Some communicators clearly don’t understand it is not just about the technology and new media channels. It is even more about how we do our business of communications. Here is a classic example. When the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) added social media to its communication effort, it seems they approached it from an old media mindset: control the message, broadcast, propagandize, spin, and all that one-way communication stuff. What they didn’t realize is that social media is, well, more social than that. It is about engagement, participation, dialogue, building relationships.
Here’s a great summary of the problem from the article linked above: In the BCS example, I think their problem is that they are not fostering conversation,” said Jeff Ma, co-founder and VP-research for the popular website Citizen Sports and the author of one of the most popular sports apps for iPhone, Sportacular. “Instead, they are trying to deliver a message.”
Here’s a little test–if you’re reaction to the last sentence is, hey, isn’t that what communication is all about, delivering a message? Then you probably have a hint that you will have some problems with social media. Well sure, it is about delivering a message, but like at a cocktail party you don’t enter the room to deliver a message. You may deliver a message as part of a mutually enjoyable conversation but as soon as the people you are talking to believe that all you care about is your agenda and delivering your message, the conversation is essentially over. That’s why communicators need above all to understand that social media is more about listening than anything else. It is by listening that we learn what the issues are, the concerns, and the reasonable opportunities to convey our message. Or, as may be the case with the BCS, maybe they should be listening to their constituents a little more rather than preaching to them about what is best.
This also raises a side question: is a PR firm headed by a former White House press secretary the best model for engaging audiences. You might think so, but if ever there was an example of operating in an old media-only mindset and delivering the message as a one-way process, it is in the now old-fashioned, out-dated and anachronistic White House press conference.