Basil began his career in Bloody Big Corporation a long time ago and has worked his way to the head of Corporate Communications - it hasn't been easy street, over the years he's had to put out his share of corporate fires, manage a revolving door of stars, executive egos and even schmooze the most obnoxious, closed minded journalist.
It hasn't all been party - those long extended lunches, gifts and overseas corporate funded conventions to exotic destinations - it's all part of a carefully constructed game that oils the wheels of message control, and Basil, is the master of wheel and spin, (I mean storytelling) - the hardened old man of media influence.
BUT, like the stiff old vinyl LP and CD "the times they are a changin"
"Today, this Facebook and Twitter thing, this social media stuff has changed the game - the ability to control the media and message is just no longer possible" says an i-phone wielding Basil (subtle product placement #1) "Nowadays I have to keep a constant live streaming Twitter search of our key stakeholders and brands - when my new i-phone (#2) rings at 3AM in the morning I quickly check Twitter to see what's trending before I answer the call, Twitter is where stories break and if you don't know what's being said about you - you can look the fool and nobody likes to be made a fool"
In my role, says Basil "It's very important to always be connected - if it wasn't for #Telstra's unequalled mobile network coverage around the country I'd be lost (a not so subtle unsolicited customer advocacy product placement)."
Yes, the role of Corporate Communications is still to manage the brand and influence discussion but today it's in real time, online and open for all to see. Yes, PR and transparency is a bit of an oxymoron agrees Basil. Today, you need to be more subtle to influence behaviour.
Today every person with a smart phone (Cisco [CSCO] predicts that by 2015 the number of Internet-connected devices, such as laptops or smartphones, will outnumber people two to one world-wide), every user is their own reporter and media channel; they update Facebook and Tweet to their followers - within minutes a message, a photo, a video can ripple across the world.
Basil warn his clients of three things
- "What happens anywhere appears in Facebook"
- Ring me before your lawyer - I've got more online Klout! (Klout profiles and measures online Twitter influence)
- People aren't stupid and are highly connected - you can't buy loyalty - you have to earn trust, customer attention and advocacy.
Basil states that some of the statistics can be bewildering to the Internet strategy newbie.
- Netcraft reports there are 215,675,903 websites with domain names and content on them in 2009, compared to just 18,000 websites in August 1995 and that the web has been growing 10 fold each year.
- Locally, the average Australian Internet user spends 17.6 hours per week online; Television 13.4 hours; with 49% watching television and use the Internet at the same time. These figures are roughly inline with US and Europe.
- Online Social Networking represents 21.9% of that time - (Comscore Australians Online 2011)
- Facebook has over 600m people worldwide - that makes it the 3rd biggest country in the world.
- Twitter, according to calculations from leading blogger Jeff Bullas - has around 225m people and is growing at around 400,000 users per day.
- The average tweets per week - 1B (over 20% being brand related - I think I heard that at the I-strategy conference). People may are already talking about you.
- That there are 3 billion photos uploaded to Facebook every month.
- and there are 37 hours of video uploaded to Youtube every minute - most of it crap.
But amongst all the noise and clutter, we all now have information to make better decisions - search will only get better and more relevant.
Potential customers are already asking and getting referrals from friends, blogs and through social media - AND buying online - without ever walking into your shop or contacting you directly.
This re-emphasises that the first few seconds of your website is critical to conversion (see CLIVE).
The web is now mainstream and the web user, you, I, the customer, us, are in control.
Implementing a Social Media Control Centre
When a recent security incident at Big Bloody Corp spread like wildfire on Twitter they saw their share price drop 10 points wiping out billions of dollars of shareholder value. When CEO Franklyn Un and the BBC board realised that their brand equity and price was being impacted by social media conversations they instantly moved responsibility from Cheryl in Reception, to the Ivory Castle Corporate Communications Agency - you can't have some chatty inexperienced Y-Generation talking to the public.
Within six months social media returned back in-house.
At first we outsourced to an Agency but they didn't know our business well enough, were too slow to respond to customers and we realised social media/ conversations with our customers were far too important an element to outsource. As a result we brought social media back so that the degree of separation between customer and us was minimalised.
What took us the most time to realise is that customers hated the politically correct measured corporate tone of our tweets and loved chatty, real, responsive Cheryl and her team - that people buy from people.
We now understand that our attitude to change and customer engagement is critical to our long term success.
That as an organisation we needed to decorporatise and rehumanise the corporation, that if we are going to engage in these highly influential social media channels then we must become more social - more human - tell stories and have fun. That means putting people with strong communications skills and corporate intelligence at the front line - it means peeling off the corporate layers and letting the natural person shine through - to humanise our brands. It means getting all our executives and staff digitally aware. It means making our website more customer focused, friendly and inviting.