The communications profession is in the midst of a revolutionary change (you might have noticed). In my mind, it boils down to a simple concept:
Old model = company has one voice
New model = company has many voices
Ah, the good old days. It used to be easy to go to the “official company spokesperson” to get the scoop on what “the company” was thinking. Now, with the advent of Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and a bunch of other stuff that probably hasn’t even been invented yet, and the blurring lines between people’s personal and work lives (damn you, Google!), it’s a lot harder for us communications folks to stay in control of how the corporate message comes out.
If you are the head of communications for your company, what should you do? Lock all the doors, scare the employees into online silence, and continue the status quo? This is what some companies are doing. There are very real concerns with how and when employees use social media tools in a work setting.
But ultimately, the shift toward a company of many voices rather than one voice is going to happen whether you like it or not. As Bob Dylan said, “You don’t need a weather man to know which way the wind blows.”
So rather than forcing yourself into a sucker’s choice of “Should I communicate my corporate story well or allow my employees to be using social media at work?” perhaps there is a better question:
A few months back, Red Hat rearranged a few organizational boxes, as companies tend to do from time to time. One result of this was the creation of a new department called People & Brand, a combination of the existing Red Hat Human Capital team and our Brand Communications + Design team.
When some folks hear that, their faces crinkle all up in confusion and they say something akin to “That doesn’t make any sense… brand is a marketing function, not an HR function!”
It’s true that brand is traditionally thought of as a tool of marketing, but in the 21st century company, we are going to have to rethink some things. One thing the 21st century company is going to have to do is resist the urge to put things into silos so quickly. One former boss of mine who loved to do this called it “bucketizing”– a beautiful markepoetry term.
Look at the statement above again: “Brand is a marketing function, not an HR function.”
Brand is an HR function. And a marketing function. And a sales function. And a service and support function. And a finance function. Brand should be deeply embedded in everything a company does.
The organizational structures of the 20th century “bucketize” by default. One box at the top. A bunch of boxes connected to that one. And each of those boxes has a bunch of boxes connected to it. We tend to spend most of our time worrying about which box is connected above us rather than which boxes might be connected beside us.