Category Archives: Leadership

Transparency & Consistency

The world is becoming far more transparent for those who are curious enough and the ability to scrutinise anything is becoming easier.  Some think it is limited to politics and government, they need to wake up and google their own name and get past the first few pages (unless of course you are famous or infamous).  This scrutiny is not just being carried out by journalists, but by bloggers, customers, staff, friends and families. Even potential friends and lovers are checking you out, obviously literally, but also online.

In the past companies felt they could get away with ‘discrepancies’ between what their marketing says and what they do and/or have created.  I am not talking about the ‘disasters’ but the translation of marketing/sales promises into actual customer and user experience. (Or the promise of HR and managers to new employees.. or the promise of employee to company.)

Who does marketing?

There are some that believe marketing is done in marketing departments. Most intelligent people know this is bollocks: it’s done in every department of your business.  Every person goes home and talks or leaves an impression (even through what they dont say) about your boss, their boss, the products and services.  Every person the company fires goes out and tells people if not with words, with body language what they thought of that company. The sales people, leaders and strategy people are the ones who usually over promise to get you through the door.  Once through the door its up to the account managers, customer service people, the technical support who – in most cases are the people that define the actual brand (customer experience) for the company. Yet they are often the ones who are not as well paid or given respect. And of course there are the people who actually make what you sell, whether they be software developers, factory staff, production artists, they all leave their imprint on the user experience.  How consistent do you think they are in telling the whole world what the company is about? In the old days (before Web 2.0) it was easy to cover up ‘discrepancies’ and pretend companies are wholly wonderful places to work, but the reality is that most humans are flawed in some fashion as are the communities and organisations we create.  I believe the best option in this world is to be honest and transparent.  (Just to be clear, I am not advocating transparency with your new hot sauce: we do after all live in a competitive world.)

Lessons from political campaigning

There is one kind of marketing / campaigning / communication in which you cannot afford ‘discrepancies’ and that is political campaigning. Everyone has to be ‘on board’ and saying the same thing, or else the competition or journalists will pick it up and shove it in your face (if you are lucky).  This does not mean people working on political campaigns do not have differences of opinions – they most certainly do – and in most cases they have strongly held beliefs (except the consultants <– joking.. sort of).  I think they have a couple things that help them survive their differences of opinion, including:

  1. Shared values and principles and possibly vision.
  2. A clear end to the campaign
  3. Competition or an ‘enemy’ to blame for all the ill in the world
  4. Directly connected with ‘consumers’ i.e. electorate. Has your politician crashed today? Please ring technical support..
  5. Newspaper and journalists who make their money by finding your ‘discrepancies’
  6. Bloggers and activists who find ‘discrepancies’ for fun, for belief or for hate.
  7. Limited funds, often transparent sources.

Lessons from the technology world

The technology sector is constantly striving for faster and more efficient ways to communicate, examples include rumour sites (, Blogs (Tech crunch), linkedin updates, facebook updates, twitter etc.  Technology people  are often the first bunch of people onto new technology, curious to see how it works.  They have little fear to try out technology often will talk about technology and the people that create it. Also technologist form strong online communities to support each other in acquiring new knowledge. For example, if someone leaves a job in the technology market you will ‘hear’ about it or easily find it out, whether they be from a large company or just a startup. During the recession (2008 -2010) there were even sites counting the number of jobs been lost by tech staff. Information travels fast e.g. status update or job change, and often before the marketing or communication department is in the know.  Most good communicators know that the absence of information will give space for rumours to build and/or for anticipation to build.

Some companies do very well because of the 24 information need for speedy communications, others through the notable absence of information i.e. Apple

  1. Put the information out first
  2. Remember to back your statements up, with depth and evidence. Remember before the days of twitter and click polls?

Transparency and extra free data is adding to depth of conversation..

Some corporate websites try to hide the numbers of staff that work for the company, especially startups.  Be warned that people can use linkedIn or Jigsaw to see who actually works for a company.  Other tools have ‘encouraged’ transparency LinkedIN Company profiles allow you to see how many VPs does a business have, you can see who has joined and who has left.  This is useful to see how high up the chain you have actually got.

Your resumes are in multiple places, are they consistent?

How many places is your resume? A word doc right, a pdf, LinkedIN, Facebook, and couple recruitment websites, what about the ones recruiters have got, what about the organisations you have worked for in the past?  Consistency of what you say about yourself is important to gain trust but can be difficult when you multi-talented and can sell yourself to different markets or into different roles.


I wonder sometimes what the real impact of showing our ‘relationship status’ is on Facebook or other social networking tool.  For a secure relationship, it’s not  a problem, but new ones? Hmmm – it is only ‘official’ when it says so on facebook?! It goes without saying (but I am going to say it) that inconsistency in personal and professional relationships can cause problems.

Archive sites or cached info

It’s worth noting that if you make a mistake online it will be archived or cached somewhere on the web, if left for any period of time. I think most cultures are forgiving of making a mistake, many are not forgiving of covering up mistakes, however.

What can you do?

  1. Have clear vision, values and principles for the organisation
  2. Be transparent where possible, dont hide..
  3. Consistency with brand values, organisation values and leadership behaviour e.g. If your leader bullies, senior managers will copy as will middle managers and staff will be bullied.  Is that the culture you want?
  4. Honesty from leaders and sales, rather than leaving accounts/customer or technical support to clear up the mess
  5. HR and Management appraisal and review mechanisms reflect the values and principles
  6. Encourage lateral communications and breakdown silos
  7. Not see technical support or account managers or customer service as an afterthought

The end for propaganda marketing and the era of dialogue marketing

There are many who will claim that social marketing is the future, some will claim it is the now. I believe that being social is part of the human condition and we have being ‘doing’ social marketing since we could communicate.  Just as some people claim that communities have just appeared, idiots.. There are a lot of frauds who call themselves social media specialists and few really good ones.. I do not claim to be either.

The real change that, is/has happened in the online environment, is the movement from propaganda marketing i.e. one way, to dialogue marketing i.e. two way.

This did not start online with facebook or other ‘social networking tools’ but with chatrooms and forums in universities, where conversations have been going on, since the early days of computers.  I feel that it was geeks and nerds (like myself) who wanted to talk about a particular topic e.g. Unix or shell coding who started this online journey.  Years later, instantaneous and global communications has fed the human addiction need for fast, quick and scannable information. And I personally hope one day we care about quality and depth again…

Really two way communication..

Marketing Communications has taken the long journey from one way ‘preaching’ of the religious leader to two way conversations or dialogue of a Townhall. Consumer rights groups and Bloggers were the leaders that eventually broke into the general public consciousness and encouraged ‘consumers to state their opinions’ and than web 2.0 gave us the tools to do this easily.

Political Marketing/Campaigning has probably been at the forefront of dialogue marketing for sometime.  Obamas’ campaign was certainly not the first to combine both ‘real world’ and online dialogue marketing, but clearly is the most famous (well at least for North America’s).  The Liberal Democrats in the UK have been doing for the last 5 years, and examples can be found in other areas of high internet penetration and large numbers of technology people.

From a corporate perspective Facebook and LinkedIN company pages followed, which gave us even more access to information and conversation, beyond the corporate website.

The same journey can be seen in market research (MR).  With MR in the online environment, first we had survey tools and then ‘Panels’. Online research panels is where the business asked the questions to specially selected consumers and consumers answered.  Now we have ‘Online Communities’ in which consumers can talk to each other, ask questions and answer them.  This is, of course is more than just dialogue marketing but moves from one to one conversations to many to many conversations adding an addition dimension (*I will cover this in another post – Townhall dialogue).

Is dialogue marketing expensive?

It definitely costs money, both in terms of content producers and responders to ‘consumer posts’.  People often underestimate the amount of time so called social marketing content production takes.  Writing a good blog post is not just based on time but inspiration and good writing.  Next time, you hear it will only take 30 to 40 minutes per post, I would suggest you give them THE look or a ‘verbal’ slap. Good writing is not always that predictable.  And lets not forget people may respond (if you write interesting and engaging copy), and you should respond to their response. Its worth pointing out they may respond in another environment or platform e.g. their blog not yours.  The point that I am making, is not that it is bad, but there is a real cost in staff time.  I personally think good writers are rare (I count myself in the category – who has the imagination to write but yet not the writing skills to go with it).  Of course blog posts are not the only way to go, there are webinars, podcasts, videoinars (I have yet to have seen this done well yet), whitepapers, etc. All great stuff for honey pot (inbound marketing) e.g. bring customers to your website to sell shit. In all cases you still need good content producers.  Often they are not in the marketing department, they are the specialists in your business whose bottom line is often driven by short term goals (cash now), thus they are not rewarded by the business in the short term to take time out of their ‘real job’. So there is some political or bureaucratic work to be done here. If you want regular quality content you need to create a good content strategy. This has be done in partnership with senior leadership, marketing and the content producers.

Is the leadership ready for it?

Some yes, some NO. However, if I was to give you a segment that I am cynical about ,it would be the old guard of baby boomer CEOs. I believe that  a vast majority are still in the era of propaganda marketing. In some cases their chief marketing officer (CMO) will be out on a limb, trying to prove its worth. Than again the CMO may not understand this form of marketing and may delegate it to the youngest member of the marketing team (Gen Y) because they live and breathe it in their personal life. But portraying a company is very different from a person, so I would suggest that the CMO should ensure that training/development is given to help this team member and the marketing channel succeed.

So what do I do?

  1. Allocate people and time
  2. Build a strong content strategy – who will your providers of content be – what do they gain from this?
  3. Ensure strong relationships with other parts of customer facing departments/people.
  4. Choose the right tools for you.
  5. Be ready for abuse, challenge, the occasion thanks and good ideas.
  6. Prepare your senior leadership.
  7. Open up the channels .
  8. Respond to your customers/clients and ensure the comments get passed to the right people in the organisation. Follow up.
  9. Learn and evaluate – Show how you are learning, to your customers – Its after all a two way dialogue.

Starting a tech company -co founders

So, eventually my brain connected a few dots  and came up with a big idea. BIG yes because it means changing the way the world works. For the better I think and feel, there are no mass murders planned, it will mean people doing less but with more depth.  The journey that has being interesting in getting to know Vancouver and its support for building a business.

So I met everyone I could through my friends and their connections. There are a lot of networking events which are attended by professional networkers.  I tried BC American Marketing Association, League of Kickass, Connect, Launch Party.. And through these I meet some of the good, bad and the ugly, I met a few stars who took the time to answer my overfilling wardrobe of questions..  I knew I was looking for a tech guy who could not only scale up himself but make the tech scable, who had worked in enterprise and but had also actually delivered small projects on his own,  I needed a artist who understands expression and  usability but also was a through tester and than had grown beyond that..  And we need to like each other because I wanted us to be all from different backgrounds..  Why these two roles because I believe form and function should be developed together, I think this one of those things that Apple has got right and Google is still learning.  I was also looking for 2 other people who wanted to build something, something big, a community a new form of company, that would grow in Vancouver to become its own medium/large company.. and one not intended to be sold.  The surprising thing is I think and feel I have found them!