Control is Yesterday’s News: Facebook Privacy and Pinterest Copyright Furors Will Fade
By Scott Robertson, APR, Robertson Communications
Control. It’s the central issue that drives the fear, uncertainty and doubt in all digital communications these days. And with good reason. You see, not long ago, many professional communicators (like you and me) believed that you could control all of the “touch points” of your brand and deliver a clear and consistent message to the marketplace, which would inspire the desired behavioral response on the part of the target audience.
Man, that sounds good. I feel good just writing it and reading it back to myself. But, the real truth is messier and well, much more real than this lovely little statement. I’ll submit to you that so much of the discussion about social media centers on a single issue expressed a multitude of ways. That issue is control.
I’ll give a few recent examples:
- Employers want employees Facebook passwords, Facebook goes to court for them—control.
- Experts say pinning content to Pinterest boards violates copyright laws—control.
- No live tweeting from the Health Care Law case in front of the Supreme Court a few weeks ago—control (masked by official policy created for the need of control).
Since I’m a bit of a disciple of Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (authors of “Groundswell”) when it comes to social media, here’s our collective message to the business world: Let it go. You will get so much more in return just for letting go of your illusion of control of your brand.
Employers want employees FB passwords—you don’t need them if you a) know how to correctly set up your corporate Facebook presence and b) trust your employees.
Experts say pinning content to Pinterest violates copyright laws. Really? So, then you don’t want thousands of people talking and sharing about your business. Say it out loud a few times to yourself and see if that strategy starts making sense.
No live tweeting from HC Law Case from Supreme Court this week. That doesn’t seem to be stopping people from speculating about what is really going on in there. Look at a trending feed. The only difference is that by allowing people to tweet from inside the room, you could circulate more accurate information to the people. Also, having an official social media rep from the Court could allow them to (wait for it) CONTROL the message more than the current policy allows. I know, call me crazy.
I used to work for a big trade association and you wouldn’t believe the grief I had to go through to create social media usage guidelines for the staff. Why? It was explained to me that our staff would then be able to say anything about the company and we wouldn’t be able to control the message. I responded, oh you mean like if we gave them the ability to speak into a telephone or interact with customers face-to-face? I mean, do you trust your people or don’t you? And all the legal BS in the world doesn’t mask it—you either do or you don’t and it’s a choice, not a process, not a grid or graph, it’s a simple human choice. Choose wisely.
On the subject of trust, one manager once told me ”when an employee does X, then they have earned my trust.” I don’t believe there is a way to earn trust. Trust, like love, is given away by one person to another and the giving person usually creates some elaborate system of earning it that makes sense to them in their own twisted little brain. But, it is not earned, it is given. And you want to give it away otherwise, you’ll be micromanaging your way into an early grave.
Five Ways to Practice Giving Up Control in Your Organization
Letting go is very easy to say and equally hard to do. So here are a few tips:
- Do not fear, but instead embrace all of the negative commentary about your brand as an opportunity to correct misconceptions for not just the commenting person but the entire audience. It is not a badge of shame to make mistakes with customers. But not talking about it with them (and the audience) is.
- Pick up a copy of Charlene Li’s “Open Leadership” and “Groundswell” and read them. Be a catalyst creating a culture of people across your organization ready to give up control. (Note: You will not get the lawyers. They are trained/paid to be risk-adverse and this idea will give them ulcers. Sorry.)
- Observe your own reactions in your day-to-day branding situations. If you still do you job the way you did it 10 years ago, STOP. The world has changed.
- Review all of your organization’s branding policies and any that are more than three years old should be revisited and amended to make sense for your organization in the new world of social media. It’s amazing how dated this stuff can get.
- Have an open, honest conversation with your CEO and C-Suite officers about control and how it’s changed. Most control issues are driven by fear of something. If you can uncover it, you can get rid of the fear and thus the need for control. (You may need to install a leather couch in your office for this one.)
In conclusion, let me spoil the ending of the movie for you.The companies who let go of control of their brands survive and the others die like the unlucky 27 kids in “The Hunger Games.” It’s not easy and it’s taken me many hours of therapy, deep breathing exercises and man-yoga (broga) to get out of my “control the brand” mode when it comes to social media. But it’s the only way to get what companies are truly after in the social spaces—a real two-way, honest dialogue with their audiences.
Preach it from every mountaintop to every lawyer, PR person, HR manager and old-school CEO you know. It’s a new world and control is simply yesterday’s news.
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Scott Robertson is the President/Founder of Robertson Communications, a new digital PR/marketing agency in Orange County, Calif. that has been meeting the needs of its clients for almost five whole weeks. Robertson is an accredited active member of PRSA, has won many awards and is fairly brilliant, but you haven’t lived until you’ve seen him on stage playing bass and singing with his cover band, Five South (like the freeway). For more information and to read his interesting, funny and insightful blog posts, visit www.robertsoncomm.com or call 949-766-6789. Or you can be like his Mom and “Like” Robertson Communications on Facebook at www.facebook.com/robertsoncomm or Twitter @Robertsoncomm.