In my last column, we looked at seven internal changes that can help prepare your organization to become an “engaged enterprise” (def: a corporate business model that achieves an authentic, dynamic relationship between the company and its various stakeholders in which conversation and business ideas are shared up, down, and sideways).
As promised, this column focuses on the nine external moves necessary to achieve full engagement:
1. Recognize that media relationships have migrated. The communications group should have knowledge of and strong relationships with the top 10 digital influencers in each business segment of your company. The concept is not that different than the old days of media relationships, but not knowing these influencers is as wrong as not knowing your top-tier journalists.
2. Engage with customers for product innovation. Engaged enterprises regularly tap into their customers for product design and innovation. Regular use of crowdsourcing techniques makes such broad-based insight easy – and powerful. Check out Dell's IdeaStorm for a good example. Great opportunity for communication executives to add real value across corporate functions.
3. Shift your budgets. At least one quarter of the brand comms budget should be deployed against the social media landscape. Whether it's investing in your own channels, creating valuable content for YouTube, or engaging customers and prospects on Twitter, the future is there. Fight and claw for budgets, if need be, but this is no longer experimentation.
4. Adopt new metrics. The radical change in the media landscape means an equally significant change ought to take place in measuring communications effectiveness. As previously noted, “engagement” is the new currency. Measure how truly engaged your stakeholders are with your company. It could be more insightful than “brand health” or “reputation scorecards.”
5. Listen in a whole new way. There's a new premium on active listening. There's lots of dialogue out there about your company and products. Yes, much of it may be “noise,” but much of it gives you insight into constituency perceptions, much serves as an early-warning system, and all of it reflects interested stakeholders. That's an enormous opportunity. Monitor and stay engaged in real time.
6. Be prepared for a digital crisis. Every crisis is digital now, so the preparation requirements have changed. Do you know how to quickly utilize the very channels and tools that may be the sources of your problems? Are your key executives around the world trained on protocol in such a rapid-response environment? Have you started creating a mobile app, “just in case,” as your crisis command center?
7. Build or engage your communities. Micro-segment your constituents. All customers aren't the same, just as shareholders or employees aren't. Engage with them either in online destinations you create or in places they already go. Build equity by talking about the things they care about. Earn the right to occasionally talk about the things you care about.
8. Find your annoyed customers. Nobody wants annoyed customers, but we all have them. They present a huge opportunity. How we respond to the smallest of customer complaints often defines our reputation for years to come. Seek out your annoyed customers and turn them into brand ambassadors.
9. Find your happy customers. Most companies are far better equipped to deal with annoyed customers than happy ones. Does that make sense? Seek out your passionate followers and engage them, empower them, and turn them into your most forceful advocates.
Bob Feldman is cofounder and principal of PulsePoint Group, a communications management consulting firm. He can be reached at email@example.com. His column focuses on management of the corporate communications function.