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ON MY OWN: Rewiring your CEO’s brain for social media


Judette Coward-Puglisi

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SHARI BRICKIN, the executive vice-president for Catapult Action-Biased Marketing, said it well: “To be good at marketing, you need to be a bit of a control freak.”
It’s the same way with communication. As professionals, we are custodians of the brand, the messages and the sentiments communicated by the logo, but communication too is by its very nature about engagement.
While we are required to be confident and strong in our convictions, we are also at ease with evangelising messages, listening to critics and engaging varied opinions. Perhaps it’s this duality that has allowed us to move with the times. I have yet to meet a communicator not engaged with social media, our natural need to control superseded by our desire to connect.
Unfortunately the same can’t be said for many CEOs we work with, both as clients and as employers. Among them there is a lot of angst about relinquishing control of a brand’s identity and putting it out there for one rabid customer to take apart.
Firstly, there is their fear of the unknown. Secondly, there is the possibility of conflict and inconsistency in how consumers and customers represent the brand; and finally, their not being the final decision maker and steward is hard to swallow.
However, Forrester Research just released some interesting results that should put the fears on pause, and it speaks to the fundamental shift that CEOs must note. The fact is, more than 1.5 million pieces of content are shared on Facebook daily. In the near future, we will no longer search for products and services; they will find us via social media.
Those are perfect reasons to press the unclick button and get to embracing the very thing that is causing marketing and communication professionals to lead the engagement change.
Perhaps the best way to convince a reluctant CEO is to prepare a series of industry case studies that use social media to engage, educate, excite and evangelise. Here are some of Brickin’s examples:
Engage. Walgreens teamed up with Oprah.com to develop the ODream Board, a desktop application that combines photos, quotes and words to motivate and inspire consumers to turn their life’s goals into reality. Once consumers create a board, they can print them out at a local Walgreens to serve as a daily reminder. This successfully transitioned Walgreens’ photo processing from a transactional department to an advocate supporting shoppers’ personal transformation.
Educate. Would you believe that toilet paper could drive a public bathroom revolution? Charmin’s SitorSquat app helps consumers find clean public restrooms away from home. Approximately 52 000 public toilets in ten countries worldwide have been reviewed! Charmin has solved a true problem for consumers and raised its profile as the toilet paper that brings you the best bathroom experience, whether at home or away from home.
Excite. The Pepsi Refresh Project is driven by a US$20 million social-media investment to drive excitement throughout the global community to nominate and vote for local community projects to receive funding from US$5 000 to US$250 000 each month.
Looking to close the gap between Pepsi’s 250 000 actively engaged Facebook fans and Coke’s four million, this campaign creates an emotional connection in the most personally relevant way, crossing the range of categories connected to people’s passions: health, arts and culture, the planet, neighbourhoods, and education.
Evangelise. Target has a long-standing corporate commitment to supporting educational programming.
This past February, they identified one more way to get consumers involved in helping the cause. Taking advantage of the fact that Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day were one week apart, they created a Facebook application called Super Love Sender.
Consumers were encouraged to create and send up to ten video cards a day and with each card they voted for one of five worthy charities. Target offered real-time tracking of how the charities were faring against each other for portions of Target’s US$1 million donation.
The case studies speak for themselves, don’t they? Rewiring your executive’s brain for social media is not going to be easy but can you think of a better cause, as a communicator, worth more of your time? Hmmm. Didn’t think so.

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