Say hello to your new best friends

We're talking about the CIO and IT team. Yes, the same guys you call to complain about e-mail failures, spam, restrictive firewalls, no remote access, slow Internet, and more.

We're talking about the CIO and IT team. Yes, the same guys you call to complain about e-mail failures, spam, restrictive firewalls, no remote access, slow Internet, and more.

Well, say hello to your new best friends. The digital and social media revolution has ushered in a new era for communications pros. Technology is not just a nice-to-have enabler of more efficient communications. It is an absolute imperative for all communications. While IT is probably only 20% of the total solution (80% is people and process), it's a critical 20%. Without IT, you are pretty much dead in the water.

The problem is most IT people define “strategic IT” around three key deliverables: Reliable e-mail communications, mission critical applications, and data security. That's right, digital and social media aren't at the top of the agenda. So, when you come forward with your wish list for new blogging platforms, Twitter and Facebook applications, and your desire to establish new communities to facilitate customer conversations, you'll likely be told to “get at the back of the line.” In fact, you may be labeled a communications pariah who has totally lost his or her mind. “We can't relax our firewall! We can't let employees have free access to YouTube. We'll lose productivity. It's not secure.”

Get the picture? The digital and social channels you depend on to unlock your communications team's full potential require your CIO and IT team's support and commitment. The days of you casually engaging with IT to set up e-mail addresses are over. The “geeks” must be your new best friends. They will play a vital strategic and tactical role on your new communications team. So what do you do?

• Engage them early and often. How often have you felt like an “outsider looking in” when asked to write the press release long after the strategy had been determined?

• IT should be represented on your digital media strategy team. Get them to help you define the new opportunities presented by digital and social media. Make them part of the social media policy team that ensures important IT policies are enforced and creates new ones to enable and guide dig-ital communications.

• Involve them in software selection. Also make sure they are OK with your interactive firm and other outside consultants.

• If they can't meet your timetable, work with them to determine alternative approaches that meet your needs and adhere to their policies. For example, they may let you host applications outside the firewall at approved hosting companies as long as there is a provision to move to transition the applications inside at some point in the future.

• Involve them in training sessions you'll implement to reeducate your more traditional communicators.

• Tell them you'll make them famous with the CEO and CFO by projecting them as the strategic drivers of the new communications platform. Tell them your goal is to set the new standard of excellence in utilizing digital and social media.

In short, make them your new best friends. Make them a hero. In the process, you will be putting your organization on the path for success in the new world order of digital and social media communications.

Jeff Hunt is a partner at Pulse-Point Group.

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