Friday, June 4, 2010

Wanted: Digital Ambassadors

The ever-savvy Barbara Bix (@bbmarketingplus on Twitter) has written a thought provoking article entitled "Will marketing consultants and agencies switch places with in-house staff in a digital world?" which leads me to think about one of the "side effects" of the shift to a new world of digital communications:

As companies increasingly want/need and can themselves be involved in the design, creation, curation, distribution and management of content--organizations will find out:

1) Communicating is hard, Creating quality content is hard. Both require skills

While the economics of old-line, ad-sponsored journalism has shaken up the world of the Media: the public and businesses continue to have an insatiable appetite for quality content. Becoming world-class storytellers (comparable to professional reporters, editors) is not something many marketers have the skill or the time for. (Ed. comment: Couldn't resist ending the sentence with a preposition!)

2) Self-publishing is attractive, yet requires a major investment of money & resources

As companies see inherent value in publishing their own content-- they'll need to invest and build internal and external infrastructures to author, refine and deliver that content. I think a majority of companies underestimate the enormity of that reality.

3) Social Media changes everything

As Web-based interactivity becomes mainstream-- companies who may have previously interacted with "audiences" and "target" will now find those marketing concepts are disconsonant with the new world in which conversations replace campaigns, broadcasting is replaced by valuecasting (a dialogue between multiple participants on topics of mutual and highly personal relevance). To be empathic and responsive in real-time, while also proactively endeavoring to simultaneously do what is perceived to be in the best interests of the company—is a tall order.

Whoever does social media engagement for a company (internal staff or external consultants) functions as an “Ambassador” for the company. Accordingly those people need to have Ambassadorial qualities: first-rate written and interpersonal communications skills, combined with judgment, diplomacy, tact, patience, and more. Would you trust the public persona of your company to a marketing intern?

4) Will businesses take a leap of faith and trust?

In the producer/consumer, reader = editor, critic today: booster tomorrow environment that the Web has created: companies will need to recognize that proactively cultivating a better relationship with “all those who matter” (formerly known as prospects, customers, partners, influencers) is an imperative for success. In a world where messaging is more honest, dialogue--more earnest, expressions of service and value--more genuine: both buyer and seller win. In a self-regulating information stream, the Web can be an ideal aggregator of content created by and for those who will value it most.

The Bottom Line:
To meet the needs of the new digital world, companies will need to hire a new breed of PROFESSIONAL COMMUNICATORS, and staff their evolving requirements with a mix of internal employees and experienced external consultants and agencies who collectively represent a diplomatic corps to represent them.

Organizations who forestall investing in communications talent and the need to communicate better (in order on short-term gains) are penny wise and pound foolish.

Corporate America: Go hire some Ambassadors!