Ever have a conversation with brand manager who espouses things like, “The name is not exactly right, it needs to be changed to include ‘Acme, purveyor of fine goods’ and needs to be listed that way every single time, too.”? Or, “We can’t talk about the competition in a positive light. Have you run it by legal?” Or, “Take out that negative blogger!” Or… These are the common acts of brand managers who have forgotten how to add humanity to their communications.
Humanize, the about to be released book by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant next week, looks deeply into this phenomena, and how social media can help companies and nonprofits resolve it. It’s a timely book as we enter the maturation phase of social media adoption. Brands still struggle mightily with the relational aspects of the media.
The first organizational reaction has been to play cute with gimmicks, adopt conversations, while doing everything companies can to bring the old ways into new media. Social has not been about evolution. Instead adoption has been an awkward attempt to stay relevant.
This change towards publishing on social networks, social ads, spamming bloggers and brand complaint stalking on Twitter is a result of media shifts, not a desire to become more personable and likable as a brand. It’s not just the communications department either. The lack of humanity extends across organizations who are used to departmental silos and controlled actions. When in doubt, trust in the machine of beaurocracy, damn the people.
Last week, Travelers Insurance was slow to respond to complaints filed about flood coverage. However, when a hard tweet went out last Friday, a phone call was received. Matters were resolved. But you can sense the tension on the phone. This was triage, not culture. A blogger with some firepower was speaking negatively about the brand. Travelers had not responded effectively to the first tweet and calls.
How Humanize Approaches the Problem
Humanize looks deeply into what it takes to shift a brand and become more personable. The book theorizes there are four elements to this shift: open, trustworthy, generative, and courageous.
“We saved courageous for last because, frankly, the problem of fear in organizations is arguably our biggest challenge,” said Maddie in a guest post on Michael Britopian’s blog. “Fear rules in our machine-based organizations. When we encounter dysfunction in our organizations, it can almost always be traced back to fear, and when we create structures and design processes, they are frequently only work-arounds to our fear, creating a kind of synthetic courage that unfortunately enables an unhealthy avoidance of the problem.”
Humanize promises to offer one of the deepest looks at the cultural challenges of social media adoption, and organizational life as a whole. In that respect alone it is a worthwhile read, for this is still the great challenge. Congratulations to Maddie and Jamie!