[from Davos @Scobleizer interviews Richard Edelman - 3:43"]
Trust is at an all time low. The conversation that started with loss of trust in financial institutions and the Forrester finding that people don't trust corporate blogs, continues in the 2009 Trust Barometer by Edelman. The survey gains even more significance in light of the fact that we have had many of those data points for a while now.
Trust, listening, and doing something with it are all connected.
There are now plenty of listening tools out there - many of them either cost effective, or free. If you'd like to try a new one, BuzzGain just launched in beta [hat tip to Louis Gray]. Yet companies still spend most of their time talking. My hunch is that is one of the reasons why corporate blogs have lower credibility - there is little evidence that anyone is listening or contributing to the community.
New marketing is not marketing done the same old way in new channels - it's taking the business to a whole new level via interaction, engagement, and taking action on the feedback. AdWeek reports on a new CMO Council study that finds there is a major disconnect between how most organizations collect customer feedback and then utilize it.
I agree with Neale-May, the CMO Council's executive director - not doing something at the business level is asking for trouble. Your company's products and services will not look better than they are if you just message them righter, or work harder to create more demand. Marketing needs to tie in directly to business. In fact, the whole business is marketing.
Public relations is also changing in this new environment low on trust and high on contribution. Edelman cites [via FT] four pillars of "public engagement" that are necessary to regain trust. I add my commentary:
- Private sector diplomacy - this is quite interesting, as it turns the tables on government stake ownership in companies via bail out. If you take this point to your small business, you have involvement in local community activities.
- Mutual Social Responsibility -internal and external are not the only two kinds of alignment that need to happen. There is also a larger conversation around the connection of being good socially with doing good financially. You don't need to be a non profit to find ways to contribute.
- Shared sacrifice - I've seen evidence of people at every level inside organizations putting in long hours and making personal sacrifices for the good of the company. In my experience with mergers and acquisitions, where stress is at an all time high and layoffs are imminent, sharing more information about what people can do to help the business is vital to sustaining a high level of energy and engagement.
- Repeated, swift, and accountable communications - at all levels. Communications to me also means active participation in the common understanding, the making sense of events. Collaboration, team work, and openness all fall under the accountability part.
Reputation that takes years to build can be marred in mere minutes without transparency and honesty. This is a critical part of public engagement.
Marketing and public relations are both about building relationships of trust. Listening is just the beginning, the doing something with it part is crucial for the health of your business. How do you capture the information? Here are a few ideas from Chris Brogan. How do you parse it inside the organization?
This is where having connected outposts throughout your company's functions will pay off big dividends. I'm giving you this advice for free, your repayment to me is in actually taking the advice and implementing it. Here's how you do it:
- have people on staff who know what to listen for. Enroll them from customer service, operations, engineering, product development, marketing, technical support, you get the idea.
- make it easy for them to communicate with each other. This is where a nice common platform with a robust content management system will be invaluable.
- agree to and use social tags to break down the issues in what you hear. Linking and search are valuable online functions for a reason - they build on behavioral patterns. We teach each other what is important.
- streamline the process from early detection to intervention. This is crucial. In working on crisis management and communications, we see it over and over again. Many crisis could have been averted with early intervention. Think of it as a prevention program for the health of your business.
- build accountability into the system. To keep things simple, how about everyone is accountable to the customer? Think of it as an org chart where each employee reports to the customer [hat tip to John Moore]
- do something with what you learn. That is the third part of my favorite quote "expect nothing. blame no one. do something." The more you listen actively, the more you will realize that it's not as complicated as the strategists will have you believe. Often, the information is there for the reading and hearing. Capturing it and slicing and dicing it is not as sexy as making a change because of it.
Pen and paper in hand, do a delta - what you're already doing in one column and what you wish you could be implementing in the other. Do you need to do more listening or do you need to do more with the listening you're already doing? Who needs to be convinced in your organization and who needs to do the convincing? Did you try with a pilot program? What did you learn from it?