Why Generation Next Must Be Nurtured

Tonight, I had the privilege of watching a young woman of The Women’s College within The University of Sydney bring the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall to rapturous applause and laughter.

With nothing more than astute insight and articulate delivery, 19 year old Nicola kicked off question time at Anne Summers Conversations with aplomb.

And I wasn’t the only Women’s College Alumna enjoying the spectacle from Row J ; alongside Labor heavyweights, Mr Wayne Swan and Mrs Tanya Plibersiek was Women’s College alumnae: Ros Strong and the first woman on the NSW Supreme Court, Judge Jane Matthews.

With both current and past students scattered around the Concert Hall, we caught up with the ever approachable Judge Matthews over a glass of Chandon prior to the show.

And while the iPhone pics on the Sydney Opera House forecourt failed to capture the elegance of the occasion, Dr Anne Summers and former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, had it in bucket loads as they discussed treatment of women in the workplace of High Government, the prevalence of Misogyny and the tactics that worked/ failed in the face of patriarchy.

Politics aside, when you listen to Former Prime Minister, Ms Julia Gillard in the flesh, it really is very hard not to admire her.

For when it comes to appreciating and recognising strong, capable women and engaging through shared experience (not that I’ve ever been PM, but I have spent most of my career in male-dominated industry), when Julia talks candidly, you can’t but help prick an ear to listen intently.

For while you may not agree with what she says, it’s hard to deny just how rich chocolate caramel she can actually sound and how she can make even the most unsavoury decisions palatable.

Perhaps the true effect of her very distinctive drawl…

19 year old Law student, Nicola was wide-eyed and in a state of absolute delight on meeting Judge Matthews pre-show, however, when she kicked off question time with the PM on live television, this competent young woman did not take a backwards step.

Her instrument of choice? The confidence to ask Australia’s first female Prime Minister what advice she’d give the new Minister for Women: Prime MInister Tony Abbott.

Ms Gillard’s response was just as articulate and witty, a feature – it would appear – of the Anne Summers Conversations.

Can’t wait until the next one!

Look out for further details in Looking Glass

Progress and Innovation – Fact or Fiction?

When I started writing this post, we were in the middle of the Australian summer storm season.

Floods were ravaging the east coast of this great nation and from Queensland, south, everyday Australians like me, were sitting by candlelight with family and friends, as the wind whipped trees to the ground and the driving horizontal rain pounded the dehydrated earth.

Chaos reigned, yet I remained safe and dry inside my country digs, despite being trapped by overflowing causeways we could do nothing about. We were in a waiting game. Until Mother Nature released us from her grasp, we had to make do with what we had.

Times like these can bring out the best and worst in people.

At the turn of the 20th century electricity was a lab based novelty enjoyed by a rare and privileged few. Kerosene lamps, where available, ruled supreme and the idea of boiling the kettle, involved an open fire and iron grill of sorts.

Yet, in one moment, over 15,000 residents housed within and around the fertile hills bordering the far eastern coast of this amazing country, stepped back in time to a simplier time, when the electricity source was cut due to Mother Nature’s seasonal fury.

For three days, there was no electricity. No phone, no internet, no cell coverage. Not surprisingly, this got me thinking: Connectivity.

How connected are we really when our connectivity is dependent upon local and global infrastructure?

Is success measured by potential ability or reliability? In theory or in practice?

I’m a marketer by trade and increasingly, I see brands and businesses operating wholly online. Not a piece of paper in sight. This is great for the environment, but crippling for a business in the event of a simple power crisis…so what is an appropriate back-up plan?

In this web-based world is it possible to have a back-up plan that enables business to function with the same level of efficiency and effectivity off-line as on…?

With access to phone and power lines severed, the power to communicate rests in the hands of the technicians (in this instance, the service providers) and highlights the fallacy of success in ‘progress’.

During my country hiatus, I cooked a savoury mince with fresh herbs and garlic (straight from the garden), boiled eggs, potatoes and cooked sweet kumera crinkle cut fries and fresh mint peas atop (and in) the pot belly. Fire, not stove. Such is the joys of country cooking for extended family sans power!

Not surprisingly, our familial adventure raised discussions of the everyday practices of our ancestors both here and abroad. What’s better? Is there still value in old, or is what’s shinier better, because it’s new?

This year, the stupendously well resourced Super Bowl shut down for 20 minutes while technicians resolved the power failures.

How would your business fare if you lost power? Would you also lose the power to communicate or have you evolved your commercial risk management strategies both on and offline, so you are reliant on neither?

Some would call this double-handling, others astute planning; but is it progress…?

How do I shut down Twitter?

The mere question rings alarm bells.

Moreso when reports out of the recent HMV experience suggest they were the words of HMV’s marketing director as HMV’s official twitter account was hijacked by disgruntled staff.

I’m no lawyer, but there is a reason internal communications are structured and handled differently than its external counterpart. There are legal, political and economic repercussions for businesses, hence why corporate messages are often ‘crafted’ and ‘approved’.

Now before you get all indignant about ethics and freedom of speech, it is timely to remember these are common, respected practices and behaviours of business men and women (of all ages) within the global business community.

However, for the rest of corporate Australia (and elsewhere) now is not the time to look down your nose at HMV management or their disgruntled staff and keen tweeters (I’m sure HR and engaged lawyers will cover that debate sufficiently).

It is however, time for management the world over to do an audit of strategic web-based marketing communications operations, focusing on process, procedures and governance.

Not sure where to start?

1.Start by acknowledging a title doesn’t determine superior knowledge. While it should reflect experience, in the constantly evolving world of ICT communication (embodying web-based, digital and social communications) a few conferences, or campaigns, an expert, it does not you make. (Not sure why, but Yoda seemed appropriate all of a sudden). Most companies are placing juniors in charge of digital communications (web and social media). I cringe every time a first or second year student seeks guidance for a job interview in social media which starts with: ‘how do I use it for business’ only to tell me the following week they are now the social media manager!

The savvy traditional marketing communications ‘experts’ (a term I cringe at whenever I hear it) are ‘dipping their toe in’, and playing it safe by applying the age old ‘suck and see method’ based on hunches, recommendations and gut instinct. When in doubt, this is a sensible, albeit soon to be dated approach (especially, if they’re outsourcing it!). More on that later…

2. Ask yourself, do I know who we (brand/ business) are?
That’s right, take it back to basics and ask yourself point blank, do I know who we (brand/ business/ team) are? You’d be stunned by how many successful business practitioners (and their staff) have NO IDEA how to answer this question comprehensively and succinctly.
If you’ve just discovered you’re one of them, then you have you’re opening question to your senior management team brainstorm right there.

3. Where are your team members in the great cycle that posits their professional life with your business/brand life cycle. Are they complimentary? Where are the gaps? Opportunities for growth? How and where can you best provide the necessary supports to lift your team as individuals as well as, a well-oiled marcomms machine to support your business…?

4. If you’re one of the few who answered question #2 with relative ease, then congratulations. You’re off to a great start. As the lead executive, ask yourself how you communicate down through your team, department, business and across key target markets and media. Be sure to identify the key points of variations within those communications, your teams’ response (as individuals and a group) and where they may be improved upon.

This step takes time, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you’ve realised you’re moving a littler slower all of a sudden…

As senior leaders, this is actually our FIRST real step in the process. It’s the one that exposes whether we have the entrepreneurial mindset that enables agility in strategic thinking and multi-channel campaign design. Thinking that drives market-leading specialists. It also enables clear aims, researched objectives and practical processes to be successfully married to the prerequisite sense and intrinsic response.

This is skill that in acquisition, is challenging and demanding in the most honest of ways. Don’t worry, if it doesn’t come straight away. It’s a skill that develops overtime.

A process that enables you as a professional to reflect on how you can better contribute to the success of your team and your business through applying thought leadership to management practice. A process that does not include (at any time) the question: How do I shut down anything.

Why? Because you saw the potential problem before it had the chance to arise.

Awkward Social Media Moments

Relax. We all have them.

Awkward Social Media Moments (ASMM) are inevitable.

Especially, when most of us can only stumble around the 17 year old web (the World Wide Web was commercialised in 1995) as toddlers, or tweens at best.

Facebook is a social utility (just like gas and water?) that enables people to connect with friends (strong ties), strangers (weak ties) and everyone else ‘online’ who dares.

Unlike my current utilities providers, Facebook is constantly refining its product and service offering to community members via ‘new releases’ or user interface updates.

Most of us turn a blind eye and deaf ear to these changes. That is until we notice a new tab, or that our profile looks different and we can’t find that short cut button or right click where we use to.

So we grumble and moan for a post or two, but then continue with our daily business online unperturbed.

However, with the increased frequency of user interface updates of high-use and high profile online platforms, like facebook, come increased opportunities for ASMM, TAT’s (Troll Attacks on Twitter) and moments of SMR (Social Media Remorse).

Such was my experience recently…

The other day, a friend posted a video of his daughter on a swing. I made a comment on what I thought was his wall, however, I inadvertedly reposted his video onto mine.

I’m still not sure how I did it, but when I eventually realised what I’d done (a couple of days later!) = #AwkwardSocialMediaMoment.

You see, I’ve never met this particular child and there was no ‘reason’ to share the family movie to a wider audience. Thus my repost, simply didn’t make sense.

Not surprisingly, I facebook messaged my friend and apologised, explaining what and how it had transpired.

He’s a lovely guy and I’ve known him for over a decade, but is someone I see infrequently (beyond Facebook).

I knew (hoped) he’d be understanding (which he was). But this Awkward Social Media Moment (ASMM) got me thinking…

  1. What is the impact of strong/ weak ties (social capital) in resolving/ minimising potential conflicts via misunderstanding in this pseudo-private Facebook environment?
  2. How often do user interface upgrades impact public communications/ interactions in social media communities?
  3. What is the scope for and impact of misinterpretation in ASMM?

This is especially interesting for me (Governance), given neither novices or seasoned users (who are usually guiding individuals, brands and businesses) are immune to being ‘caught’ by tech changes.

So thinking practically, how can you manage/ resolve / insulate the individual, team, brand or business?

In looking at possible (plausible) practical solutions, does a communications (control) system need to be introduced (beyond the charter and legal obligations of big business) to better educate / update online users? Will this satisfy any potential breeches of both private,  personal and public communications? Is the current system enough? What is the current system? #WatchThisSpace.

For the moment, I’m still comfortable with my original hypothesis pertaining to the bastardisation of the word ‘expert’:

There is no such thing as a social media expert.

While some of us are a little more knowledgeable in this space than the majority (probably because we also ‘live’ online), beyond the clever souls who create the actual social technology platforms, online, as in life, everyone makes mistakes – some inevitable, most avoidable.

Either way, at the end of the day, ALL ASMM are an opportunity for learning.

So, get up, dust yourself off, learn from your failures and keep practicing The Art of Social! 🙂

To Follow or Not to Follow: Which Twit? Is the Question…

Twitter’s 2000 follow limit encourages us all to proactively manage our ‘followers’ and dedicated Twitter lists.

My modus operandi goes something like this: You pique my interest, for whatever reason, I’ll follow you. 🙂

My follow back policy is equally straight forward: You follow me, I #FB (that’s ‘Follow Back’ for the uninitiated).

Why? Well, because… in the Twitterverse,

1. EVERYONE has a public profile and no one ‘Twit’ is more important than the other. (Unless of course you’re a Belieber, then the rules of the game change completely and turn a late teen into a deity! But that’s a whole new discussion thread)

2. A ‘follow’ represents a turn in time. Someone has taken the time to follow me, so I can take a moment out of my tightly scheduled day to return the compliment.

3. An extended network of associates encourages opportunities for learning, teaching, business and insights into what constitutes the art of conversation.

4. I tend to ‘unfollow’ the passive aggressive sales Twit and spambots with ninja-like efficiency.

5. I generally give individuals, teams and organisations a week (maybe two) to follow back, after which I generally unfollow and file them into my Twitter lists. (Recent changes to the use of Twitter’s #’s has made following/ creating # community conversations a little more challenging without paying for the privilege)

6. At the moment, I do respond to DM’s. This might change when I start receiving a thousand a day, however, for the moment I find DM a really efficient and effective communications tool. -Actually I prefer it to email which is so old school! 🙂

There are however, some exceptions to my follow back rules:

1. Although I can swear like a losing Rugby World Cup final coach at half-time, I don’t condone the use of foul language in public. So if you have a penchant for acronyms such as F.u.c.k or referring to women as ‘ho’s or *itches (you get my drift), thank you for your follow, however, I won’t be following you back.

2. Likewise if you promote cruelty to children, animals or individuals based on colour, race or creed, once again, thank you for your follow, however, I won’t be following you back.

This is how I roll on #Twitter atm. It’s entirely up 2U if U want 2 cyber roll with me or not.

Either way, I hope your face aches from smiling all day today and everyday.