Be an Agent of Change

Dec 29, 2011

If you're a loyal reader of EContent and my column (and I hope you are), you should already know that we have been living through a communications revolution. No, it isn't being televised; it's being tweeted, blogged, and filmed. In December 2011, using social media to drum up interest in businesses is mainstream-commonplace even. It's hard to imagine a time before social media now that it's become ubiquitous, but when I first started writing this column in 2003, I had to explain what a blog was. YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook didn't exist. The only thing your mobile phone could do was make and receive phone calls--maybe text, if you were lucky.

Yet many people tell me their bosses are just plain resistant to change. Or fearful. Or stubborn. Amazingly, a huge number of companies still have wholesale bans on access to social networking sites. And in all likelihood, it's hindering each company's success.

To understand the motivations of your colleagues and bosses as they fight you, I recommend that you consider the bias that every company brings to the generation of attention for the business. Companies such as Procter & Gamble primarily generate attention through advertising, by spending the big bucks on television, magazines, direct mail, trade shows, and other forms of buying attention. Companies such as Apple focus on public relations, getting reporters to write or broadcast about the business and products. Organizations such as EMC Corp. hire a vast team of salespeople to reach people one at a time. Often the defining organizational culture springs from the founder or CEO. So if the CEO came up through the sales track, all attention problems are likely to become sales problems. The point is, you'll have to convince your boss to invest in social media because it's likely he or she doesn't consider it to be a high priority.

There's no doubt in my mind that your organization will benefit from getting out there and participating on the social web, if you aren't already. I'm also convinced that no matter who you are or what you do, your professional and personal lives will improve as you engage with people through social networking.
If you work for a company that resists engaging its marketplace in the ways that customers demand, I think you have three choices: 1) You can become a change agent. This is difficult but potentially very rewarding. 2) You can live with the status quo. Hey, I know that when you have a family and obligations, particularly in a tough economy, putting your livelihood at risk may not be the right thing. 3) You may want to find another job. I know people who have decided to leave companies solely because of the Draconian social networking policies.

I want you to be an agent of change.

This role comes with risk-"shooting the messenger" and all that. If you're like many of my readers and the people who attend my seminars, you have colleagues who will argue with you. They will tell you that you need to spend big bucks on advertising. They will tell you that the only way to do PR is to get the media to write about you.

People who say social media isn't important are wrong, and you have an opportunity to show them the right path. Bring together a team that creates social media guidelines so that all can communicate without fear. Be the first in your organization to have a personal video channel. Get your company onto Google+ before the competition. While you may risk getting sacked, if you successfully bring a company into the world of modern communications, you have the potential to be promoted, get a raise, and become a hero.

It's your choice.

In my own life, I am embracing a different kind of change. Starting in 2012, I will be devoting more of my time to other projects and will be closing the door on the EContent chapter of my career. This magazine will always have a special place in my heart. Michelle Manafy, EContent's former editor, gave me my first writing assignment in these pages, and since then, I've written probably a half million published words appearing in a dozen books and probably 50 different magazines. But it all started here.

Most importantly, I want to thank you for reading. After all, what good is knowledge if there is no one to share it with?