Monday, March 22, 2010

From Control to Engagement - Not an easy transition, but an important one

There is a general agreement: to engage with the public for sustainable development in a socially-networked world, companies need to actually engage. I know, I know, that is just oh-so-brilliant. But again and again, companies try to control their messaging and their communications. I've met a lot of ex-corporate communication managers who left because it was, well, boring. These days, both internal and external communications need to move up the spectrum of public engagement - towards engagement (and not just 'talking down' to the public'. I've no doubt that it will, eventually, happen.

There are ways to 'help' organisations become more engaged - the same ways one goes about any organisational change. Register what isn't working and why it isn't working. Create a vision for what the company works. Put in place structural management processes, and the necessary evaluations and assessments to measure the halting journey towards better business. That will help lead to sustainable development.

Certainly social media can be about transforming the business model. Reuters Market Lite in India is a fascinating example of this. They've devised a new sector: the micro information sector, connecting farmers in India with the market - especially national and global food prices through the use of mobile phones. This has tremendous impact - including return on investment for customers that can increase as much as 1000 times. This innovation-centered, customer-orientated, sustainable business model has gotten huge attention from international media; especially for and from emerging markets. Over two years, they have 200,000 customers, and are keeping as close to their customer base as possible. At the moment, it is mostly a one-way communication and they are thinking about how to go down that route.

Photo credit: Aesthetics of Joy

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