This is a great question Deb Schultz asks - I, too tend to want to elevate the conversation from tactics to objectives and in this case cultural and organizational issues. We were discussing those very same basic principles she outlines in her post with Karl Long recently at SxSWi.
Karl just renamed his blog the Social Capitalist - building virtuous value networks. What does social capitalist mean? Given his experience curve in the digital environment, I'm sure we'll learn a lot from the evolution of his thinking.
Onto the story at hand.
Recently, P&G got a number of agency people, media executives and others to Cincinnati to perform a Digital Hack Night. The idea was to use social media to get people to buy Tide t-shirts via tweets, hash tags, and other digital means with some of the proceeds going to Feed America. P&G brand managers with Deb Schultz acting as "social web sherpa" and various consultants and agency people tapped into their social networks dived into a marketing exercise to experience social media at work. AdAge summarized the exercise results:
Fewer than 150 media and marketing people leaning heavily on their social-media friends and followers, resorting to big-name incentives and spending a total of about $4,000 on digital media can sell more than 2,000 T-shirts at $20 a pop for charity and hit the top 10 trending topics on Twitter in the process.
According to David Armano, who was participating in the event:
At the end of 4 hours we were all told that we raised approx 50k and P&G matched that. That's 100k that will go to people who get get hit by the next Katrina.
Do check out the discussion at Brian Morrisey's blog - including a good back and forth with Stan Joosten, Innovation Manager, Holistic Communication Procter & Gamble - and that at Peter Kim's blog. I missed the tone issue on Twitter and agree with Alan Wolk who summarized some of the pitfalls, as well as the learning, in a comment:
I give them props for trying something unique and different and realizing that it's okay to take a risk. My friend Brian Morrissey often talks about how the ad community is afraid to take risks and how, as per Silicon Valley, we can learn as much from our mistakes as from our successes. So I think this was a smart move for P&G, or at the very least, a step in the right direction. It didn't cost them a whole lot and hopefully they learned from it. If they're able to see what they did right and what they did wrong and improve their effort next time, then it worked.
In thinking how some principles and dynamics (Deb's points in bold) apply to corporations:
- Opening up & loss of control - there is still too much worry that people will copy what you're doing and not enough understanding of what happens if they don't even know you exist.
And, the rise of the personal brand (yes, I will do a follow up post on that) is making sure that customers are focused on themselves even more. What control did your organization have over them anyway?
- The collaborative & organic nature of the medium - this is the space where I tend to thrive from an early age and the reason why social anything suits me. I would make collaboration the first item on the corporate agenda across functions and departments. How you deal with rating that should not be the driver of how the company is structured. And you can still have personal initiative within a team.
- The power and dynamics of network effects - I really liked how Deb described the immediacy of the exercise and how people got creative. Too often, way too often, corporations call in the "experts" from agencies to be creative while they disregard the good ideas, energy, and ability to implement of their own people.
- The importance of constancy and participation vs big grand gestures - the constant gardeners inside organizations tend to be trampled by those who pre-empt with large gestures, especially in marketing. It's surprising that it would happen in a more consumer-oriented company, but not so that it would come from large organizations.
- The personal intimate nature of the medium - personal is not something that is encouraged inside organizations. That's a shame, because it's where innovation lives. When there is no attention paid to personal contribution, team work becomes committee or group think. And, let's face it, when it comes to domain of demonstrated expertise, it's not a democracy. Evolution will teach us you can have both - and without taking anything away from someone else to get credit.
- The importance of trust and relationship - it's not that corporations are populated by drones, or people who don't otherwise understand the fluid nature of relationships. They are, and they do. What happens is that rules and incentives have created habits. And habits are hard to break.
- The always on - 24/7 nature of the web - although many companies are now always on in terms of the flood of work and scarcity of resources, there is still hardly a sense that digital and social are integrated into a constant, and sometimes unorganized, flow. One can insert themselves into it at any point and make something happen through participation. Not a campaign or a program, just one long conversation activated in different ways, at different times.
I agree with Deb on the skills needed when she observes that teams needed a human connector to bring it all together and a catalyst to kick it off. I see this as a growing skill set in business as a result of the social web. That was one of the ideas behind Conversation Agent, the name leverages the qualities of the person and thus service behind it.
Some days it feels like wrangling cats - but that's because we still live in environments where it is in the best interest of each individual not to share, not to help, in fact often to stonewall. The result? What is cumulatively good for the company is not quite what customers want.
I outlined it above. Working organically inside organizations is not easy. I'm pretty sure that many of the marketers at P&G are active in social media with their own names, as David Knox comments. I met David through links to this blog, just like I met many of my readers through their posts and comments.
In that respect, Adam Kmiec left a helpful comment to Peter Kim's post:
If the future is that all employees should be involved in activating their connections 3 things must happen:
1. Employees should be rewarded for the impact they make - this changes compensation structures
2. Personal brands must be embraced and supported; with rules needing relaxation so that employees aren't be stifled - can a corporate company really embrace this?
3. Partners will need to be held accountable as well. - If employees are expected to do this, shouldn't their agencies, packaging suppliers, etc.
We do learn by doing. Although this could have been executed a bit differently, it was executed nonetheless, instead of being a mere off site meeting by PowerPoint. Digital is having an impact on people’s lives in new ways. Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it does nonetheless.
How would you teach a large, process driven organization to be innovative, work organically, and think socially?
[image by Peter Kim]
Other posts about the event:
- Everything Typepad: Get A Cool Shirt, Save The World