Mission Unaccomplished

by Ike Pigott |

If I had a nickel for every seminar, webinar, conference, tweetup, SMC meeting or event that focused on Earning Buy-in For Social Media In Your Organization, I’d be able to retire from my humble profession, and spend my days of lavish retirement mining the pixel caves for Social Media Explorer on a full-time basis.

Until Jason throws me out.

I’ve played a role in helping earn adoption of social media through a couple of very traditional corporate cultures now, and I am quite qualified to tell you it is hard work. It’s a triumph of patience, navigation, skill and more patience. There’s an exhilaration that comes with winning over a key executive, and getting them to see the value in using new technologies to solve old problems.

The last thing you want to do, however, is raise that “Mission Accomplished” banner, because bosses have a way of leaving.

Changes Aren’t Permanent …

Mission Accomplished

… but Change is.

Remember all that hard work you spent in convincing your departmental VP that Social was not a huge waste of time, but a way to reach people outside of other channels?

Remember those casual discussions with your supervisor, where you were able to make the case in a slow and convincing manner?

I hope you remember what you said, because the clock will be ticking when the org chart above you goes through natural gymnastics and churn.

Don’t Panic

While some of the Social Media Kumbaya Society pines for the day that “Social” changes the way business is done, and how new attitudes will permeate our every pore, we’re not there yet. So recognize reality for what it is, and follow these steps.

  1. Don’t Panic. Yes, that was also a subhead, but it bears repeating. Acting like it’s the end of the universe will make you look a little crazy. You don’t want your new boss’s initial impressions to be of a jittery lunatic.
  2. Measured Patience. Remember the patience you exhibited with the old boss? It was easy, because you were breaking in something new, and there was no set timetable. But in this case, you already have some activities underway, some campaigns to launch, and some new things to try. You can’t wait nine months for the new guy to have his epiphany, when you need his buy-in next month. So be strategic. Figure out what they need to know first, and make it a point to bring them along. But do it in a measured way.
  3. Walk Backwards. Start at the end (your strategic goal), and introduce your boss to the rationale behind what you’re up to. It’s far easier to get someone on board with something unfamiliar when you show them where they are going first. Don’t draw the roadmap starting from the tools and tactics – your chronology and workflow isn’t important yet. “You know how we’ve been trying to get better recognition numbers from this demographic, right? Well, we’ve needed a better way to measure _______, and I’d like to explore a tool that does …” You don’t have to preface it with the word “Social.”
  4. Don’t Hose Your Boss. Hitting your supervisor in the mouth with a firehose of information will leave a bad taste. While it could lead to a wide range of impressions, they are all harmful to your reputation and future effectiveness. Don’t worry about trying to impress them with the depth of your knowledge. When the time comes and they see the value, they will value your opinions, input and guidance. What you’re trying to convey is two-fold: these tools are indeed effective and important to our organizational mission, and you will get all this one day. A barrage of jargon from your part will do nothing but reinforce the idea that Social Media is silly, alchemy, or both.

One day, the tools we call Social Media will be like the fax machine … we’ll wonder why anyone fretted about them, and wonder how business got done without them. But until that time, just expect to ride the ups and downs of organizational adoption.

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About the Author

Ike Pigott

In his previous life, Ike Pigott was an Emmy-winning TV reporter, who turned his insider's knowledge of the news cycle into a crisis communications consultancy. At the American Red Cross, serving as Communication and Government Relations Director for five southeastern states, Ike pioneered the use of social media in disaster. Now -- by day -- he is a communications strategist for Alabama Power and a Social Media Apologist; by night, he lurks at Occam's RazR, where he writes about the overlaps and absurdities in communications, technology, journalism and society. Find out how you can connect with Ike or follow him on Twitter at @ikepigott. He also recently won the coveted "Social Media Explorer contributing writer with the longest Bio" award.