“Yeah, I get it, but those a floor or two above me won’t buy it.” That’s one of the most consistent responses I get when talking to communicators about the changes in how the world gets and expects to get information. It is a bit hard to believe but in a lot of executive suites there still is a lot of resistance to the ideas related to “transparency,” “stakeholder engagement” and even social media–particularly in a major crisis.
While this holds true in the corporate world it has also been true in government communications. While sometimes it appears that there is real progress in adopting the new “fast, direct & transparent” approach to communication, sometimes it is shocking how far we have yet to go.
The answer of course, is to talk to them. I’ve had a few opportunities in the past couple of years to brief senior executives on the communication environment, particularly related to our involvement in the gulf oil spill. But I find that Communication Managers, Public Affairs Managers or PIOs (Public Information Officers) don’t necessarily carry a lot of weight with the men and women in the C-suite. And it certainly is true for Incident Commanders–they might listen to other incident commanders, but to take advice from a PIO, well that takes a hard-earned reputation and a special relationship.
If you can relate to this problem, I’d like to propose a solution. Watch this 6 minute video. In it my friend Bill Boyd provides a compelling example of why social media is now essential. His primary point is carried with power and conviction: when it hits the fan “you can’t be fast enough.” That may be nothing new to you, but here’s the kicker–Bill is a fire chief in a mid-size Northwest city. He’s not a communicator (well, he is, and served as an effective PIO before chiefdom, but don’t tell your boss that), he’s an experienced response manager, incident commander and very respected voice in national emergency management circles. He’s one of 2-3 speakers at the FEMA webinar on social media coming up January 18.
Bill directly addresses fire chiefs, emergency response professionals and elected officials. But don’t think your senior execs won’t relate to them. Send them a link. Or, I’ll get you a download version so you can add to a presentation or training program you are working on.