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February 18, 2011
Forget About Message Control
 
Executives who spend money on communication want it to be spent effectively, understandably. But these days the communication environment is far from controllable. And that's good, because it's more open, honest, diverse, and credible, if you listen hard enough. The first thing to do is to give up aspirations for control, and the next is to listen, actively and well. To pay heed, you might say. 

That's a PR strategy for our times: Listen and mix it up. To listen well means listening avidly to a variety of channels, not getting piqued at little things, and continuing to be as responsive and attractive in your own offerings as possible. Genuine, not defensive are the watchwords for today. (Maybe they always were, but now it's clearer).

Forget about message control and be part of message development – that's another way to put it. These new/old imperatives are especially apparent in the social media arena. B.L. Ochman helps explain why, in a post "Dispelling Four Top Corporate Myths About Social Media." The "myths"?:

1. Employees will waste time with social media – They'll be on it anyway, either on computers or cell phones. Help them make that a useful exposure. 

2. Haters will damage our brand – B. L.'s experience has been that "The community takes note of who the obvious crazies and haters are, points them out, and then proceeds to negate and ignore them. And besides, complaints may very well mean that there may be things you need to change about your brand."

3. We'll lose control of the brand – "People are already talking about you. You cannot control the message in the Internet Age. You can affect it, but you cannot control it."  In other words, this is about joining the conversation, not resisting it or being deaf to it.

4. Employees will give away corporate secrets on social networks and that will help our competitors and affect the stock price – "If you don't already have a social media policy, you need to create one. If you don't trust your employees to talk to customers, or to represent the brand, you need to look at 1) your hiring practices, 2) your training practices."

Amen. What's more to be said? Get out there and listen actively and well. 

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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