Book review: Groundswell…winning in a world transformed by social technologies

Groundswell – winning in a world transformed by social technologies

‘Groundswell’ is the first book I’ve read about social media.

With the digital world moving so fast, it’s hard to imagine a book that would not be outdated by the time it hit the shelves. Besides, when it comes to social media, it’s so easy to build knowledge online. There’s so many great resources available through blogs, thought-leaders and the social media platforms themselves, that you can find everything you need at the touch of a button.

But Groundswell is different. It’s central premise is to ask the reader to stop thinking about the technology platform and to instead focus on the relationships being created through the technology. It reminds us that social media isn’t about ‘facebook’ or ‘twitter’, it’s about people connecting, people collaborating, people organising content, sharing content and generating content.

So by focusing on the relationships, the ideas in the book, and the examples and tools for building your own relationships read as fresh and current as anything that can be found online.

The authors of Groundswell, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, pose the reader four key questions:

1) PEOPLE: what are the people you want to engage with ready for? How will they engage?

2) OBJECTIVES: What are your goals? Listening (to understand), Talking (as an interaction), Energizing (driving word of mouth, i.e for sales), Supporting (helping each other) or Embracing.

3) STRATEGY: How do you want relationships with your people to change? How will you measure this.

4) Finally, the TECHNOLOGY: Only at this point do you decide on the right technology for your business.

It seems such a simple concept, but think how many times you’ve heard the ‘oh, we have to set up Facebook’, or ‘everyone’s on Facebook or twitter’.

The most valuable take-out from the book is that for someone who works across both internal and external audiences (i,e me!), this book explores application into engaging employees as well as the public. Amazingly too, this book was published the same year Yammer was launched (2008), yet the ideas about sharing knowledge, connecting and crowdsourcing ideas pre-empt what Yammer has realised for hundreds of businesses.

Li and Bernoff’s key message throughout the book is that we shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the Groundswell. Too many of us are daunted by the prospect of the social media revolution. We’re feeling further and further behind every time another ‘next-big-thing’ – Pinterest or Instagram for example – becomes something new we feel we have to learn about. Li and Bernoff are asking us to take a step back, stop focusing on the technology, and learn about what’s happening within the technology. They say the Groundswell is here to stay, so we need to ride the wave:

“Conversation will evolve continously. Even as the technologies change, the basic conversational nature of those technologies will remain central. If you learn to talk, listen and respond, you’ll master [it].”

And what’s so scary about that?

Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies
Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
Published by Harvard Business Press 


Dealing with stakeholders: how to keep your internal comms schedule on track

Achieving this magic word, on time, every time

My previous post discussed the challenges of keeping internal comms top of mind for your senior stakeholders.

The five examples I outlined are points I raise with my stakeholders when a deadline is about to be missed, to help bring the schedule back onto track.

But, there’s much more you can do, especially from the very beginning of a project, to ensure this never happens in the first place.

Here’s my top ways to keep your internal comms projects and messaging schedule on track:

  • Share your schedule with those involved: Create a schedule and issue this to your stakeholders in advance of the project. Clearly highlight the dates the stakeholders need to provide and sign-off information. Show the relationship between the stakeholder input and the next stage of the project progressing. For example, if your poster cannot go to agency for design work until the copy has been signed-off, then show this. Explain the impact if work is delayed.
  • Look at your sign-off procedure. The bane of every person’s life working in comms – the sign-off process. When it feels like every senior manager and his or her friends wants to sign-off the document or article before it goes out. Look at your process and identify stakeholders that you can safely omit. Target those who are routinely slow with conversations around how to keep to deadline – and then plan in more time to give yourself a stretch.
  • Timeliness versus quality. I’m a big believer that employees need timely, relevant, consistent communication. The content might be word-perfect but unless it reaches people on time, it will lose impact. This means delivering to agreed deadlines. And sometimes this means saying ‘no’ to change requests. It’s having the difficult conversations with your stakeholders that the communication is ready to go out and no further changes can be made once a deadline has passed. I’d rather get a communication out to employees that they need and face an angry stakeholder, than not deliver timely communication. But that leads on to…..
  • Pick your battles. Know the difference when a short delay will not significantly impact employees and when timeliness is crucial. If you’re going to say no to a stakeholder change, make sure it’s nothing too important in the wider picture of what you’re aiming to achieve. Understand the business you are in too – I’ve worked in organisations where a news story had to be live on the intranet by 9.00am every morning. In others, the nature of the business meant keeping to a deadline to the minute wasn’t necessary.

And finally….

  • Understand what’s going on in the rest of the business. Success in working in internal comms is about the relationships you have with the rest of the business. I try to catch-up face-to-face with all the key business areas at least twice a week. This can just be a simple door knock on the office, a chat over the water cooler, or a more formal meeting. By understanding what’s going on in the business at any given time I can better plan my schedule and pre-empt any upcoming hurdles in meeting deadlines.

Do you have any other tips for keeping your schedule on track? What works well in your organisation?