Showing posts with label Myragan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Myragan. Show all posts

Monday, October 29

Demonstrating Non-Communication: IABC And Ragan


Last week, I mentioned a communication breakdown. On the front end, it was confined to the chair and president of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), which is a global network of communicators working in diverse industries, and IABC member David Murray, who has his own ideas about what IABC should be doing. Shel Holtz did a good job with the recap so I won’t repeat it. It’s not very entertaining, er, or is it?

If it was an episode of The Office, it would have went something like this…

Dwight: I’m so excited! We have a new Scranton plan and I want to share some of it early! Listen up, everybody; this is going to be great! … Blah, blah, blah.
Toby: Blah, blah, blah? That’s stupid, Dwight. You can’t do it that way. It has to go through corporate.
Dwight: Oh, come on … maybe you just need to hear a little more.
Toby: No, Dwight. I don’t. It’s stupid.
Michael: Hold on. If anyone is going to call Dwight’s plan stupid, they have to call me stupid too. It was my plan.
Toby: Whatever, Michael. It’s still stupid and I’m calling Ryan.

So what really happened?
Todd Hattori, chair of IABC, made the mistake of pre-releasing some strategic plan summaries to the public before the plan was ready for members (let alone the public) because he was enthusiastic about it. Murray, an IABC member with his own ideas about what needs to be done, publicly criticized the summary.

Hattori and Julie Freeman, president of IABC, attempted to respond, trying to defend the unreleased plan by sharing more information. They didn’t need to go beyond adding a comment to Murray’s blog, perhaps asking Murray to wait for the plan to be released. But they did, and that made matters worse. Go figure.

So what could have happened?
IABC could have released the strategic plan to various internal stakeholders, incorporated the best input as needed, and then released the completed plan to the public. Communicating change works best from the inside out.

The Story Continues…
Ragan Communications noted the tussle and thought it would be fun to cover. Last week, I thought it was a good thing that Ragan Communications gave the criticism a forum out of principle. I’m less inclined to think so today, because Ragan appears to have a stake in the outcome. The Ragan a la Michael Klein addition to the non-communication went something like this…

Toby (into phone): Ryan, yeah, it’s Toby, I have a problem.
Ryan: Toby, I’m busy. Let Angela work it out until I can get there.
Angela: Well, this plan doesn’t include Ryan’s ideas, so Toby is right, it’s stupid. But if you want, I’ll be happy to listen …
Michael and Dwight: Okay! Blah, blah, blah.
Angela: Blah, blah, blah? No, it’s definitely stupid. Let’s take a vote.
Ryan’s fans: Whatever Angela says!

So what really happened?
Klein, who also has ideas about what IABC should be doing, first wrote an op-ed mostly highlighting Murray’s point of view and infused some additional points (fair enough). And then, Murray seemed to ask for an objective “interview.” Hattori and Freeman accepted, despite all this being well beyond objectivity.

So what could have happened?
I appreciate that Hattori and Freeman were trying to be responsive, but it came across as somewhat defensive. It certainly did not serve members to make the IABC Strategic Plan the subject matter of a pretend news source. Ragan has some good content, but its flash-in-the-pan style often dilutes its value.

The Story Continues…
About that time, it seems Shel Holtz and I stumbled upon the conversation, both wondering if it was worth commenting on at all. That went something like this…

Jim: Hey, what are we voting on in here?
Kevin: Hey Jim, It’s confusing, but I’ll map it all out for you.
Jim: Sure, map away. It all seems kind of silly.
Michael: Jim, can you define silly?
Dwight: What part’s silly? Mine? Or Toby’s?
Jim: You know, maybe I ought to keep out of it.
Kevin: That might be best. Nobody cares anyway.
Jim: You might be right.
Ryan (finally walking in): Nobody cares? Everybody cares! At least they used to care!
Kevin: Good point, Ryan. Why doesn’t anyone care?
Toby: That was my point all along.

So are there any real issues?
I see several issues buried somewhere in all the bias, but I think even those are trumped by the simple fact that this strategic plan has not been released. As for IABC members not chiming in en masse, I can only guess that most are wise enough to avoid a conversation about something they have not seen, which is why I’m waiting until the strategic plan is released.

Except, I’d like to note that the entire dialogue (and I use that term loosely) was an exercise in non-communication with no more validity than a basic blog drama. You would think that people who are communicators would know better, given they are all professionals. For some reason, everyone treats social media like it somehow supercedes proven communication practices. It does not.

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Thursday, October 25

Mixing Nuts: Ragan Communications


If you ever want to see an organization that inspires admiration and loathing at the same time, look no further than Ragan Communications. If you don’t know, it is a publisher of information about corporate communication and internal communication. It also hosts a social network called myRagan, which is both useful and clunky at the same time (but better than when I first reviewed it).

Admiration

On one hand, Ragan Communications gave Michael Klein a great platform to discuss the merits and shortfalls of the International Association of Business Communicators’ new staff-driven strategic plan. David Murray also has a fine sum-up about the communication backlash.

If you don’t know, IABC is a professional network of more than 15,000 business communication professionals in over 70 countries. One of the cornerstone principles for IABC is that it is a member-driven organization, which pinpoints why a staff-written strategic plan (that few have seen) may not be palatable for many members, especially because it was set in motion before it was released for review. Yikes! Time to brush up on those “communicating change” skill sets.

I haven’t had the opportunity to fully immerse myself in the real issues, but I’ll poke around next week. One thing I do know, having been around IABC for quite some time, members sometime feel that they do not have enough input into shaping the organization. When members do mention that, it’s usually defined as lambasting the organization.

For the moment, I will mention if Klein is right and “increasing mainstream media mentions by 20 percent” is part of the plan, IABC might have a rocky road ahead. Counting media mentions is not a suitable measure, which, ironically, is something I learned from IABC. More importantly, Julie Freeman (IABC president) and Todd Hattori (IABC chair) must demonstrate due diligence so this does not turn into an “us vs. them” communication challenge. More next week.

Loathing

Sometimes Ragan Communications buzz e-mails are so silly it’s hard to take Ragan seriously. For example, in marketing its upcoming 90-minute webinar with Southwest Airlines next Tuesday, the e-mail headline reads:

Q: How many customer comments are there on Southwest’s blog this month? A: 209. The time is now to start a dialogue with your customers.

The irony here is that I can almost guarantee Southwest Airlines does not include blog comment counts as part of their organization’s business objectives. (I won’t bother mentioning the clunky headline structure.)

Fortunately, Southwest Airlines’ Brian Lusk, manager of customer communication and corporate editor, and Paula Berg, public relations manager, are including: how to align a corporate blog with your organization's business objectives. So, the whole comment count thing is mute as a selling point. There is little doubt that Southwest Airlines seems to know the difference between outcomes and blog buzz even if Ragan Communications likes to mix them up.

In fact, Southwest Airlines has one of the better customer-focused blogs around. More importantly, this foray into social media is partly responsible for the best opening three quarters in the airline's history. Right on. Southwest Airlines also attributes $150 million in ticket sales to its "Ding!" widget.

So let’s see … if you are in the target audience, what might resonate: $150 million or 209 comments? Sure, the comments are cool in that they demonstrate some customer engagement. The more I think about them, the more I see comments might even be worth adding to the qualitative research column (if you employ comments).

However, my main point here is that Ragan Communications irritates me because they dumb down communication value. Yes, it’s great fun for a select audience who understands something about social media, but it also drives away those who need to understand social media the most. More to the point: if you don’t have a blog, you certainly don’t care about comment counts.

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Thursday, August 23

Bridging The Gap: Where Social Media Can Miss

Only one question keeps coming to mind when I read about the anti-critic sentiment expressed by the MyRagan team, the lack of communication and customer service that underpins Facebook, and (in contrast) the sending of flowers and the power of forgiveness. Is there any room for ‘high touch’ customer service in the rapid-fire world of the Internet or social media?

A few years ago, when I asked Curtis Nelson, president and CEO of Carlson Hospitality Worldwide, he certainly hoped so. He saw technology as a way to enhance guest expectations and the high touch service provided by hospitality employees.

“Information is an advantage, but informed decisions will depend on how much you know about your customers and how strong of a ‘high touch’ relationship they can establish,” Nelson said. “People make decisions (including purchases) based on emotion,” which is why customer service plays an increasing important role in terms of value and the profit of repeat customers.

In the hospitality industry, he wasn’t the only one who thought so. Virtually every executive I spoke to had the same message and similar warnings despite the fact that the hospitality industry was investing as much as 3.4 percent of its total annual revenue in technology at the time.

“Always remember, no amount of technology can provide guests an informed opinion,” offered Nicholas Mutton, then senior vice president of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

Consistently, they all pointed to simultaneously increasing guest services and technology because they viewed such investments as a critical part of their and strategy of the operation. Now, a mere five years later, is it any wonder why hospitality continues to be one of the fastest-growing industries in the world.

Not only did hospitality have an ideal environment—one where more governments assist their tourism industries by consolidating efforts and collecting vertical and geographic buying patterns, trip motivations, and psychographic profiles (information made increasingly available because of technology)—but the best of them always remembered what so few seem to remember in the world of social media.

“Some things must remain very, very human,” said James Brown, then president of Rosewood Hotel & Resorts. “The last thing I would ever want to see at a concierge desk (for example) is a guest asking for a good Italian restaurant and someone looking it up on a computer. A concierge should know it — serving as the buffer between the technology.”

Given the advent of technology with social networks and various social media platforms, I can only imagine that those who remain vigilant in bridging the gap between high tech and high touch will be those left standing two or three years from now. In other words, once the excitement of something new erodes, the rush of new members begins to flatten, and the initial purchase based on emotion gives way to logical review, all that remains is the collective impressions created by the individual, firm, or company.

In the lead above, only one seemed to get it. For the other two, they might remember that as big as some companies or social networks might get, none is exempt from losing ground as fast as they gained it.

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Friday, June 15

Going Social: MyRagan, RecruitingBlogs, BlogCatalog

Social networks and online communities deserve consideration for just about anyone hoping to have a presence on the Internet. They come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from headline roundups and forums to search directories and profile pages.

Although there are hundreds to choose from, I'm mentioning just three today because they demonstrate very distinct approaches. For lack of a better definition, let’s call them a closed niche membership, open niche membership, and open general membership.

MyRagan.com. MyRagan.com has corporate communication and related professionals, especially public relations practitioners, buzzing with excitement. It uses the Me.Com platform, which allows people to “rapidly deploy, customize and administer a social network specific to their interests.” Maybe.

I call it a closed niche membership because MyRagan.com does not really allow for easy navigation throughout the Me.com network. So, in many ways, it’s self-contained. It’s also extremely niche specific, so much so I that I’m not sure if a non-communicator would get it.

Stand Outs: MyRagan has a built-in audio-visual chat and IM features. It also has a direct link to the Ragan Career Center. Mark Ragan and his team are working very, very hard to make this work, recently asking for five or six volunteers to provide ideas for improving the network. The members, the ones who aren’t lost, are very helpful. I was also able to add my widget to my in-progress profile page. Cool.

Stand Offs: MyRagan is a navigational nightmare, especially because it toggles back and forth between MyRagan and other Ragan Communications sites. One also has to wonder how much is too much. There are forums, bulletins, discussions, groups, community blogs, personal blogs, and ... yeesh! To quote Geoff Livingston at The Buzz Bin: “It’s not the most aesthetic site, but it’s very, very functional.” (It is functional if you narrow your focus to a few features.) Now, if we can only teach social media newcomers what to blog about so the community blog doesn’t die off as a “promo post” board.

RecruitingBlogs.com. RecruitingBlogs.com was created by Jason Davis after he, um, retired from Recruiting.com. It’s everything a niche social network should be and opens to the Ning platform. Bouncing around Ning helps you connect with people in many fields and industries.

Thus, in many ways, RecruitingBlogs.com is an open niche network. It’s laid out extremely well as everything is on the front page, including scrolling RSS feeds from every recruiting blog on the planet (that’s worth reading) and then some. Keep in mind though, not all Ning networks are created equal; Davis really knows his stuff.

Stand Outs: RecruitingBlogs.com not only benefits from an expert network creator, but also an experienced group of recruiters who blog. Many of them have had blogs for two years or more. They also make up some of the best read blogs on the Web, which means most content is razor sharp. It is a niche model to be followed, pure and simple. To check out the greater Ning network, click one button. Done.

Stand Offs: Not much, unless you just don’t like recruiters (I do). While I know Davis is not able to do everything he wants to do on Ning, most people would never know it. Seriously, other than the occasional lag and maybe a missing “about page” or “highlighted features page” for newcomers (eg. I know what the chatter wall is good for on my profile, but newcomers might not), I love it.

BlogCatalog.com. BlogCatalog.com is the fastest-growing social blog directory for a reason. It is completely open to anyone and, as long as your blog is approved (about 48 hours unless you have questionable content), you’ll be able to meet some wonderful people.

BlogCatalog.com is also different from the aforementioned niche networks because it owns its own technology, features, and widgets. Antony Berkman bought a dying directory six months ago and turned it into a company worth watching.

Stand Outs: There is a real benefit in having a general open network because the skill sets of the staff and membership are deep. The newest feature is brilliant, making it the first stop of the day for many bloggers. Right on your profile, you can add some of most popular communities you belong to: AIM, del.icio.us, Digg, Facebook, Flickr, Last.fm, MyBlogLog, MySpace, StumbleUpon, Technorati, and Twitter. And that's just for starters.

Stand Offs: None to speak of. At a glance, some professionals might be miffed by the abundance of active members with personal blogs and monetorization blogs, but only until you get to know them. They are extremely nice, approachable, and deeply talented. Collectively, they know more about social media than any niche group I’ve come across. You also won’t find a BlogCatalog.com blog as Berkman and his staff mostly communicate on the discussion board (but they all have their own blogs). Yet, they are among the most engaging and friendly non-niche social directory hosts anywhere.

So there you have it. While each has its own culture and climate, they are just like any group you might belong to in person: you get back what you put into them.

The best bet is to put your company (or personal) strategy first. Then, join several but only become active on those that best fit your objectives because as we all know (I hope), there is no such thing as a social media strategy. Social media is a versatile tactic.

Beyond that, social networks are allowing people to participate online without ever starting a blog, vlog, or radio show. But for those who do, they represent the best way to gain targeted exposure.

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