Communication is happening at a faster pace than ever before, but many companies are not adapting their communication strategies/processes to keep up.
Search engines are indexing content within minutes, micromedia outlets like Twitter are delivering messages real time and blogging allows mass communication to happen with very few barriers. Rumors and leaks will never go away, but companies now have the tools to be the first to provide key, relevant information.
The 15 minute Google rule.
Almost without exception within 15 minutes of posting to this blog I receive a Google alert email that there was a new post matching one of my keywords. (Seriously, if you haven't done this yet, do yourself a favor and click here to set them up.) I have "Matt Dickman", "Techno//Marketer", "technomarketer" and "Fleishman-Hillard" alerts set up as well as alerts for competitors and clients. I often get Google alerts for items before they show up in my RSS reader or are floated to me in email.
[Update: I posted this entry at 9:43pm and I received my Google alert email that it was indexed at 10:02pm. See screenshot below.]
This is invaluable information to have and it illustrates the point that I am trying to make. Companies who have typically thought that they could control the news and release it when and to whom they saw fit are at the end of the line.
Mergers and acquisitions, executive departures, layoffs and regulatory approvals are just a few of the topics that employees, shareholders and the general public are hearing about in near real time. It takes just one blog post, a Twitter message (the example that comes to mind was the Yahoo layoffs that were broadcast on Twitter as they happened) or an email that sneaks past the firewall and the story is broken. Google's search spiders are constantly scouring servers looking for new information and once found (or told) they broadcast it to the world.
Danger Will Robinson
There is danger for companies in communicating in real time. Facts still need to be vetted and rumors that are unfounded can hurt a company's reputation. However, the tools are in place to allow faster, transparent communication to all of the stakeholders so that they don't find out from a Google Alert. Companies should be using these tools to become more connected with their audiences and be the first voice on any issue that impacts their people or their business.
How might this play out?
Here are a couple of ways that I can see companies adopting new technologies to communicate more quickly and more accurately in the future (and some are already doing this today):
- Sales force empowered by micromedia. Go beyond names like Twitter and Jaiku to the core technology behind those services. Imagine a company that has a private version of Twitter to communicate in real time with their sales force. Price changes roll out in seconds, questions are answered quickly and customer service follow up is prompt.
- Internal communications blog. Some companies are using internal-only blogs, but more will definitely start. This is a great way to create a two-way dialog and communicate information and changes quickly and transparently. Once information is in the open, everybody feels like they're on the same page.
- Targeted blogs. Companies will start creating blogs that are focused on key audiences (investors, customers, employees) and communicate to each in a more open and rapid manner.
- Email is still key. Many executives and employees will be more easily reached via emails that fit into their existing workflow. Companies will need to adapt their processes to use this as a key delivery vehicle for internal communication.
Need to adapt the communications process
How many times have you read a press release or seen a story that you heard about weeks ago? I would venture that happens a lot and a big reason is the outmoded model most companies use to create, refine and release information. Let's look at two models, first the old model and second the new model.
Do you want to communicate information to your audience or do you want Google to do it?
The old model: In the old model (which is still the predominant model) news is written in the form of a release. It goes from agency to client with some back and forth for refinement. Then it gets refined to a final version. This version goes through legal review and some type of corporate communications review. If there are changes, it goes back and loops through the process again. The final version gets scheduled for release, the wire service queues it up and on the agreed upon date/time it drops.
The new model: In the new model, communications are an open book. Issues are addressed in real time, communicated quickly with thoroughly written copy, supported with video/audio and open to feedback/discussion. The good and bad are handled in the same way. Everyone stays on the same page and nobody feels like they're the last to know or that they've been blindsided.
This won't work for highly regulated companies, but it could work for a majority of the rest. Companies have to get over the command and control mentality to communications. Don't get me wrong, there is still strategy to messaging and communications need to be thought out, but it needs to happen more rapidly, more flexibly and less forcibly.
What do you think? Can this work? Have you seen examples of companies using new technology to communicate more quickly with the right messages? Let me know what you think.