“An information diet is not about consuming less; it’s about consuming right.” The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption
Conscious new-age information diet
Because social media, especially for business, remains relatively new—be pragmatic, oh ye enthusiasts and detractors, the majority of channels and tools aren’t even a decade old—as a hybrid public relations and social media specialist, to a certain extent I use this Bytes from the PR Sphere column as a “test” kitchen, suggesting atypical (from the norm), attractive and tasty organizational narrative (public relations) recipes for social business success.
Wherever possible, I’ve been pointing to examples where the results are being served up successfully, particularly in companies of at least 100 employees (i.e., where one person isn’t wearing multiple sous chef hats of responsibility and accountability). Yet I offer that just as great chefs constantly refine and modify recipes, based on changing needs or tastes, social media plates in the great buffet of offerings also need to be examined, including who should do the actual cooking.
I haven’t moved off a belief stated in my introductory post that public relations should oversee the (metaphorical) kitchen, but effective this Byte I’m recommending a somewhat modified bill of fare, whilst still retaining essential nutrition needed in a healthy social business diet. More on this later.
Overseeing the social business kitchen
Public relations should have an overseer role in approving the social business menu (even if conceived by other specialty chefs or departments) in order to:
- ensure a consistent, honest and healthy information/content diet (i.e., communication of pertinent information)
- help to raise the organization’s profile (i.e., promotion and effective persuasion)
- successfully involve as many employees as feasible; and
- reflect the culture.
The willingness to raise important questions (we frequently are the only ones with an appropriately broad perspective) and [have] the resolve to stand up for the cause of communication in the organization.
In company kitchens this includes an awareness of third-party regulations, standards of preparation and behaviour, monitoring what the competition is up to, as well as what various publics are saying, etc.
Despite public perception of PR being somewhat glamorous—or alternatively, the occupation of carefree and unethical scoundrels—in fact it’s a demanding role, not for the faint of heart. The social business aspect only increases the workload and accountability, not to mention the vulnerability of being an organization contact and spokesperson during a crisis. And now there’s so darn much competing information being produced for consumption, to capture attention, hearts and mind share, generated by competitors, online media, bloggers and every person with a Twitter and Facebook account.
A lot of it is crap. Yet a lot of people quite happily are consuming it. You know, like junk food.
If you are in the communication business in any capacity, I recommend you read Clay A. Johnson’s The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption. It is one of the primary inspirations behind not only this Nutrition Byte, but a deliberate complementary post on my primary blog PR Conversations, The communication process more important than outcomes.
The Information Diet is succinct, yet packed with lots of nutritional information and suggestions for deliberate information consumption-habit changes. I’m actually flipping around its focus on information consumers to information creators—so that in the design process, you have the end “conscious” consumer in mind—especially the ones who are first going to do the research and find your social business through search rankings. Think of it as my digital public relations orange to another person’s Apple….
Evolving social business menus, improving nutritional content and ensuring high standards
“Consume [or create] deliberately. Take in information over affirmation.” The Information Diet
In keeping with a food analogy, do you remember how just a few years ago Spanish-style tapas were all the rage in so many restaurants?
At first it was great, but it quickly became a little tiresome, eating basically the same tasty little snack food served up in restaurant after restaurant. If you searched a food site like Yelp you’d be inundated with suggestions for places offering tapas. Metaphorically speaking, where would your social business small-dishes “content” offerings turn up in the search results, due to this lack of differentiation on menus? How often would you find tapas a truly satisfying meal? Would your friends telling you about the best place to eat tapas be convincing enough to make you visit the restaurant seven days a week?
Why have I focused on content and search versus enthusiastic recommendations by friends? Because in my complementary post on PR Conversations, I reference some exclusive-and-approved information Neal Schaffer shared with me about how the most important ingredient in a blog remains content, and not comments, engagement and/or endorsements and shares…and that this ethos is borne out regarding how the vast majority of Windmill Networking readers arrive as a result of indexed and authoritative search rankings on specific topics.
Great, unique, authoritative content rules: information specific to your social business, provided by subject experts who are at the top of their game.
That’s what you want to have on your menu. It’s what should be on your mind in the process of devising the menu. That’s what gains your social enterprise search and in-real-life authority, differentiation and business through social properties. If you’re lucky, you will get endorsements of loyalty and participation from the organization and people that matter—perhaps your B2B partners. Your salespeople will thank you for it.
So, will you go for cream cakes or add nutritious greens into your social business information diet?
Although I used a different framing analogy and tact in my PR Conversations post, the deliberate menu “design” focus and “conscious consumption” food analogy did play a role. My co-editor, Heather Yaxley, provided a great comment, which included:
“….PR Conversations is about digesting real cognitive ‘food’ not fast, feel-good processed, feed-me-quick snacking. It takes time to read and think about PR Conversations posts on the whole, and as with Benita’s King III reports, they become a classic ‘meal’ that is discovered and returned to over and again.
We like a strong, informed, narrative and care about what is being said, allow posters the time to express it and encourage a clear, but considered way of conveying the narrative. The downside is that this can come over as a bit worthy—like eating your greens instead of a naughty cream cake. I don’t believe we do take ourselves too seriously and we enjoy a debate (throwing around the cream cakes and lobbing a healthy vegetable or two) and welcome those who want to join our food party.
The popular Twitter post proves we can deliver a tasty, appealing snack, too, but it still aims to be real sustenance and not something light, fluffy and forgettable.”
“Nutrition isn’t just about what or how much to eat, it’s about eating balanced meals. Just like the new recommendation graphic from the government, we’ve got to come up with a healthy means of consciously consuming information…. [let’s] label all our info-nutritional information, carefully and ethically.” The Information Diet
We’ve now reached the More on this later section of this Nutrition Byte, where I’m recommending a somewhat modified bill of fare, whilst still retaining essential nutrition needed in a healthy and balanced social business diet.
I don’t think any social businesses are doing this so far.
Smart companies already include icons of social media properties on websites and/or blogs–Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, etc. This is smart. Also smart is to have both of these media properties remaining at the heart of your social business and as your primary public relations channels—because you “own” the real estate. All other social media properties are third-party businesses, which means they get to set the rules or TOS and how they make money—almost always by advertising.
If you haven’t included icons on the website and blog, get them up as soon as possible. But if you’re just including them, here’s my suggestion to you:
Set them up similar to a restaurant menu, including grouping them as distinct areas. Instead of appetizers, mains and desserts, maybe:
- Public Relations and Corporate Communications
- Marketing, Advertising and Sales
- Customer and Technical Services
Some other suggestions:
- You don’t have to have different accounts for the different areas (i.e., the same Twitter account could appear in two or all three places), but you shouldn’t place Facebook under Customer and Technical Services unless, in fact, you are prepared to handle those areas through your FB account.
- In my opinion, you should be honest and ethical about where marketing is going to be done, instead of trying to disguise it as corporate communication or relationship building. People are much more receptive to all of the wonderful contests, promotions and branding that marketing devises and is responsible for, as long as they know at the front end that this is what the platform will focus on.
- Be sure to be consistent in your information. Individual platforms should indicate what department is responsible and where to find other information and contacts—like public relations.
- Think of the various government-generated food charts about a proper diet—an analogy used in The Information Diet—when devising your balance of properties and department “lead” contacts, and make it reflective of your actual organization’s resources. You don’t want to imply a huge customer service contingent behind the Twitter account if, in fact, it’s one person handling corporate communications as well as customer tweets of outrage.
- And that’s another thing. Always include the office contact information, for people who want to deal with employees one-to-one, by telephone or email. No one should be forced to use social media platforms; rather it should simply be another choice.
But marketing, one plea from a public relations practitioner who has been there: let your friends in PR have a look at the ad campaigns before you stick them up on Facebook, etc. Because if you create something you think is quite clever and funny, and it’s actually really offensive to many—it’s public relations who is going to be stuck cleaning up your lack of judgment and the outcomes impact on the reputation of the social business.
Likely the secret sauce of success will remain the ingredients that are unique to your organization–remember, it doesn’t matter in which department, “culture eats strategy for lunch“–but when serving up information on social media plates for conscious consumers, work to ensure that the portion sizes of the various offerings make sense. Not to mention well prepared, by those best-suited to know how to cook them. Your social business reputation depends on this considered focus and information-diet process.
What do you think of my suggestion to incorporate a clearly articulated menu of social media offerings on your website and blog?
Who is best-suited to lead and have day-to-day accountability for the various platforms’ efforts?
Which ones should have crossover responsibility and why?
Alternative question: what are you doing in your social business to provide a nutrition-based diet for information consumers?