The power shift

“We journalists are touchy about retaining what is often pathetically minimal access to athletes.”

Source.

“Access”. Those six letters have so much meaning and intrigue behind them. It’s the ‘how’ things are done versus was is being done.

And people want to know how different folks get things done. They want access.

When you are in a meeting – virtual or otherwise – ever notice how folks’ eyes perk up when someone is sharing their screen?

It’s an inside view – access! – that individual’s professional life.

  • How do they organize their desktop?

  • Who are they communicating with?

  • Are they talking about me?

Ben’s story from the New York Times (linked above) is an interesting look into this power shift. A shift from the reporter to the individual.

Who has all the access now?

Even Simon Owens highlights this in a recent piece:

“So do I think the tech industry can do away with the mainstream media and essentially cover itself?”

(Source.)

Beyond the tech industry, should businesses be asking these same questions? This might be considered marketing or corporate communications in many larger organizations, however these roles are based on legacy functions.

They exist because there is (hopefully) a market looking for a solution (marketing) or an outlet that can help position the organization in a particular way (corporate communications).

In other words, the organization historically needed access to a market or an outlet.

Where do those roles and needs fit in today’s demand-first world of social media and instant communications?

The transformation of business communications

Have you noticed how enterprise tools are becoming more consumerized?

Whether it’s Slack or Teams, there’s an ability for workers today to quickly learn these tools since they are the same style they’ve been using in their social media world.

Have you used Facebook Messenger? Then Microsoft Teams should be a cinch to pick up and start using on day 1. Sure, there are nuances both from a product and a process perspective. If Teams is put in front of you, you’ll know what it is and what’s it for within the first five minutes.

So, why shouldn’t businesses make that same change? From how things used to be to how they are today?

(Something something know where your audience is something.)

Benedict Evans and Toni Cowan-Brown touched on this topic in their Another Podcast.

Within the first 0:20, Benedict:

“Patrick Collison, co-founder of Stripe, has this joke on Twitter that if you put up enough enterprise software billboards, then an airport will spontaneously appear around them.

And it does seem like digital transformation is one of those meaningless buzzwords/slogans that was invented by some systems integration and they put it on billboards at airports.

And it is.

But it’s also kind of interesting, I think, as a description of a sort of a pretty basic generational change happening in enterprise technology.”

Listen to that segment below.

 

 

Back to the idea of the power shift.

If a business knows where their audience is and who their audience is, and if they’ve staffed properly and bought into the idea of the power shift, what’s stopping them from making the shift?

The shift hits the fans

Our ultimate goal as communications professionals is to position our message and get it out to our fans.

My guess is there are three reasons why businesses haven’t made the shift:

  1. Change. Change brings uncertainty. And humans (and investors) dislike uncertainty. If you are a leader, then change isn’t new.

  2. Culture: An effective marketing or communications team (or plan) may not be in place today. This is solved through management and training. If there’s a talented team in place that needs direction, then management needs to step in. If there’s isn’t, training needs to be the focus. If neither is available, it’s management job to find this team.

  3. Distribution: This might be the biggest one. “How are we supposed to gain attention if we don’t distribute our content through our typical process?” If you know who your audience is and where they are, and you have a team in place, this should not be an issue.

What’s next

This power shift is in it’s infancy. With a handful of businesses publicly stating they are making this change, we’ll likely see more and more businesses following along.

There may be some costs that should be addressed, including internal and external rumors about the organization and press folks asking questions outside of the communications team.

And while it can be a balancing act – building out an internal communications plan and team that may replace an agency or cut off news to the press – if managed properly, the benefits will far outweigh the costs.

Especially as it comes to transparency, authenticity and access.

 

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Jamie Larson
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