Author Archives | sradick

About sradick

I'm Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh. Find out more about me here (http://steveradick.com/about/).

A Community of Practice Is More Than a Website

A community of practice (CoP) is, according to cognitive anthropologists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, a group of people who share an interest, a craft, and/or a profession.

Over the last year or so, the term communities of practice has entered the social media buzzword lexicon along with virtual collaboration, engagement, platforms, and Enterprise 2.0. Senior leaders want to establish them, new employees are being told to join them, and middle managers are being told to support them, but what, exactly are they?

Nowhere in the definition above does it mention the words website, wiki, blog, or social network. Nowhere does it say that it has to be virtual or physical or even either/or. There is no reference to the tools that are used to facilitate the communication and collaboration, nor is there a defined set of characteristics that define how a community of practice works or what topics they discuss.

A group of people who share an interest, a craft and/or a profession. Sounds pretty simple, right? Sounds like we might already be members of dozens of communities of practice – at work, at church, at school, etc. It’s just a group of people communicating and collaborating openly around a topic that they all care about. CoPs have existed for as long as people have had a desire to learn from each other.

Whether your organization knows it or not, your company/government agency is already filled with CoPs. Just because all of their communication and collaboration doesn’t happen to occur on your designated SharePoint site doesn’t mean that people aren’t already communicating and collaborating around a shared topic of interest. Whether it’s the group of new hires who coordinate the monthly happy hours or the new parents who get together over lunch to discuss work/life balance, communities of practice are alive and well within most organizations. They just might not be the ones with a unique URL on the Intranet.

Are you creating a community of practice or are you just creating another website? How does your CoP stack up to some of these statements?

  • People voluntarily spend time helping others in a community of practice. People visit a website to download what they need.
  • CoPs focus on adding value to their members. Websites focus on getting new users.
  • The success of a CoP is measured in anecdotes, efficiencies, and employee satisfaction. The success of a website is measured by hits, visits, and referrals.
  • The members of a CoP volunteer their expertise to create new tech features. A website has paid developers who add new features.
  • A CoP is built around conversation. A website is built around content.

Communities of practice have been around for decades, and for decades, they’ve helped countless organizations navigate major changes, increase productivity, cut duplication, and make work more enjoyable. In many cases, the use of social media has enhanced these CoPs by providing more tools and opportunities for people to connect with other people. Unfortunately, social media has also given rise to zombie communities filled with content on blogs, forums, and wikis, but which lack any actual human interaction. What are you building?

For more about Communities of Practice, check out Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge, Harvard Business School Press, 2002 by Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, and William M. Snyder.

Continue reading...

Enterprise 2.0 Success is About the Players, Not the Field

Watch your local Pee-wee football team’s practice sometime and you’ll see a lot of dropped passes, missed tackles, and a whole host of other mistakes. But…what would happen if you put that team on Heinz Field and gave them all the same amenities as the Pittsburgh Steelers? Yep, they still wouldn’t be able to complete a pass, kick a field goal or break a James Harrison tackle. Clearly, just because they were put on a better field and given the latest equipment doesn’t mean they will suddenly learn to play football.

Southern Tier Youth Football Conference, NY - Newark Valley @ Maine Endwell Gold

It doesn't matter what kind of equipment you give them, these players aren't going to win the Super Bowl

Similarly, simply adding the latest Enterprise 2.0 platform behind your firewall doesn’t mean your employees will suddenly learn to collaborate with one another. Collaboration doesn’t just magically happen because you went out and bought the latest Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business software. It happens because they have a reason to collaborate. It happens when they are rewarded for sharing information. It happens when they like working with the people around them.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen dozens of failed wikis, blogs, microblog platforms, forums, and idea management deployments, and I’m sure I’ll see many more. This is frustrating on a couple of different levels for me. First, since I suffer from HOLI (“Hatred of Losing Information“), I hate seeing the missed collaboration opportunities that result from these poorly implemented solutions. Secondly, I know that because of these failures, these organizations will most likely write off social media behind the firewall as some sort of snake oil.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of all of these failures is the reliability with which their failure can be predicted. If you’re implementing some sort of social media behind your organizational firewall, and you’re doing any of the following, I can tell you right now that you probably won’t be successful:

  • The same IT department who installed your email system, your ERP system, or your databases is responsible for leading the implementation of your wiki, blog, microblogging platform, etc.
  • You don’t have anyone talking about user adoption and community management on the team from the very start
  • You don’t have a plan for funding this initiative beyond this year
  • You’re measuring success by the number of “users” you can claim
  • You’re talking about giving away iPads and candy bars to get people to use it
  • There are numerous conversations among senior leadership about how to mitigate the risks of your employees using the tools “as a dating service,” to “goof around,” to complain about everything, or editing things they don’t know anything about.
  • You’re more concerned with the available features instead of making it fast, reliable, and accessible
  • The team responsible for the platform doesn’t even use it

Instead of trying to give the players the latest and greatest stadium and equipment, start focusing on improving their passing and tackling skills. Maybe you could have them run some pass patterns instead of installing a state-of-the art locker room?

  • Do my employees have a reason to collaborate with people outside of their immediate team?
  • Is collaborative behavior rewarded during the performance assessment process? Are they punished for hoarding information?
  • Does leadership model collaborative behavior?
  • Are colleagues encouraged to spend time with each other outside of work hours (softball teams, happy hours, etc.)?
  • Are there multiple levels of approvals needed before anyone can share anything?
  • Do your employees trust each other? Do they trust management?

If you’re interested in learning more about why your Enterprise 2.0 implementations are failing and what you can do to help them succeed, take a look at the webinar that I just did for UBM TechWeb.  The “It’s Not the Field, It’s the Players” webinar will be archived here, and the slides are now available below. 

[UPDATED TO INCLUDE THE PRESENTATION BELOW]

[slideshare id=9663453&doc=e20webinar-draftfinalslideshare-111012142902-phpapp02]

Continue reading...

Who Are You Working For?

What are you working on right now? Can you explain exactly why you’re working on it?

Do you know why you’re spending time writing that blog post? Sitting in that meeting? Answering that email? Preparing that presentation? Do you have an idea of what you’re trying to accomplish? Do you have a strategy for what you’re working on?

Who are you working for right now? Your boss? Your company? Your family? Yourself? Do you even know?

Over the last six months or so, I’ve found myself asking this question of myself more and more. Four years ago when I first started our Digital Strategy and Social Media practice here, I had a seemingly unlimited amount of time – I had no problem with putting in a 9-5 day followed by a 5-9 night. I could do everything my boss asked of me as well as everything that I wanted to do. I could start this blog even though my boss at the time didn’t see the value in it. I could go out and spend my evenings attending Gov 2.0 and social media events even though no one was telling me to. I could work on a proposal throughout the weekend. I could create presentations and accept speaking gigs because I felt it was important to do.

One of these will make you shift your priorities!

But things change. Since then, I’ve had my first daughter (Hi Annabelle!), social media has become more and more integrated into our business, and some of my most talented team members have been promoted into positions with more responsibilities. We now have experts at using social media behind the firewall, social media and healthsocial media and design, social media and privacy, social media and the DoD, social media and emergency communications, and so on and so on.  Each of these individuals has become the “go-to” person for questions and needs in each of their respective areas. While that’s great for them and for the organization as a whole, it has also limited the amount of time they can dedicate to the things that I want us to accomplish as a group. They have to respond to their project managers, to their husbands and wives, to their teams and to me. There just isn’t as much time to go around to do all of the things that we want to do.

As these changes have taken place, I’ve found myself doing less of the work that I’ve wanted to do:

  • Blogging
  • Tweeting
  • Attending Gov 2.0 happy hours
  • Speaking at external events

And doing more of the things that my managers and my company want me to do:

  • Meeting with senior leaders throughout the firm to discuss strategy
  • Reviewing our various project team’s social media efforts and ensuring quality control
  • Participating in client meetings
  • Writing performance assessments

And of course, doing more of the things that my family wants me to do:

  • Turning off my computer until the kidlet goes to bed
  • Spending more time on the weekends with my wife and daughter
  • Making more trips to visit family and friends

As your career and your life evolve, your priorities and work have to change with it. It took me a while to really understand and accept this – I just can’t do everything that my boss, my family, and I want to do anymore. There’s just not enough time in the day to do it all. That’s why before I  sit through that fourth conference call of the day or drive downtown for that event, I’ll ask myself, “who I am working for right now?”

Continue reading...

What Can Advertising Learn From PR When It Comes to Social Media?

Two brothers

Image Courtesy of Flickr user cgallent

Public Relations vs. Advertising. Earned media vs. Paid media. Huge budgets vs. tiny ones.  Advertising and Public Relations have been engaged in a love-hate relationships for decades. What’s more effective? What offers better ROI? How should they work together? Should they work together?

For years, advertising has been the big brother in this often tenuous relationship. Whether it’s the massive budgets or the Super Bowl ad campaigns, or the allure of millions of YouTube views, advertising always seems to receive the most attention from an organization’s executives. Public relations, on the other hand, tends to operate more in the background. Need to make budget cuts? Take it from PR. Need a job for that intern? Just give him to the PR team – anyone can do that stuff anyway.

Things are starting to change though. Google became the dominant search engine yet it didn’t air a single TV ad until last year’s Super Bowl. Product launches are now done via strategic leaks, keynotes, and even by purposely keeping your customers away. For the first time in 20 years, Pepsi ditched the 30 second, $4M Super Bowl ad, and instead sunk $20M into the Pepsi Refresh project. What’s going on here? Is this the beginning of the end for advertising?

Of course not. But social media has forced some changes to the advertising industry, whether the old-school likes it or not. And if advertisers want to keep up, they would do well to take some lessons from their PR brethren. In many ways, PR professionals are better equipped for successfully using social media – whether it’s their ability to build and maintain real relationships or their reliance on plain language instead of marketing fluff, PR pros have largely adapted to social media better than than the advertising industry. Here are a few areas where advertising would do well to follow PR’s lead:

  • Advertising should always be looked at as a means to an end, not the end itself. In some ways, advertising itself is the goal (see USA Today’s Ad Meter or the press releases that companies issue about their ads) and has led to a greater focus on views, friends, and Tweets than on sales, revenue, or market share. Your ad campaign isn’t successful because it had a million YouTube views – it’s successful because it’s led to increased sales or customer loyalty or some other actual business objective.
  • Be honest. Consumer trust in advertising is low and continues to fall. When it comes to your company, I’m more likely to trust, well, anyone, other than you. Stop with the boastful, deceptive marketing messages and be honest about your strengths AND your weaknesses. If something didn’t go right, tell me why and what you’re doing about it. Don’t gloss over it and try to blame someone else.
  • 50% of 10,000 > 1% of 50,000. PR hasn’t had the benefit of massive budgets like advertising does. Bashing the public over the head with your ads and hoping for one and two percent returns doesn’t work anymore. Instead, spend more time crafting messages that relate directly with the audience you’re trying to reach.
  • Speak like a human being. I’ll take a line from one of my favorite books, the Cluetrain Manifesto – “Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.”
  • Show me, don’t tell me. Stop spending millions telling me how fantastic your product or your customer service is and show me. Virgin America’s advertising budget is less than 10% of American Airlines‘ yet Virgin consistently outpaces the traditional carriers in things like customer satisfaction, customer experience, and customer service. I don’t know about you, but I will often pay more money to fly Virgin America, JetBlue, or Southwest just to avoid having to deal with one of the big carriers.

I'll be speaking on a panel on Thursday, Sept. 22nd at Ad Week DC

PR and advertising are going to continue to work together more and more – each would do well to learn from each other. If you’re interested in hearing more about how social media is impacting the PR and advertising industries, I’ll be participating in DC Ad Week where I’ll be joining John Cangany and Karen Untereker for a panel moderated by Robert Udowitz called “What Can Advertising Learn From Public Relations When It Comes To Social Media.”

Continue reading...