You Don’t Control the Conversation Anymore!

One of the major dynamic shifts in marketing in the past several years has been the migration of our role as conversation starters – an active role – to conversation facilitators, a more observational and influential role.

10-15 years ago, we were all charged with integrating our marketing efforts by crafting and streamlining our messaging, ensuring that all of our channels were using the same language, creating “key messages” in bullet point form for the media, and mastering “official positioning” for everything from our product’s benefits to our company’s role in the community.

Not anymore.

These kinds of manufactured conversations simply don’t have staying power and credibility in today’s transparent world. The remarkable nature of the internet and social media have broken the conversation wide open, and put the audience in the drivers’ seat. Today’s consumers, companies, and readers aren’t buying the canned corporate statement anymore. And frankly, they could care less about your “official” position on something. They’re not going to ignore the unofficial stuff that’s out there about you, and they’re going to make up their own minds about what’s really being said. Brian Solis has a great podcast that discusses this very thing.

So what can you do? Listen to the conversation and participate in it. Hear what people are saying about you, and respond. Craft your “official” positioning by making it your policy to:

- Allow your best assets – your team members, at all levels – to speak about what they know. Quit stifling their insights in favor of “approved” media spokespeople. It’s more genuine this way.
- Respond to the dialogue that’s happening around you and about you. And that means the criticism, too.
- Pay attention to how your idea of your brand is matching up with how others are talking about you. If they’re vastly different, it’s time to reevaluate.

Today, we’re all charged with letting go a little bit and realizing that we’re not the ones dictating the conversation anymore. The social media reality means that conversation and dialogue is now:

  • Transparent
  • Open to everyone
  • Collective – the power of many
  • Brutally honest
  • Fast as lightning.

Our role as marketing people is to help create an oustanding, remarkable, and great product/service/idea. Then we participate in the conversation rather than merely trying to control it, and see what a difference it makes. Not convinced social media will affect the way you do business? Read this great post by Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester Research.

This kind of conversation can actually be great fun, super insightful, and inspirational. I can’t tell you how many brilliant people I’ve met just by opening my brain and my business to these possibilities. Let go of the steering wheel a little bit, and reap the rewards.

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  • cmo conversations

    This is true – you may start the conversation, but it won’t be as effective as the one started by somebody else. But you have to control it as much as you can – your reputation depends on what was said, so you better watch for every written word. It costs a lot!