We've all been listening to the experts caution brands today that they are not in charge - their customers/clients are in charge. Well, now it's official. Charlene Li, author of Groundswell, one of the best books on social media today, will be releasing her new book Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, and in it she discussed this much-promoted idea.
I don't have a copy of the book, yet, but I was reading a review of it on the SmartBlog on Social Media site, and here's what I learned:
Merritt Colaizzi discusses what Charlene shared at the recent SXSW conference. This quote stands out, to me, "If you think you are in control, you're fooling yourself. As soon as you start listening, you realize you're not in control." Charlene recommends letting go.
Letting go is not an easy thing for big brands to do. I've worked with a few big brands and mentioned the idea of letting go, of allowing your customers the control they already have (maybe the word is recognizing their control), only to be met with staunch resistence. Big brands *think" they are in control and are unwilling to give that up.
However, smaller brands are eager to connect with bloggers, people who tweet, and customers overall. The smaller brands I've worked with embrace social media and social networking, the better to reach their customers on a level playing field. It's not hard to convince them that an open dialogue builds trust. Contrary to the big brand approach that keeps all communication under lock and key in the PR department (despite the fact that few people trust PR anymore - and the on-going language of PR is sales-speak), smaller brands put their CEO out there and don't police him or her. The CEO is allowed to talk to customers on blogs, twitter or Facebook - using everyday conversation.
As Charlene says in her book, according to Merritt, "Embrace failure - In the same way you have a success file, keep an accessible failure file. this is an important way to stay authentic and open to the fact that not everything succeeds. Team members will recognize that all true relationships involve failure and success."
So, who's in charge in your office? Who owns your brand? Is it being held hostage by marketing or PR? Or, it is free to exist on the net, where your customers will enhance it with their support, because they know you're in 'learning mode' - willing to listen to their criticism as well as their praise?