Monthly Archives: January 2011

25 Things To Feel in San Francisco Before You Die

Some shots from a quick trip to San Fran to hang out with the crew at Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners (BSSP) as we discovered a cure for the common creative cold.
Below the slide show are the image thumbnails.

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Getting Ahead by Letting Go. Forgiveness in the Workplace

I forgave someone today and it felt pretty good.

Forgiveness is a concept that seems more appropriate for a Sunday school lesson than a business strategy but that’s because it’s not a strategy at all. It’s a principle. And principles tend to do the darndest things – they exist whether we lend them credence or not.

Though it can’t be measured, tracked or scheduled, forgiveness can be implemented. I believe it’s essential for a healthy coexistence between any two people with a pulse, and absolutely necessary at work.

Questions I asked myself today:

  1. How hard is it to forgive peers and/or partners when they don’t meet my expectations of performance?
  2. The mistakes of leaders are often amplified. Why do they seem so hard to forgive?
  3. Are there professional challenges on my team that are rooted in the personal issues of co-workers who won’t let go of past faults?
  4. When was the last time I was blatantly wronged by a colleague? Did I retaliate or respond?

To be clear, forgiveness is not a synonym for compromise or lack of accountability. Forgiveness is an approach to managing your mental resources so adversity and disagreements actually create opportunity and positive transformation. Or put simply, forgiveness is the discipline of moving on.

This certainly requires you to know when, where and how to implement. Forgiveness is not overlooking faults in performance or experience. Forgiveness is not making excuses for errors or incompetency.  And forgiveness is certainly not a “Get Out of Jail Free” card for all issues, quite the opposite.

The cobbled pathway to forgiveness is frequently made up of the same tough conversations as the pathway to resentment. So what’s the difference? Forgiveness empowers you to take those stones and build something positive that benefits yourself and others.

Forgive frequently. Especially if you work with or know me.

AP

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365 Days of Social Media: 5 Steps to Identifying and Understanding Your Audience

365 Days of Social Media: How I Learned by Shutting My Mouth

This is the follow-up to last week’s post introducing my experiences developing a Social Media Learning Plan for RadioShack and the practical steps we took to jump-start our company’s dialogue with consumers. This hands-on approach to figuring out what to do while testing how to do it, came to life in 3 phases.  

The first phase involved identifying and understanding our audience from the outside in. This came to life for me in these 5 steps:

#1) LEARN to learn. Learn to listen

In all honesty, this was perhaps the most exciting time for me personally because I was staring at a blank canvas. Before we wrote the social media policy, before we hired a community manager, before the fan acquisition campaigns and even before I finished reading the social manifesto Groundswell – there was simply RadioShack and the consumer.

It was the perfect opportunity to learn about RadioShack’s fans simply by talking to them, observing and acknowledging their voice. For better or worse, they were more than happy to share their kudos and criticisms. Our Facebook and Twitter updates were incredibly transparent about our mission to mature into social media and I believe consumers respected the candor. Most of all, I think it signaled to them that someone was listening. 

Since then, we’ve worked with the rock stars at our digital agency imc2 to include qualitative listening analytics (e.g., Web Trends Radian6), regular campaign reporting, conversation calendars and a content strategy. Thanks to these tools we’re a little smarter and a lot more informed, but there is no substitute for a good ol’ fashioned conversation.

#2) DO start upgrading & engaging

I’ve always wanted to play the drums. I’ll never be good enough to get paid for it, I just want enough percussion proficiency to sit-in with a local jazz band and hopefully impress my wife. I used to watch instructional videos on YouTube and listen to Bernard Purdie drum solos while envying the ease at which they mastered the kit. It wasn’t until I grabbed my own sticks and took a few lessons that I learned how intensely hard this instrument is. Watching was easy but learning involved doing.

The only way to really get comfortable with social media as an instrument for consumer engagement is to start playing. During this phase of learning our audience and honing our own voice, we took part in relevant online conversations and even hopped in a few that had nothing to do with RadioShack. Don’t worry, consumers will always let you know when you’re off beat.

A critical part of this, however, was ensuring we took the obvious steps to prepare for where we wanted to go. We knew we needed a social media policy so we started writing one. We knew we needed to reclaim all relevant brand trademarks online so we began the process.

The biggest upgrades happened inside the company as I shared the purpose of social media with colleagues and was able to garner immediate support from marketing and cross-functional peers. It was important that they took ownership for our engagement efforts and saw the bigger picture beyond simply Facebook and Twitter.

#3) BUILD dialogue that builds relationships

Conversation drives conversion. The more we humanized the brand and related to fans, followers and even naysayers, the more relevant we became. This increased relevance is what makes social media both profound and mind-boggling to many of us on the brand side. I often used this simple question as my compass in dealing directly with consumers: what would a friend do?

Would a friend recommend an electronics product or tell you about a great deal? Yep. If necessary, a friend may even help you resolve a bad experience, right? Probably so.

Well, why should your relationship with RadioShack be any different?

We also made a concerted effort to engage in expected conversations where we had credibility to speak. This meant tapping into cultural happenings and listening for opportunities to make RadioShack a natural part of the chatter. We asked and answered questions, we retweeted the positive, we engaged with industry gatekeepers and located enthusiasts who were already ambassadors. Oftentimes this meant empowering our store associates and educating them on how online dialogue impacts the in-store experience.

#4 JUMP obvious hurdles (don’t ignore them)

I’ve covered many areas of the marketing umbrella in my career – advertising, online, brand development, sports/lifestyle, CRM, PR, etc. The frightfully fantastic thing about social media is the real-time transparency and reactions. It’s one of the few marketing channels where you can’t simply pretend your efforts are working when they’re not. The sand you would normally stick your head into is now a mirror, forcing you to face the facts.

I believe this transparency ultimately leads to a stronger organization where feedback is valued and decisions are stress-tested. For us, it meant addressing the difficult perceptions of our brand while still presenting the compelling reasons to come and shop us. It also meant keeping the word “consumer” a central part of all conversations, even outside of the marketing and operations teams.

Start by gathering a list of the challenges your brand faces in the eye’s of your existing and potential customers (not your company, your brand). From awareness and consideration to traffic and loyalty, a social game plan must be constructed around your weaknesses as well as your strengths.   

Remember, hurdles are both inside and outside your company so listen closely on both ends.

Hint: I sit right across from the research team.

#5 TRANSFORM… even if it is slowly.

Step 5 makes a big assumption – that you’re using social media to change something. It’s virtually impossible to learn something and not be changed, in any area of your life. As soon as I started tracking my daily eating habits and monitoring the nutritional value of my meals, it was hard to dive hand-first into the box of cupcakes sitting in our employee lounge. Not because I didn’t want one, but because I wanted something else more – to be sexy again. 🙂

Once you truly start to identify, understand and engage with your social media fan base, learning will become second-nature. Every week we interact with thousands of consumers who tell us what they want, how they feel, when we’re wrong and why they’re right. This dialogue is a wellspring of insights and now impacts how we’re approaching consumers in 2011.

A transformative opportunity for RadioShack was establishing credibility & relationships with store associates who participate in social media. By affirming their value and sharing the philosophy of social media with them, they are part of our voice in a positive manner.

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Next week I want to share how we worked to translate social media goals into enterprise-wide objectives that mattered to the company. Bear with me as I get back into the swing of blogging.

If you have any questions or feedback, please leave a comment and I’ll reply asap. This represents my past year in social media so I’m curious to hear your perspectives and experiences as well.

Thx for taking the time to read and feel free to connect with me on Twitter at @adriandparker.

AP

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Filed under Learnings & Insight, RadioShack, Social Media

365 Days of Social Media: How I Learned by Shutting My Mouth

One year ago today I traded in my brand consulting hat for a full-time gig as head of social media for RadioShack Corporation.  RadioShack (aka “The Shack”) was an iconic retail brand in the middle of an immense push to amplify their voice and give consumers a compelling reason to tune back in.  And there I was, a guy who made a living showing, telling and selling others on how to make their marketing work smarter. A love affair ensued.

Of course, as with interpersonal relationships, there were strings attached. To be quite transparent, though I was blessed with a career working with some really great brands and people, I was not a social media guru (imagine the shame). To effectively embrace the shift from employer to employee, marketing generalist to social specialist and agency to client, I decided to do something I’ve never done before. I shut up.

Why? After years of always having the answers, it was nice to listen, learn, unlearn and focus on asking the right questions.  Focus is a fruit of priorities so I chose to do a little self-pruning in order to make social media a professional priority, not just a personal hobby.

I went radio silent on my own social branding efforts. No more personal blogging. No more consulting sessions. Tweeting was sporadic at best. Though I love speaking at conferences and swapping ideas, you couldn’t find me on any panel. Equipped with only a handful of questions and a good attitude, I jumped head first into this space, determined to understand both social media and The Shack from the inside out.

There’s a material reason practically every business planning process begins with the same first step, research.  Afterall, being understood as a problem-solver requires that you first understand the problem. The not-so-obvious challenge to many in interactive marketing and emerging media, especially on the brand side, is we oftentimes must construct our own research through experience.  This isn’t research in the traditional sense of analytics, insights, segmentation and data mining, though that’s critically important too. The experiences required to birth and grow a sustainable social media presence on the enterprise level involve an additional layer of education.

I like to call it a Social Media Learning Plan. Essentially, it’s a hands-on approach to figuring out what to do while testing how to do it.  Mine consisted of 3 related, yet discreet, phases:

Phase 1: Identify and understand your audience from the outside in.

Phase 2: Transform social media goals into enterprise-wide objectives.

Phase 3: Test, learn and implement the strategy while building the tools to support.

It begins and ends with doing, learning is the hard earned by-product. A learning plan means making a deliberate effort not to pull the trigger and, instead, opting to educate yourself about your weapon, the ammunition and, most importantly, the target.  While considered table stakes in some industries, planning for interactive learning is a luxury in retail that often decays under tremendous pressure to perform, exceed and adjust simultaneously.

Over the next several days, I’d like to remove the virtual duct tape from my mouth and share this learning plan along with the fruits of my 365 days of social learning. From missteps and milestones to failures and discoveries, experience has been a great teacher. Of course, I’d love to swap learnings, resources and perspectives on interactive marketing with you. It’s also an exciting time to be in the Consumer Electronics and Mobility sector – I’ll discuss tech info when I can.

As always, feedback is a gift.

Thx for taking the time to read and feel free to connect with me on Twitter at @adriandparker.

AP

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Filed under Innovation, Interactive Marketing, Learnings & Insight, RadioShack, Social Media