Communicating – 2010 Style by Robert Angel, President, The Gilford Group Limited

The internet’s social media tools have quietly revolutionized corporate communication from push messaging to conversations and listening, to the extent that a well conceived social networking strategy is now a prerequisite for remaining competitive.  Below are five principles to help you embrace social media communications and make them work.  

Business leaders and senior staff are becoming increasingly comfortable with social networks in private life as personal users of social media tools like Linked-In, Facebook and blogs. Social networking comfort in the business world is less clear cut.  Many businesses are still hesitating on the edge of the social networking pool, wondering what the potential benefits really are — and some businesses already using social networking are wondering what they are really achieving.

Do you fit into either of these categories?  If so, here are five strategic pointers to help you move forward.

1.  First Make Sure Your Organization has a Coherent Value Proposition

Your brand is your company’s personality, what you stand for and how you bring value to your customers, staff, and business partners.  A viable brand is a vital source of loyalty and competitive advantage — without it, nothing else will really matter.  Unless, you truly understand your brand before embarking on social networking, your efforts are likely to be misdirected.

2.  Regard Social Networking for What It Is — a new form of relationship building

Communication used to be pushing out messages.   Don’t make the mistake of thinking of social media as just a cheaper way of selling things.  This will likely antagonize people — the opposite of what you want.   Social networking has made communication a conversation, requiring dialog and listening.  Of course, more revenue is still a necessity, but social media helps deliver this through deeper and more durable relationships with the right individuals.

3.    Define before Design (i.e., communication goals lead content)

The critical question is, ‘what specifically am I trying to achieve from social networking?’.   It is surprising how many managers buy technology without nailing down the goals first.  This is especially true of social media when the initial investment can be quite modest meaning lessened pressure for results.  

 4.    Have a Mechanism for Tracking Results

There is certainly value in knowing how many hits your web site is getting.  More important is identifying what you should be doing differently, whether it is correcting a deficiency or making a good move even better.  This takes informed analysis effort, and it can be a stealth cost for those who do not think through social networking adequately at the outset.

5.  Review Your Communications Strategy Regularly

Strategy implies continuity and should not be changed too often otherwise confusion and worse will ensue.  However, the learnings from social networking are a good opportunity for an ongoing check on your strategy’s continuing relevance and expected results.   But, be careful!  Poor results may not mean an invalid strategy; rather, it may be your execution that needs renovating.

Where to start?  I often advise internal communications as a good way of testing out the concepts and tools with staff and suppliers, before re-exposing your organization’s brand in front of customers.  You can engage the people you work with more deeply and hone your ability to listen to feedback.  After all, you are already doing these things inside your organization — aren’t you?

Robert Angel, MBA, CA, is president of The Gilford Group Ltd., a Toronto-based marketing and performance management consultancy.  Contact him at