Dealing with change

15 10 2010

The Gap logo buzz is an interesting case of the public’s reaction to change and the power of social media to comment on and derail corporate plans. Although Gap represents a private industry and profit-driven example, there is much to learn in terms of public communication and public participation. Read a couple of commentaries on how NOT to crowdsource and the basics of brand identity Gap appeared to miss.

Change is what we often brush up against in the process of public participation. Gap’s logo debacle reminds me that as P2 practitioners, we need to ask tough questions about why change, or a specific decision, is coming in order to  explain it to affected stakeholders. Awareness of why a change may occur is half the battle in communicating with the public.

The Gap example also demonstrates the need for clear process. Changing process midstream is tricky, and while I wouldn’t go so far as to say it can’t be done, it needs to be done with utmost care. Gap appeared to be in a reactionary mode. There is a time and place for responding to comments and making adjustments; and in a social media, real-time environment there is no time to waste. However, it seems to me that they had multiple options for response and the option they chose was not fully vetted out.

Finally, this instance shows the power of public feedback in a social media environment. Again, the context of a private corporation may differ from P2 work, which generally supports public decision-making. However, the real-time, viral, retweet world we work in should be accounted for in public communication planning. To me, this goes to show that a social media plan needs to be in place for every project or agency. Not to do so leaves too much to chance!

P2 practitioners  must be nimble in responding to public reaction and should anticipate every possible response. Solid research provides a foundation that helps the project team or agency define a range of expected comments. There may be surprises, but good communication planning prepares a team for whatever comes its way!


What’s your objective?

29 07 2010

I simply can’t stress enough how important it is to define purpose and objectives before you set off to do some kind of outreach. If you don’t know what you are trying to accomplish, how can you measure effectiveness? If you don’t know what you a trying to communicate to whom, how can you choose the right tools to deliver the message?

The biggest PI mistake I see made is choosing tools and trying to make the tool fit the situation rather than establishing an objective and then selecting tools that help meet the objective. (Thus the lengthy discussions about meeting format in the previous two posts…)

Most people readily admit that PI is not one-size-fits-all; yet we fall into the trap of “we need a meeting,” “we need a newsletter” or “let’s send a press release.” My response to these kinds of statements is, “Why?”

Until you can answer why, I am not a proponent of doing anything! In a time of tight funding and taxpayer scrutiny, it is important to choose and use outreach tools wisely. The tools you choose must be well-thought out and effective for your purpose. Combine limited funding with the changing media environment and information age, the same-old, same-old just won’t work.

So start with defining your objectives. Who are you trying to reach with what message for what purpose? If your objectives are clear, selecting the most effective outreach tools will follow.