The new reality of communication is rooted in the Internet and social media. Don’t even think you can control the flow of information and especially the timing of the flow of information the way you did before. All you can do is to leverage your core message and communication points to guide the inevitable iterative conversations.
NBC’s Olympic Misfires
NBC has had a couple of communication misfires. The one that triggered this article was its running a promotion of its soon to be aired interview with backstroke gold medalist Missy Franklin seven minutes before showing the race in which she won the gold medal. This was a mistake that diminished the viewing experience of the small percentage of the population that did not already know Missy won the gold.
NBC is not alone in failing to control the timing of information flows. Obama wanted to tell people about his vice president pick in 2008 via email. But it leaked. Romney wants to tell people his upcoming vice president pick via an app. But it’s going to leak. That’s what free-flowing information does. It leaks. The Internet and social media accelerate the timing of those leaks and amplify their reach.
Social Media Impact On Leaders
This was one of the main reasons we wrote the third edition of The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan. Everything we had said in the first two editions about planning and executing a cohesive, sequential communication campaign had become wrong. The Internet has forced leaders into concurrent, iterative communication. Those that fight this get overwhelmed. Those that accept this manage communication in a completely different way.
Example of How To Do it Right
One leader fired her general counsel for enabling and encouraging poor work habits in his organization. That leader carefully managed the events leading up to her conversation with the general counsel, the conversation itself, and the immediate follow-up to the conversation so she could be the one to tell his direct report, her own direct reports and key customers. It’s a good example of how to guide the flow of information.
The critical lesson is that you can’t control information flows any more. All you can do is guide and amplify. This is why merely reporting what happened is going to continue to become less and less valuable over time. People can find out what happened. Indeed, as Justin Peters pointed out in his CNN article on “How To Avoid Olympic Spoilers“, sometimes it’s hard for people not to find out things before they want to. While people can and will find out what happened, they still need help in understanding “why” and “what’s next”, or the conclusions and implications. So, stop trying to convey information. Instead, convey understanding and feelings. It all comes back to leveraging your message to guide conversations you can’t control.
This is a good example of step 5 of The New Leader’s Playbook: Drive Action by Activating and Directing an Ongoing Communication Network (Including Social Media)
Everything communicates. You can either make choices in advance about what and how you’re going to communicate or react to what others do. It is important to discover your own message and be clear on your platform for change, vision, and call to action before you start trying to inspire others. It will evolve as you learn, but you can’t lead unless you have a starting point to help focus those learning plans. Identify your target audiences. Craft and leverage your core message and master narrative. Monitor and adjust as appropriate on an ongoing basis.