR consultants and spin doctorshave taught us all that they arenʼt trustworthy.What all this adds up to, in effect, is a collision between infinite informationand almost equally infinite cynicism. As Marshall McLuhan so famously said,“the medium is the message”. These days if the medium is perceived asbeing in any sense an official one the message being heard is, “lookelsewhere for the truth”. Again this was probably just as true in the 20thCentury but now we have alternatives, and the alternatives are us.This is a game-changing realisation for any business that wants to buildgenuine connections with its clients, staff, investors and partners. Any kind ofeconomy with the truth, any attempt at spin, any weasel words or play actingis now at risk of being exposed for all to see. Reputation management haslately become a growth industry but in the see-through world we now inhabit,where your reputation is unequivocally something other people determine foryou, the term “reputation management” is almost oxymoronic.An example on a grand scaleA topical case in point is BPʼs travails in the Gulf of Mexico. Early on in the oilspill crisis BP was lauded for their clever manipulation of online discussionchannels, with media consultants even claiming BPʼs social media strategygave them the ability to, “...control the message without it being filtered byradio, television and newspaper reporters”. On Twitter BP_America wasBarry Thomas © 2010" 2 of 4
  3. 3. energetically pushing the official BP line and on Facebook BP even had apage set up jointly with government agencies. But thing quickly went wrongfrom there.The fact that BP were buying up search terms on Google to ensure that theirofficial messages were prominent in search results was noticed, publicisedand lampooned. On Twitter an account called BPGlobalPR, purporting to begenuine but in fact an obvious and very funny spoof, completelyoverwhelmed BP_America. With tweets like, “Investing a lot of time & moneyinto cleaning up our image, but the beaches are next on the to-do list forsure. #bpcares” BPGlobalPR quickly gained at least ten times the audienceof BPʼs real Twitter account. And of course headlines on popular faux newssites like The Onion such as “Massive Flow of B******t Continues to GushFrom BP Headquarters” really didnʼt help BPʼs cause.BPʼs credibility suffered even more when it set up call centres to handle thehundreds of thousands of calls coming in from the concerned public. Thiswould seem like a conventional and responsible tactic but it went horriblywrong when a call centre operator revealed on a popular Internet blog thatthey (the call centre staff) were just PR props, saying, “Weʼre a diversion tostop them from really getting to the corporate office, to the big people …Because the operators believe the calls never get past them, some donʼteven bother taking notes.”The moral of this story? On the Internet you canʼt reliably control a narrativeany more, and if you try you may only make things worse. This is true forsmall businesses as much as it is for global oil companies. If you are, in anysense, not quite what you say you are the chances are good that someonewill notice and pass comment. The power of Google means those commentswill then be easily discoverable in perpetuity for all of your current andpotential stakeholders to find and ponder.Reputation management that worksGeorge Burns is famously credited with saying, “The most important thing issincerity. If you can fake that youve got it made.” True enough but itʼs the bitabout faking it that has become so difficult on the Internet where a potentiallyBarry Thomas © 2010" 3 of 4
  4. 4. huge and gimlet-eyed audience is watching. So why take the risk? Donʼt fakeit, actually be who you say you are.Here are a few tips on implementing this strategy:• Have a vision for your business that you really believe in. Communicate it to your stakeholders and confirm that they also believe in it.• Know what your values are. Tell everyone. Live by them.• Know what your position in the marketplace is, and maintain that position consistently.• Embrace openness. Itʼs an opportunity as well as a threat.If these suggestions seem too radical or confronting for your business youcertainly arenʼt alone, but the point of this article has been to argue that therereally isnʼt much choice any more. Businesses that try to hide in the see-through world will waste time, money and stakeholder goodwill while moreadaptable businesses thrive.If you accept this premise but arenʼt entirely sure what to do about it Shirlawscan help. Shirlaws delivers internal leadership training sessions onPositioning, Communication, and Articulating Your Vision, as well as businesscoaching projects to support the strategy and implementation of thesepriorities. As a complimentary extra for you, any of our coaches will bedelighted to discuss with you how you can determine whether these optionsare important for your business today. Contact Shirlaws for more information.You should click here to follow us on Twitter and click here to connect with uson LinkedIn.Barry Thomas © 2010" 4 of 4