A repost: Enterprises aren’t human

When someone you respect suggests you repost something, its a good thing to do on a late friday afternoon. So for Oscar Berg, I offer you a classic post from last fall during the Obama/Hillary race for president. I’ve fixed some of the grammar, but left the rest in tact. Have a great weekend.

December 29, 2008 • 5:10 pm (Edit)

why social media is hard for government and corporate america

Since the dawn of commerce and government we’ve been programmed to believe that enterprises are not human – they are better: polished, powerful and perfect. They have a presence (rather than a personality) that does not include human characteristics, like warmth, empathy, vulnerability, hobbies or ears. The job of the people in the enterprise has always been to perpetuate and perfect this presence.

Now employees and leadership both are confused by their centuries old mandate not to act human, and their new one to do just that. They see the risks – revealing too much, legal liabilities, leaking information to competitors, and all – and are unsure of the rewards.

But they’ve heard about “viral” and “loyalty” and “word of mouth”, and “customer-evangelists”. they’ve seen Obama be cool and successful.”

And they’d like to too. But to do this they need to take a big risk. They need to be human – vulnerable, imperfect, and all that. The people in the enterprise need to be free to (and encouraged to) come out from behind the curtain, and to know what that means.

1. Most enterprises don’t share enough with their employees for the employees to feel confident as spokespeople.
– Beyond the mission statement, the leadership needs to discuss with people  the priorities and values of the company. Not just in an annual meeting, but constantly. It needs to be true and real – not white-washed. If you can’t convey your mission, aspirations and values to your employees, they can’t internalize them and carry them outward as people. Solution? Internal dialog. Perhaps facilitated by internal social media. Its NOT rehashing the phrases coming out of the PR team. Its not a ghost written memo. This means that YOU, the CEO, the VP of whatever, need to be in constant dialog with your team. It seems as though that would have more than this one benefit dosen’t it?

Here’s a simple example of corporate leadership being human in an inspirational way:

That’s not too hard. A nice step. A nice example. You could do that. You could go a step further and add an email address or a blog. You could go a step further, and do it a couple layers deeper in the organization, or for everyone in the organization. Think about how that would make the people on your team feel about being on the team.

2. Government and Commercial enterprises fear the loss of the power of the curtain.

It takes a tremendous amount of confidence to be human. It means that you are confident that on the whole, the value your organization brings to its customers is very high, and that you are operating with integrity. That you are generally proud of what goes on inside.

This is a kind of confidence that companies have not had to develop or test. But the people and organizations that we respect most are the ones with these qualities. Its the difference between Hillary and Obama, in many ways.

3. Unclear on the upside.
Well, here it is. Corporate credibility is on the decline – not because corporations are, but because people have now had enough experience to know that the facade is just that. Who believes advertising? Who trusts the literature? But they’ll trust a person – one they know, for a recommendation. They’ll trust someone they don’t know who makes the effort to gets to know them by listening, showing an interest, speaking clearly and honestly, sdoing what they say they’ll do – someone who builds a relationship with them.

If you want credibility now, you need to be communicating as an organization of people, not a corporate entity.


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