Professional Thanks and Reasons for an Exciting 2015

It’s that time of the year:  People in the Unites States take a pause and give thanks.  It is also the time when the end of the year creeps up on all of us and we reflect on the year gone by and year ahead. While many of the festivities and focus are on family and friends, it is also a good time to give professional thanks and reflect on the year behind us and the opportunities for an exciting 2015.

The Sometimes Challenging Aspects of Our Work:  The “always-on” nature of our jobs in a global and hyper-connected world can lead to a lot of strains and pressures.  Sometimes that daily grind of this thing we call work seems to be a lot of power points; those endless meetings to align on plans and build consensus for action and next steps—wondering whether the action part ever comes; endless revisions to documents and powerpoints; “fire drills” of some sort intervening in the daily effort of doing the job; the occasional issues related to corporate “bureaucracy”; intransigence; questions from managers or related departments that either demonstrate lack of knowledge or sometimes don’t have answers yet; and finally funding for new efforts, yet budgets are almost  always based on historical spending (versus spending on new and innovative possibilities).   It can all add up to a daily grind…not worthy of being called out at a time of Thanks and holidays.

In addition to the corporate obstacles, the technological changes continue at a rapid rate impacting both our jobs and our company’s.  When it comes to the social marketing and communications we confront a lot of changes to how we work, such as:

  • the tools that we are adopting keep changing and morphing, many are imperfect;
  • the amount of data and information being thrown off the social web increases exponentially, yet we lack the resources and staff to process all that information into relevant understandings;
  • there is the emergence of new “models” like native advertising and the integration of paid, owned and earned media, or the implications of the sharing economy and crowd powered companies complicating traditional ways of thinking and doing business;
  • situations like we see with Uber, Bill Cosby or the latest “mis-fired” corporate Tweet, remind us that a crisis on the Web brings a whole new set of dynamics to issue response.  As David Carr notes in the New York Times Article, and is equally applicable to business as it is “stars”: “Many had entire crews of dust busters who came behind them and cleaned up their messes.  Those days are history. It doesn’t really matter now what the courts or the press do or decide. When enough evidence and pushback rears into view, a new apparatus takes over, one that is viral, relentless and not going to forgive or forget.

The environment in which we perform our work is in the midst of ongoing changes. It can be overwhelming. Change is hard work.

The Trust Challenge and Opportunity for Businesses: In addition to the changes and challenges in our own daily work, the companies we work for also challenged.  This year’s “Trust Barometer” by Edelman noted that “CEOs….remain at the bottom of the list of being trusted — for both Informed and General Publics, with extremely low trust levels on key metrics. Only one in four General Public respondents trust business leaders to correct issues and even fewer – one in five – to tell the truth and make ethical and moral decisions.  Despite this year’s stagnation in trust of business/CEOs, “eighty-four percent of respondent also noted that they believe business can pursue its’ self-interest while doing good work for society.” In this respect, Edelman noted CEO’s must play a more visible public role and one of transparent engagement, bringing forth both economic rationale as well as arguments that address emotion, risk and societal benefit.  The report also underscores the importance of CEO’s having the courage to hear what is being said in public debates and be willing to change accordingly.  While Edelman raises this in the context of regulatory environments and public policy discussions, one can suggest its is applicable to the overall environment in which business operates and how to lead in that context too — a context of a very public marketplace, driven by social, mobile and global connections.

Given the magnitude of voices now available for business to listen to, and the range of ways companies can choose to communicate through social and mobile apps, Edelman’s trust barometer notes “the public wants to also hear directly from employees as ambassadors for the company.  Employees can attest to the company’s “integrity, the quality and relevance of products and services offered and the operational strength of the company, including its leadership.”

Beyond the Challenges, The Opportunities to Give Thanks For:  While every job has daily challenges and business always confronts issues, here are five reasons to give professional thanks and dream about the possibilities for 2015:

The extra seat at the table was yours1. Openness and access to new ideas.  Everyday.   Through social media sharing, blogs and other Web and mobile-enabled options, we have unfettered access to professional friends/colleagues’ opinions and thoughts – those ideas and opinions can often be thought starters that move us forward professionally. We can learn something new every day – about our business, our profession and the world in which we work.  Our friends and professional colleagues who kindly share their thoughts, tips and points of view merit a big thank you. They keep us fresh and thoughtful….they give us chances to learn and push our own thinking.

In that respect, I say thanks to my Twitter followers, Facebook Friends, Google+ Circles, LinkedIn Connections, Flickr connections and Instagram followers. In case you missed it on Facebook, that extra spot at my Thanksgiving table was for all for you — in spirit

2. The opportunity to listen, hear and understand our business’ customers and other stakeholders are better than ever: whether we do this in person or using technology and the Web, the chance to hear their voices and let them know they have been heard has never been better. Customers and other stakeholder voices are publicly shared, accessible and unfiltered (versus being responses to our questionnaire) give us primary customer research and can be the basis for improving things in our business, or even for doing better work when we think about what our messages should be.

Understanding what people think of our business is an important.  It helps us close the gaps between what others think and what we want to communicate.   Listening and understanding should help us craft better communications and marketing that serves our stakeholders interest.  Used smartly it is a strategic advantage to make our businesses better business – programs, services, products, operations can all respond better to exceed customer expectations, across various functions and departments.

3. You no longer need to be dependent on third parties.  Third parties have value.  But there is also lots of new value to be found in the ability to connect directly. Transparent Engagement is what Edelman called it (see above).  Whatever you call it, the opportunities for business to lead and connect with people outside of its business are the real people-to-people connections that deliver all kinds of value –for customers, other stakeholders and for the legitimacy and important understanding of business’ contribution to society.  Those programs to connect directly with key stakeholders can be Web-enabled and they can also include a “real-life” component to further the connectivity of this business relationship.  In this respect, throw out the playbook of mass media reach (from PR to marketing and its advertising) or at least put that old and traditional playbook aside for a few moments (see #4).

the virtuous social circle4. New opportunities are there to be created.  Create.  Create Value: Brainstorm how a web-based, frictionless “offering” or socially enabled connections with your stakeholders/customers can be useful – to them and you too.  The doors are open to create new connections that drive brand admiration to new levels, or at least beyond the brand admiration you garnered in the past, using the traditional play books.  Whether it takes the form of a mobile app that brings more useful functionality to your product or information delivered in your new role as “brands as publishers” or the building of a social community where customers share great things – the doors are wide open to new efforts to connect in real ways with people that matter to your business.  Forget Business as usual and go for it – of course, remember and brainstorm with the understanding of your business strategy and what the brands stand for.  The chance to know customers/stakeholders and be relevant to them has never been brighter. That’s a great opportunity for business.

5. Exciting new ways to tell your Business Story.  The Opportunities to Communicate and Connect are vast but require telling business stories in new ways.  There are a myriad of new ways to tell your business’ story.  You could look at things like the  explosion of the visual Web; the use of video; transmedia storytelling; Access to new news outlets (such as Buzzfeed, BusinessInsider, Quartz, Vox, Circa, etc); understanding how the emerging news filters work (think about Trove or Prismatic, or and developing thoughtful efforts to ensure you get through; initiate a content curation effort that helps your business lead and stand out in the crowd; revamp the Corporate Website “newsroom” to be more relevant; define new ways to tell your stories so that those connected with you also help tell that story because it is relevant to them…the list could go on.

The fact is (like 4) the opportunities are there to be created.  The way we told business stories in the past is different than how you approach the new order of storytelling.Make sure the stories are ones that matter to others (not just you and your business bosses).

Bonus Reason: You: Undoubtedly there are more than five reasons to give thanks for the professional world we live in.  You can, I am sure, add several of your own reasons to the list — success you had, new opportunities you see for your business.  However, as I think about the communication, marketing and social media professionals I know, Ive got one bonus reason for professional thanks and being optimistic about 2015: You and your work. It came to me over the weekend when reading the New York Times review by A.O Scott of the movie “The Imitation Game” which is about breaking the Nazi code in World War II, the reviewer notes:

“Turing, an eccentric visionary stuck in an organization that is bureaucratic, hierarchical and wedded to tradition, is an apostle of innovation. Commander Denniston lectures him about the importance of “order, discipline and chain of command” for the war effort, but the solving of Enigma decisively rebuts this old-fashioned notion. The strategic acumen of generals and the tactical valor of soldiers is incidental. What won the war was data, and the heroes were the tech guys (and the one woman) who worked late, snacked freely, fiddled with crossword puzzles and geeked out over a piece of hardware that looked like a giant toy. Hut 8 at Bletchley Park serves as a prototype for the corporate campuses of Apple, Google and Facebook”

You are the Turing in your organization.  And that too is a great reason to give thanks, as well as reason to look forward to the next year.

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