Moving Forward Part 1: Creating Permission

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I’m going to address over the coming weeks some of the stages of Social Media and P2P program development in order to provide a structure and direction for really three sets of people;

  1. First, practitioners of Social Media and the even more exciting P2P (people-to-people) organisational model who can use this content in their dealings with their clients,
  2. Secondly, for CEOs, MDs, and other c-suiters who are already doing some degree of Social Business, but want more structure,
  3. And thirdly, for those mid-level employes in larger organisations who desperately want the organisation to start using Social Media.

I’m not sure how theses pieces will turn out, but I’m sure as we work together – as this really is our blog – I’ll be able to use your feedback to go in-depth at the right areas, and move quickly over the areas that we’re already more proficient in. In actual fact, and it’s not a surprise, Olivier Blanchard already touched on this last week his article on change management and the need for clear vision, which I’d advise you go and read too.

Anyhow. Let’s get cracking.

Creating Permission

Our first step before we even touch strategy is having permission, either from the client, the team, or the boss. As much as I enjoy taking time to prepare and slow-cook ideas, I don’t have a real job and own the businesses I run, so essentially I report to myself – or more accurately, as a married man, my wife! However the moment we go into any of our 3 scenarios as I laid out above, there is the question of permission and in these situations there is not the luxury of preparing a large strategy before you have this backing.

I was talking to a great guy at Alliance and Leicester a few weeks ago, and as an upper-level manager who was using Social Media, his question to me was how to get their backing. The same question is being asked by enthusiasts all over the world, many of whom are in organisations that are coming out of factory thinking in some way, but still clearly have a way to go.

My response was not that he had to get permission, he had to create permission. Social Media and P2P are innovative new concepts and there does not exist a ‘place’ that is just waiting for them in any organisation. Mind-space has to be made by virtue of their innovative nature and newness, hence we do get permission, we must create it. Getting permission is for an activity that the client/board/boss already understands. Creating it is what we do when they have no clue what it really is.

Below are steps for creating permission by highlighting need, and providing security. You’ll see how these split up as you read them, but suffice to say need and security are essential:

  1. Identify the existing advocates. For your efforts to work, you are going to need everyone behind you that you can get. Most leadership and change consultants (and I have first hand experience of this, too), say that you need 20% of the board behind you to start building momentum.
    There’s probably already advocates on the board and in your organisation who are either passionate about Social Media and P2P, or passionate about what they are seeing other’s do with it even though they don’t really understand it. You will need these people to add credibility and influence to your bid.

    • Find these people. You may already know who they are. Talk some vision with them about the possibilities. Dream a little with them. If they get excited, then you know they are with you.
    • Let them in on your intentions to get some backing, and make sure they know that you are not personally gunning to set yourself up as the point man or woman on this. You need to build team, and that means saying we rather than me. The moment you make this about you, they will smell it and either disband, or have a crack themselves.
  2. Create a sense of urgency. In John Kotter‘s seminal book on change management, Leading Change, John lists the 8 stages of change with the first being to create a sense of urgency. Without this, he writes, one cannot overcome the inertia to change. There are a whole load of reasons why the organisation should not move into Social Media and start empowering people through P2P. But there are more reasons why it should. Unfortunately, the client/board/boss won’t see any of those reasons unless they are pressing reasons.
    How to create this sense of urgency? John’s advice is to start a fire and manufacture pressure. Here’s some ideas:

    • Start with some alarming stats on the decline of traditional media effectiveness. Link them to your budget and show how the budget is being spent on decreasing effectiveness. Get the organisation profits and losses, compare to competitors. Then show off the stats that show how Social Media and P2P are booming.
    • Pick some case studies of competitors, or if they don’t exist in your field yet (because this is innovation), case studies of the big players (Dell, Starbucks, etc), with some local examples too from companies in comparable industries. Draw the common elements and show them what the pattern for success is.
    • Don’t tell stupid stories of Guy Kawasaki and his power cable (unless that really will make the client go for it). But do tell stories from inside the organisation where there has already been some kind of success with Social Media – because there probably has been – even if it has happened between customers on Facebook and you just weren’t a part of it.
    • Do a little bit of research and highlight the conversation that is already going on. If there’s not a substantial amount (as this doesn’t work if there’s only small talk), then assess if there are any competitors filling the space.
  3. Paint a picture of low-entry buy-in to begin. Suggest that you monitor keywords and simply respond to them, with a time budget of 3 x 10 minutes a day, over the course of 12 weeks, and then provide a report at the end. That’s 2.5 hours a week, which is 30 hours total for a quarter. The tools are free, and services like CoTweet will allow you to provide accountability. Also say that you will provide 6 bi-weekly reports on the growth it is causing – if they are linked to sales, even better. What is important here is that someone is the point person, which should probably be you.
    Making it a controlled amount of time per day, over a set time period, with accountability and reporting, addresses the fear of wasting time and resources. There are, of course, other fears. Painting a clear picture means having clear answers:

    • How do we keep control of the company message? Say you’ll draw up basic guidelines to govern your engagement. For the first 4 weeks at least, you’ll want to focus on response over initiation. This means you aren’t actively trying to accrue followers and talk to new people – just responding to the discussion that is already taking place on the keywords that you monitor.
    • What if people say bad things about us? Draw up scenarios in your guidelines, including worst case scenario, and give 1. the process of who you will report the incident to in order to get guidance from, 2. an actual 140 character tweet/update as an example of how you will publicly deal, 3. a 140 character direct message examples, in that order.
  4. Affirm your submission. Confidence will be instilled in the powers that be when they know you are not setting yourself up as the gatekeeper, and are prepared to drop the bid if it doesn’t work. Without this, the concern will be that your passion has got the better of you and will in turn blind you from business sense.
    Ways to affirm submission are:

    • Being accountable. Make everything transparent. Provide reports.
    • Collaboration. This shows it’s not the ‘you show’.
    • Presenting options and asking for guidance. This strokes their ego somewhat. When you have to make a move, provide the options, and ask for their guidance whilst you present your best solution. If they ask for little changes, make them. It’s a small concession to make.

Doing all of this should create permission for a 12 week sample program to test the waters with. If you’ve got results, then you don’t need me to tell you that you’ll be asked to continue.

How you go about presenting this is up to you, but I’d suggest a PDF with quick bullet headlines so as to not waste time. Be clear, concise, and careful use the same language throughout, i.e. don’t mix engagement / discussion / conversation – pick one, unless you are using each word to convey different meaning.

I would provide you with some example proposals that I’ve done for clients, but they are on NDAs so I can’t. However looking at the above should give you a pretty clear picture of what one of these documents would look like.

Please do add your thoughts in the comments. I’m well aware I’ve missed things out that you’ll see that I don’t, so let’s get this growing!

Archived Comments

  • Some interesting comments here. From experience I would add that Education is required of both how SM is used and the potential it has. Once this is appreciated it will fuel the urgency fire. One of the best ways to educate is to show how it can be done by simply engaging SM yourself and using what you have done to present a business case. It is far easier to convey something tangible that can be refined. If the business is not already using SM you have a blank canvass to work with…….

  • Some interesting comments here. From experience I would add that Education is required of both how SM is used and the potential it has. Once this is appreciated it will fuel the urgency fire. One of the best ways to educate is to show how it can be done by simply engaging SM yourself and using what you have done to present a business case. It is far easier to convey something tangible that can be refined. If the business is not already using SM you have a blank canvass to work with…….

  • Scott Gould

    Hey Matthew,

    Agreed. My point is that in the opening talks, too much education is like jumping the gun. The first stage is to create permission, then, like you say, what is tangible can be refined over time

  • Scott Gould

    Hey Matthew,

    Agreed. My point is that in the opening talks, too much education is like jumping the gun. The first stage is to create permission, then, like you say, what is tangible can be refined over time

  • Public Sector Contracts…

    It’s easy to assume that it will always be the cheapest price that wins. It is not the case in the public sector…

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