Embracing New Media to Control the Conversation  

If you did a Google search for “GM Bailout” during 2009 when rumors were swirling that the U.S. might force the once-mighty automaker into bankruptcy, you would have gotten two million hits. 2 million. To put it in perspective, in 2000, when the dot   New Media     com bubble was bursting, you would have found slightly more than two hundred references online to “dot com bubble.” That’s how explosively our media world has changed.

Put yourselves in the shoes of GM’s vice president for global communications. That’s two million media press reports, blogs, press releases, YouTube videos, financial analysis, academic reports, tweets and other media “stuff ” with which you would have to deal. Think about it. How would you carry it out? How would you counter?

Obviously, the correct strategy is not to mimic the one that GM selected. With the emergence of the light speed world, GM struggled to adapt. It continued to manage its communications with an eye toward control rather than leveraging the tools of social marketing and social networks. It provided selective press interviews; it sent reassuring letters to shareholders; it made an unsuccessful appeal to Washington for help. If GM had been prepared to lead at virtual speed, it could have recruited hundreds of thousands of current and former customers and shareholders to fight its cause in Washington. But it was not. For years, there was a lapse in preparation.

In a light speed world, your organization needs to lead the conversation, because that’s how you build trust with customers, shareholders, employees, suppliers, regulators and all the other people who care about you and your organization. You accomplish that by structuring your message box, embarking on new media, and sharing in so many public forums that your voice is the one being heard by many people.

What do I refer to when I say “mobilize new media”? Depending your ability grasp the media’s resourcefulness and prospects, every media module can be your friend or your enemy. The power is there for you to mobilize, whether you use social marketing, web sites, email blasts, blogs, e-newsletters, or tweets. The lines between “new media” and “old media” are blurring. Newspapers and magazines are investing as much energy and resources into interactive media as they are into traditional ink and paper. As every form of media pushes to be more interactive, searchable, and convertable, the lines may vanish altogether.


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