The reality of the digital era is that communications is no longer the only voice for a company. There are already examples, like Comcast, in which employees outside of the traditional communications department are using the Web as a way to reach the public. Nearly all organizations are ultimately headed in this direction, as customer service, sales, HR, and marketing start incorporating the social Web into their jobs.
In this month's digital feature, we found that communications departments are leading social media efforts at many organizations. But in the long term, this won't be enough because social media will be weaved into multiple corporate divisions. This calls for communicators to rethink their function within an organization, but it also opens new leadership opportunities.
The first step is for communicators to temper their instincts to supervise – or worse, impede – other departments' use of social media. This is a grossly shortsighted approach that only gets in the way of the real work. Already recruiters are finding new employees on their blogs; sales teams are creating promotions for Facebook; and customer service reps are monitoring Twitter for disgruntled customers. Blocking other divisions from venturing into social media is like trying to stop a moving train.
But there is a void that communications can step in and fill. While every division might use social media, organizations need one department to take leadership and guide everyone – not just the handful that are authorized to speak on its behalf. It's obvious that social media can be a tremendous asset, but it could also lead to organizational chaos without leadership.
Organizations sell their companies short if they limit social media to just communications, which simply can't solve all problems that occur online. Even if communications connects with someone in the proper department, the lag time might complicate the issue. The solution is for companies to realize social media can empower all divisions to do their jobs better.
If communications can take control of this transformation, it can be the leader that guides the next – perhaps unforeseen – evolution of a company's digital path.