Digital landscape is just the landscape.

I’m often asked about the competitive landscape for Grant Thornton when it comes to digital and social communications and my response is usually along these lines.

There are a lot of smart people out there doing some really smart, but relatively isolated things across many online channels in professional services, but is anyone really taking a lead?

This week a lot of us will have read the ‘memo to staff’ sent by Lionel Barber to staff of the FT, outlining next steps in their “digital first” strategy. This will be widely read as the last significant step that the FT needs to take to becoming a “digital only” publication and for me, points much more closely to where organisations such as the one I work for should be looking to get their inspiration from.

http://aboutus.ft.com/2013/10/09/lionel-barber-memo-to-staff-on-reshaping-the-newspaper-for-the-digital-age/

Clearly we’re a different type of organisation altogether, but the bulk of his memo talks about changes to working practices, how articles and thought leadership pieces will be planned, less reactive – more focus on the landscape and trends. Most strikingly there is a very bold, if you’re not ‘in’ then perhaps it’s time you started to think about your career at the FT message which almost had me fist pumping!

It’s a mind shift before it’s a habit shift and this sort of message from senior leadership will focus minds and attention on a potential prize that can no longer be ignored.

As Lionel says, “This is no time to stand still.” You may not see a reason to change your habits yet, but you’d better understand that big organisations are changing the landscape even if your closest competitors aren’t just yet.

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Eight behaviours for a modern digital comms team

Very useful and pertinent to a conversation I had yesterday. Thought it well worth posting here.

Clear message

There’s plenty out there about the skills and functions that a digital comms team need to have. I’ve learnt, somewhat painfully, that the behaviours and mindset are probably more important.

If I could turn the clock back a few years, here’s the behaviours I would encourage from day one. They’re in no particular order.

De-geekify

Focus on audiences, content and using the tools and platforms they prefer. Try and identify examples of where your colleagues and their audiences are already using digital, rather than blind people with jargon and process.

Identify the Hey Martha!

Journalists on the Sunday Times used to (and may still) refer to ‘Hey Martha!’: a nugget of random, but interesting information that would cause the reader to exclaim ‘Hey Martha, listen to this!”. I love this moment in a digital communications team. Hidden pieces of great work that the originator thought were simply routine. Sometimes these…

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Selling cultural change one paper at a time

Well this has been a long seven days. It’s always tough returning from holiday but I’ve found it particularly difficult this time out.

For me, it’s the momentum. I always build up to such a crescendo of controlled panic before annual leave that it feels impossible to slow down. Then I do. To a complete stop!

So anyway, a period of adjustment, the clearing of emails, finding importance in the unimportant…and I’m back!

To what? Well to version 5 of what feels like my life’s work, a document called ‘Changing the game: brand promise, cultural change and social media’. (A version change in my mind is scrapping at least 50% of the previous version. Of small changes…there have been many!)

I spent all day Wednesday on the Executive Summary, making sure I leave no room for anyone to say no.

No to investment in technology. We want to bring Jive into Grant Thornton. We think it will be a good fit and frankly,in terms of social collaboration platforms, it’s the best we’ve seen.

But more importantly, we can’t leave room for our board to say no to the investment (in time, understanding and advocacy, not always monetary) we’re making in social communication, in supporting deep cultural change and ultimately in challenging the way we do business at Grant Thornton.

In investing heavily in our brand and our people’s understanding of it, they’ve endorsed everything I ever thought social media could bring to our business; individual responsibility and action, connected knowledge, true thought leadership, speed to market, the absolute importance of dialogue.

But that’s all direction and intent. What we have the ability to do now is show Grant Thornton people a way to get involved in that direction, led from the top. We already had three members of our board on Twitter before this week and on Tuesday I helped our CEO set up his account (more on that to come).

And that is what I think every business needs as it thinks more about social communication and external social media. A real understanding at the top of why it’s important, why we should be there and the ability to demonstrate it through authentic use of it themselves.

So, version 5 it may well be, but it’s closer than ever. Wish me luck.