Tag Archives: sports

Just Because You Run the Same Plays Doesn’t Mean You’ll Get the Same Results

The Packers dominated teams using the Lombardi Sweep, but few teams had the talent to run it as effectively

“That’s easy – even I could do that!”

Really?  Could you?  How many times have you been watching a game and said that about that highlight catch that you saw on Sportscenter?  How many times have you watched Tiger Woods swing a golf club and then try to recreate that yourself? How many times have you yelled at your favorite team to just run that one play because you just know it’ll work?

Guess what – you wouldn’t have made that catch, you can’t golf like Tiger, and your play calling leaves a lot to be desired.

This same thinking unfortunately, also carries over to the business world. Over the course of eight years in the consulting industry, I’ve noticed an increasing number of colleagues, peers, and clients thinking that just because they read/downloaded/heard a white paper, strategy, or presentation, (a play, a swing, or a catch) they too can go out and be a communications or social media expert too. Or, they ask for the detailed step-by-step guide for “using Twitter/Facebook/blogs successfully.” Like the weekend golfer who tries to be Tiger Woods or the YMCA rec league player trying to dunk, the results are similarly predictable. You downloaded that community management strategy that I did for a client two years ago and you’re now using it with your team in a totally different environment with a totally different culture? How’s that working out for you?

In the 1960s, the Green Bay Packers repeatedly ran the “Lombardi Sweep” with great success. With Vince Lombardi coaching and Hall of Famers Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jim Taylor, and Jerry Kramer running the play, it became virtually unstoppable. Seeing this success, other teams started to incorporate the play into their playbooks although none were able to duplicate the success the Packers had with it. Running the Lombardi Sweep with four Hall-of-Famers had predictably different results than when you’re running it with a bunch of guys off the street! The actual play wasn’t some proprietary, secret play – it’s actually a pretty simple play to run that many teams already had in their playbook. Despite the widespread availability of the play and game tapes of the play being run to perfection, no one was ever able to consistently duplicate the results that those Packer teams had. Because they had one thing the other teams didn’t – Hall of Fame talent running the play.

The current world of social media isn’t all that different. All it takes is a simple Google search and you’ll easily find millions of blog posts, white papers, presentations, and case studies on social media best practices. You too can use the same tactics used by Zappo’s! You can create an Enterprise Social Computing Strategy just like Intel!  Unfortunately, just like your repeated attempts to dunk like Blake Griffin, your ability to emulate the successes by these companies will likely leave you frustrated and in pain. Do you have the talent to implement something like that? Do you have the right people on staff to help you?

Remember this the next time you read a white paper or listen to a presentation about social media or community management and think to yourself, “hey, I could do that!” There’s a reason people recruit, hire, and pay experienced community managers and social media specialists to do these things – because these things are hard to do. Stop looking for the quick fix, magic bullet strategy/play/framework/model/methodology/secret sauce to social media – it doesn’t exist. Instead of trying to copy another team’s success, focus on recruiting, hiring, and developing your own talent and matching up your strategies to fit. After all, you may never dunk like Blake Griffin, but you might be able to shoot the three better than him.

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Drive for Show, Putt for Dough – a Lesson for Enterprise 2.0 Platforms

Stop worrying about hitting the big drive and concentrate on the fundamentals

Ever hear the phrase “Drive for Show, Putt for Dough?”  It’s  time-honored sports cliche that refers to the oohs and ahhs that a huge golf drive off the tee will elicit from the crowd. However, despite all the attention a big drive gets and hundreds of dollars a good driver costs, that shot is used maybe 12 times each round. The real money is made on the green where an average player will take almost 3 times as many strokes. You can make all the highlight reels you want with your 350 yard drives, but if you can’t make a 10 foot putt consistently, you’ll be in the same place I am on Sunday….on the couch watching someone else who CAN make those putts.

I bring this up because I’ve seen one too many Enterprise 2.0 implementation – be it a wiki, a blogging platform, discussion forums, microblogging, or Sharepoint – fail miserably because they forgot to focus on the fundamentals.  They end up being too concerned with the big drive off the tee that they forget to practice the short putts that are needed to truly succeed. Nearly every Enterprise 2.0 vendor out there offers a similar set of features – blogging, microblogging, wiki functionality, profiles, tagging, search, etc. – they all hype up the fact that THEIR platform is the one that can do X or can do Y, that they have this one unique feature that puts them out in front of the competition. Likewise, once these platforms are purchased and installed, the client teams responsible for customization and integration get enamored with all of these features as well. I’ve seen way too many internal launch emails that sound something like this:

“Visit our new website, the one-stop shop for all your collaboration needs. This new website offers all of the Web 2.0 functionality that you have on the Internet, here in a safe, secure, professional environment – blogs to share your expertise, a wiki that anyone can edit, profiles so that you can connect with your colleagues!”

Seeing all this empty promotional language makes me think of my friend who absolutely crushes the ball of the tee. After another monster shot from the fairway, he’s now gone 524 yards in two shots and the crowd is loving it. He then proceeds to take three putts to go the final 10 yards because he spent all of his money on a new driver and practice time on perfecting the big drive.

Unfortunately, Enterprise 2.0 implementations are suffering from this same, all too common problem.

Day 1: After being enticed by the blogs, the wikis, the microblogging, and the rest of the features, you visit the site, you poke around a little bit – so far so good.  Everything looks great.  The design is eye-catching, there’s a lot of great content up already, some of my peers have friended me, and I already found a blog post relevant to my job. This is the best site ever! Enterprise 2.0 FTW!

Day 2: I visit the site again and invite a few of my managers to join as well…well, I tried to invite them to join, but the invite a friend button wasn’t quite working. That’s ok – I’ll try again tomorrow – must be a bug.  I can’t wait to get them using all of these cool tools too!

Day 3: Well, that invite-a-friend bug still isn’t fixed, but everything else is going pretty smoothly…other than the fact that the blogs don’t seem to work in Firefox. I guess I’ll have to use Internet Explorer for those, but that’s ok.

Day 7:  I’ve got a big meeting today with the new VP at this conference we’re both attending – I’ll demo all these new social media tools for him and show him how he can start a blog too!

Day 7 (later on): Damnit! I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t be able to access the site unless I was behind the firewall in one our corporate offices 🙁

Day 14: On my way to a meeting, I was checking out my co-worker’s Facebook page on my iPhone when I saw his latest status update – “OMG – I can’t believe that someone said that about our new HR policy on our corporate blog!!” Intrigued by what was said on the new blog, I try to navigate to our blogs…foiled again!!!  No mobile support….I guess I’ll check it later tonight.

Day 17: Working late on a report again – luckily, I’ve been posting all of my findings to our new wiki so that when I leave for my vacation tomorrow, everyone will have easy access to the latest and greatest data.

Day 18: Disappointed to receive an email on my way to the airport that our Enterprise 2.0 site is down for maintenance for the rest of the day, rendering all of my data unusable to the rest of my team. They can’t wait a day for the wiki to come back up so it looks like they’ll be working extra hard to recreate everything I did last night.

Day 19: &*%$ I’m DONE!!!  Why is this thing so slow?  What does Facebook have 500 million users yet is always up?  Why can I download a movie from iTunes in 3 minutes, but it takes me 25 minutes to download a Powerpoint presentation?  Why can I read Deadspin from my phone no matter where I’m at in world, but can’t access the blog I’m supposed to be using for work?

Sound familiar to anyone? This is what happens when Enterprise 2.0 is too focused on the teeshot, and not enough on the fundamentals of the rest of the game. Features galore that will get people ooohhing and aahhhing, but lacking the fundamentals of speed, accessibility, and reliability that will keep people coming back. If you’re talking about implementing an Enterprise 2.0 platform, before you start talking about all of the bells and whistles you want, make sure that you take care of three very fundamental issues.

Make it Fast – People have to expect anything online to be fast. If I click something, it should take me there immediately. There are no exceptions. Load times for simple html pages (we’ll give multimedia an exception here) should be almost non-existent. I don’t care if I’m behind a corporate firewall or not – if it takes 4-5 seconds to load a page, that’s going to severely limit how often I can use it. If my bank’s site can be secure and fast, why can’t my Intranet sites?

Make it Accessible – Laptops, desktops, iPads, iPhones, Android devices, my old school flip phone, hell, even my TV all allow me to get online now.  I can access Pandora, Facebook, Twitter, and a whole host of other sites from a dozen different devices while on the subway, in my house, in a rain forest, or in my office.  But, you’re telling me that I can only access my work from one kind of computer that’s located in one place? Doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Make it Reliable – There shouldn’t be a fail-whale on your internal work systems. If I need to access some information to do my job – be it a blog post, a wiki page, or a file – I need to be able to access it, with 100% certainty.  If I need access to some data for an important meeting, and I can’t access it because our site is “down for maintenance” or it was accidentally deleted in some sort of data migration error, that’s a serious breach of trust that is going to make me question whether I should be using the site at all.

Concentrate on perfecting the fundamentals before you start getting into the fancy stuff – practice your putting before your driving, learn to dribble with both hands before entering a dunk contest, practice catching the ball before you choreograph your touchdown dance, and make the wiki work in Firefox before you start working on some drag and drop home page modules.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Stev.ie

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Try Looking Outside to Solve the Problems Inside

Quick – who recently said this in reference to his organization’s social media efforts?

“…if our consumers are younger, and they love video games, and they have shorter attention spans, and they love interactivity, and they love social media, and everyone blogs, and everyone’s on Facebook, why wouldn’t we put ourselves right in the middle of that?”

What social media or Government 2.0 champion could have said this? Could it have been Federal CIO Vivek Kundra? Maybe Director, New Media and Citizen Engagement at GSA, Bev Godwin? Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Price Floyd?

Nope. Try Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington Capitals. In this week’s Washington Post, Leonsis discusses why the team is aggressively using social media to engage with their fans and the potential impact that social media can have on his team and on the sport. Sound familiar? Sound anything like what us in the Gov 2.0 and social media communities have been telling our bosses and clients for years now?

Leonsis goes on to say that, “what’s unique and different about us is that most organizations are managed [with the thinking], ‘We’re bricks and mortar, we’re buildings, and we have this Web operation beside us,'” Leonsis said. “We’re kind of different. We look at the Web as being our basic power plant, kind of like electricity, so the Web and communicating in this fashion is second nature to us now. It’s not like we go brochure, television, mail. It’s Web, and then everything else. It’s social media first, and everything else.”

Hmmmm…sounds like his perspective, experience, and business acumen would be a valuable addition to the Gov 2.0 conversation, don’t you think?

I recently read a fascinating article in the latest edition of Fast Company – “A Problem Solver’s Guide to Copycatting.” This article argues that instead of solving our toughest problems through brainstorming or consulting with experts, we should start looking for analogues outside our industry because someone (or some thing) has probably already solved our problem. For example (from the Fast Company article),

“In 1989, the pilots of the Exxon Valdez ran it into Bligh Reef, spilling enough oil to cover 11,000 square miles of ocean. To finish this cleanup job, you’d have to clear an area the size of Walt Disney World Resort every week for about five years. One major obstacle was that the oil and water tended to freeze together, making the oil harder to skim off. This problem defied engineers for years until a man named John Davis, who had no experience in the oil industry, solved it. In 2007, he proposed using a construction tool that vibrates cement to keep it in liquid form as it pours. Presto!”

This methodology, this thinking, that someone who has absolutely no experience with or knowledge of your organization might be able to solve a problem that your top domain experts haven’t been able to crack is a totally foreign concept to most organizations, especially those within the government. What if instead of talking with the Gov 2.0 “experts,” we started getting more people from outside of Government involved in Gov 2.0? Think about the value that Craig Newmark has brought to the Gov 2.0 discussion. Or Tim O’Reilly.

The social media community seems to have realized the value these outsider perspectives can bring – just last year I attended conferences featuring Jermaine Dupri, Brooke Burke, and Jalen Rose. This year, Gov 2.0 events like Gov 2.0 LA reached out to Hollywood to get that perspective and author/entrepreneur/professional keynoter Gary Vaynerchuk will be speaking at this year’s Gov 2.0 Expo. Getting these influencers involved as speakers is a great start, but we need to achieve more consistent engagement beyond just singular events.

What if the next Director of New Media and Web Communications for DHS was someone like Mike DiLorenzo, Director of Corporate Communications for the NHL? What if we talked with some behavior modification psychologists about the best way to change people’s behavior from one of “need to know” to “need to share?” What if we studied Native American tribes to learn more about how they build and maintain a unique culture even in the face of extreme changes?

While government may be unique, the problems we’re facing aren’t. The challenge shouldn’t be in solving them, but rather, in finding out who or what has solved them already.

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Sports Can Learn a Few Things From Gov 2.0

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“Dear [fill in your favorite sports team],

You may think of me as a fan or as a ticket-holder now, but if you give me the chance, I’d gladly be a marketing specialist, brand ambassador, web developer, community organizer and data cruncher.  Oh yeah – I’ll also do all these things for free if you’d just ask.”

Sincerely,
Joe Sports Fan

In a recent post, I discussed some of the similarities that I saw between the government’s experiences with social media and the challenges that professional sports teams are facing in diving into the world of social media.  As I thought about it some more, I figured that if these teams are facing many of the same challenges that government agency does, they can probably also take advantage of some of the same strategies that government agencies have deployed too.

As a sports fan and a government consultant, here are some of the government’s social media initiatives that I’d like to see cross over to the sports industry:

  • A closed Intranet for all of the teams in a particular league. Imagine an Intelink-like service where every MLB team’s communications staff could log in and share information with each other. There’s obviously some very heated competition among the teams, but there’s also a lot of camaraderie that already exists.  I’m not suggesting that general managers get on here and blog about player transactions or scouting strategies, but they could definitely share their ideas for promotions and community events, best practices for engaging with season ticket holders, or how they’re using social media – things that help the entire league.  With the right education and change management support, an Intranet like this could help raise the quality and consistency of communications across the league, thereby selling more tickets and making more money for everyone.
  • An Apps for Baseball (or Football, Hockey, etc.) contest. Similar to the Apps for America contests made possible by sites like data.gov, why can’t one of the sports leagues partner with the Elias Sports Bureau to open up the MASSIVE amount of sports statistics on an accessible platform and then engage the sports-loving public to create web-based, iPhone, JAVA, and other applications?
  • A Recovery.gov for a sports team –  I would love to see my favorite team open up their books to the public and say, “here’s our payroll, our ticket revenue, our marketing budget, our merchandising revenue, our property taxes – here’s everything that comes in and goes out, and oh, by the way, after all that, we still lost $3M.”  There’s a lot of mystery about what it costs to actually run a team, how much of the money is public vs. private funds, and why teams that are still shelling out millions of dollars for free agents are saying they’re losing millions of dollar per year.  The fans want answers to these questions and they want to feel as though they’re partners in the future success of the team. Open up your books and show the fans that there’s nothing to hide (unless, that is, you have something to hide). The Green Bay Packers are probably the sports industry’s leaders in this area, being a publicly-owned team, but just because other teams aren’t legally obligated to release their financials doesn’t mean they shouldn’t.
  • More leadership accessibility. I want to see more Mark Cubans out there engaging with their fans.  Players like Chris Cooley and Chad Ochocinco and league officials like Brian McCarthy and Mike DiLorenzo have done a tremendous job of using social media to reach out to their fans and engage in real conversations, creating fan loyalty and ownership in the player, league, and/or franchise.  Just as leaders from across the government are getting on Twitter and blogging, why aren’t more team owners, general managers, and other front office types using these tools to talk with their fans NOT market to their fans.

There are real opportunities for the sports industry to leverage some of these same concepts and tactics that are now driving Government 2.0. Teams and leagues can use these ideas to do more than just sell more tickets, but to create a community of interested, informed, and passionate partners, developers, and brand ambassadors.  Who would have thought that an NFL or MLB team could learn a few things about communications, agility, transparency and authenticity from the federal government?

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