Corporate communicators: transform or die

Corporate communicators need to be more like transformers (flickr credit: naladahc)

Corporate communicators need to be more like transformers (flickr credit: naladahc)

The role of emotion is going to have a huge impact in the next year.  We’re not very good at thinking fast, but we’re very good at feeling fast… The emotional substrata of all media will rise.”  – Clay Shirky, author, Here Comes Everybody, speaking at NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference, April 27, 2009

Kind of a harsh title, isn’t it?  If you take comments by Clay Shirky to heart, this will be the year that social media — those irritating, buzzing pests that keeps strafing corporate communicators’ ears — will actually sting.  With tweets about swine flu up to 12,000 per hour (and rising), it’s clear that many people can share and collect “information” as quickly as they can type the # hastag symbol.

As I type this, I can hear the virtual “buts”, as in, “but my audience isn’t on Twitter*,” or “but we’ll lose control of the message if we start to just jump in on social media.”  Didn’t your mother tell you “no buts”?

Amy Mengel, a blogger who describes herself as “late to the party and trying to catch up”, asks “Are corporate communicators hopeless in social media?”  (Hat tip:  Tracy Campbell, CHA)  Her post was triggered by a cringe-inducing comment by Amber Naslund of Radian6 who said that if she had to replace herself, she’d recommend a grassroots rookie with lots of energy and a willingness to question old assumptions and approaches.

Many companies fear that their brands could be highjacked by the great chattering masses, according to Shirky.  The problem is, “The nightmare that you feared has already happened.”  I’m with Amy.  I think corporate communicators can transform.  We all need to get over the “buts” and adapt to the current reality.

PS Did you know the largest demographic on Twitter is 45-54?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Corporate communicators: transform or die

  1. Hey Betsy,

    I’m with you and Amy too: I actually really think corporate communicators with the right mindset can do anything. Hey, I *was* a corporate communicator for many years, so I’m living proof that it’s possible. :)

    But Clay is right. You’re being swept into social media whether you want to be there or not. And the potential is real. I’m honored to work with some amazing communications people that have really grasped the potential of this space, and I for one cannot WAIT to see what’s next.

    Cheers,
    Amber Naslund

  2. Thanks, Amber. I’ve appreciated it when you’ve commented in the past and you’ve always got thoughtful comments! Having spent five years running a specialty practice (healthcare) at an international PR firm, I’ve worked with some corporate communicators who get it and many who don’t. Just got off the phone with a non-profit staffer whose boss wants to approve EVERY TWEET that represents the company brand. Yikes. Thanks for weighing in.