We all have that friend, the one who we are excited to see because we haven't seen them in a while, but when we do meet up they monopolize the conversation with all of their problems.
Then we re-realize why we haven't seen them in a while. They are a one-way conversation with themselves and they could be talking to anyone. We may get our chance to tell our story, but this conversation is not a real dialogue. It's not allowing for genuine, creative, authentic real time responses. It is difficult for people to have conversations that aren't trying to promote one sides agenda over the others.
It is especially difficult for brands to shift from message broadcasting, to a mass audience to authentic conversations with their advocates.
One way to ensure that brands have meaningful conversations is to create a conversational calendar. A "conversational calendar" is an "always-on", year long and beyond plan to provide useful content, promote a dialogue and find a balance between the brands needs and the needs of their advocates. It's starts by understanding what is valuable to your advocates. What gets them excited to engage with your brand? Is it a particular social cause you support, an issue they care about, a contest, free products, insider information, being listened to, special offers... Whatever it may be, you have to genuinely support what they care about and want to help (like Pepsi Refresh), and that means honestly caring about others and not just getting your brand messages weaved into the conversation. If you can engage and promote authentic conversations, you will be able to earn even more commitment from your advocates and purpose for your brand. Don't be that friend who doesn't listen, be that friend who asks questions and truly wants to know what the other wants and support them as much as possible.
We all know that "Things have changed". The people have spoken and they want open honest "authentic" communications. They don't want to be called "consumers", "target audiences", or "prospects". They want companies to be open, trustworthy and "not be evil". They want to talk to real people, on the communication platform of their choice - whenever they want. They want companies to listen to them and their opinions heard. Most importantly, they want to connect and build relationships that are built on mutual respect and understanding. If you dig a little deeper into human communication, some psychiatrists will tell you that almost 90% of all communications between people has an intent to control. We feel more comfortable if we can predict what the other person will say and influence the outcome. Psychiatrists also say that; the more you try and control your messages, the more out of control you feel. When you are more focused on creating a favorable impression, than communicating authentically, you are reinforcing your fears and anxieties.
This is completely counter-intuitive for marketers! We create messaging strategies, scenario maps, response charts and outcome predictors based on how our controlled messages will be heard. We test messages, test more messages and change our messages all the time "to maximize impact with our target audience". We basically shove messages down the throats of our consumer targets, until we find one that resonates, whether they like it or not! Are we really listening to people? - There is an enormous difference between communication that comes with the intent to relate and communication that comes from the intent to control. Healthy communication fosters connection, trust, intimacy and respect. It's not about getting people to do what you want, It's about creating mutually beneficial solutions.
Companies are made up of people, so it should be easy for brands to find their "human" voice to communicate authentically. It is easier for new brands, like Zappos, that have grown up in this digitally connected social world to do this, but I believe that even companies that have been around for "a-while" can "open-up" and communicate authentically with the help of these: Ten thoughts about authentic communications.
1. It's about trust and transparency. 2. It's about the story - real and truthful 3. It's about real people, talking to real people 4. It's about listening, asking questions and letting people be heard 5. It's about commitment to a dialogue and being available 6. It's about being prepared to engage in real time 7. It's about being a leader that values the others opinions 8. It's about embracing the negative and truley trying to change it 9. It's about being sincere, honest and not replying from a legally approved script 10 It's about offering something of value to the conversation
Digital news outlets, in particular: blogs, social networking sites and forums are a potential source of negative conversations that could, if triggered or not addressed, become a major reputation issue or perhaps even a crisis for your brand. In order to prevent this from happening you should establish a comprehensive digital reputation management and crisis prevention plan. This plan can help ensure as much protection and warning to potential damaging developments.
The primary goals of the plan are to: - Establish a crisis action plan that can be implemented quickly and that addresses both potential negative issues, as well as supports positive conversations - Leverage your influencers, both paid spokespeople, community manager(s) and trusted media advocates - Establish a fully trained cross-functional Reputation Management Team inside of your organization Secondary goals: - Become a trusted voice in the digital landscape - Compliment and enhance any social engagement programs already in place
When a crisis/issue arises, follow these seven guiding principles. 1. Communicate quickly and accurately 2. Be transparent and consistent 3. Create a dialogue 4. Deploy SEM (Search Engine Marketing) techniques 5. Address detractors 6. Amplify/Activate advocates 7. Leverage your editorial assets (friends, 3rd party partners, endorsements, digital media partners, etc.)
The crisis framework should incorporate these pillars:
Listen - Establish weekly social media monitoring that specifically focus on potential issue topics - If an issue arises, expand reports to appropriate time intervals with response recommendations to take action against
Anticipate - Know where your promoters and detractors live online - Consider campaigns focused on potential issues during non-crisis times to develop relationships that could be revisited if needed - If an issue arises, engage influencers in rapid response efforts as needed, make sure to customize and humanize your responses as much as possible.
Develop - Create a response plan that addresses who, when and how to respond to each potential area and make sure that your site can handle live two way communication (no email forms) and the team is trained on how to communicate authentically in the digital space. Engage - Activate the response plan, consider a personal message from a company spokesperson that is genuine and not overly scripted. - If you have already established your relationships with advocates on Twitter, Facebook and blogs than you should have people that you can help get your point of view out. - This is the key to getting your brands voice heard. Advertise - Utilize search, online and traditional advertising to expand your point of view and create calm