Online reputation : the dark side of the force

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Why are writings about online reputation always so negative ?

The Federation of European Risk Association (FERMA) issued their 7th European Risk and Insurance Report.

The point which focused my attention was on the Top Ten Risk in 2014. Reputation and brand jumped on the second position.

Facing this, my feelings are mixed. I am quite glad to see that reputation is now taken seriously by professionals. Back in 2009, when it all started, Company used to say that they did not care about what was being said on them on Internet. They were still on a « top/down » communication model, believing that Web users will listen to what was being said to them on institutional communication. Now, they know that it is not the case, and that the Web talk can strengthen or weaken their brand image. Besides that, I explain all the students and professional I teach that, in Strategic Intelligence, everything is linked. This report is the perfect example that a link exists between online reputation and risk management. It also show the influence of communities in their Knowledge Management efforts.

But still, I remain annoyed when I read that online reputation is primarily considered as a threat. This means that it needs to be controlled, instead of being managed. And everything controlled ends up sooner or later by escaping the control.

And online reputation is not only a threat. It is also the opportunity to gather a community around a brand, a Company or its staff. First of all, it is a powerful marketing, communication and influence tool, which makes the sales of the product easier. Beyond that, this community is the first line of defense in case a « bad buzz » appears.

For this reason, I consider Online Reputation is not only a threat, although I agree it can be, but an oportunity as well. This is one thing I always remind on my lectures.

Your words reveal who you are : the Netflix/Virgin example

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Economic topics contains full of interesting information on Companies’s strategy.

This day, I read with interest the Virgin policy regarding holidays, as explained by Richard Branson himself.

Richard Branson admitted that he picked the idea from Netflix.

My attention was grabbed by a sentence on the Daily Telegraph article. The person from Netflix explains :

Results are what matter. How you got there, or how long it took, is less relevant.

You should see a red light in your mind each and every time you see the word « result« .  So I checked the articles further, and came up with the following sentences :

the guidance is simpler: act in Netflix’s best interest.

We should focus on what people get done, not on how many hours or days worked.

The view of Netflix takes all those unecessary frustrations away and allows all the energy to be directed into the job of making the company efficient and profitable.

People who don’t produce are shown the door.

I have a friend whose company has done the same thing and they’ve apparently experienced a marked upward spike in everything – morale, creativity and productivity have all gone through the roof.

From all these sentences taken from both articles, you quickly understand that what is presented as a human step forward more liberty is dictated by financial considerations. From this, and regardless of any further investigations stating otherwise, finance seems to be the criterium on which the economic performance of both Virgin and Netflix is appreciated.

Such information on a Company’s strategy provides you knowledge on three levels :

- If you are a sales person, should you wish your financial prospect become or remain your customer, you will have to argument around the figured profit your prospect will get from your product or your service : money earned, time saved…You should not be surprised if the final decision belongs to someone from the Financial Department, or if someone from this Department becomes part of the negociation.

- If you apply for a job : you wish to be part of a Company where the Financial Department will lead the others. This means that all you institutional communication (resume, covering letter…) and your job interview will emphase on your efficiency, your personal productivity the profit the Company will gain by hiring you. Do not expect high wages, as it will not be in the Company’s politic. And be aware that the HR Department will not hesitate to make you redundent if delocalisation makes the porduction cost cheaper. Unless they offer you to work at local conditions. The perfect example is given by the closure of Imperial Tobacco in Nottingham.

- If you are a subcontractor or a supplier : you will have to work hard to provide the best product or service at the cheapest price.

This shows how interesting is the understanding of an organization’s strategy. And elements of this can be found online…for those who know what to search, and how to search it.

This is part of what I teach.

 

Information Management : stop being caught by influence

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In your daily job, do not confuse information and communication. They may look alike, but they don’t have the same goal.

My daily visit of the Web brought me to a Kira Radinsky’s interview of the way she keeps herself up-to-date with the world using Internet.

To the question : « If content types were stocks, which ones would you buy, which would you sell and which would you hold ?« , the lady answered that she would sell newsletters.

Although I share her views on the rest,  I beg to differ on this specific point.

Comparing blogging with newsletter is a little bit like comparing, in a newspaper, articles and advertisements. Blogging belongs to what we call in Strategic Intelligence influence. And, for a reminder, influence is a mutual relation between a suject and an object, belonging to the same environment, in which the subject tells the object the opinion he should adopt. Loïc Le Meur, a French blogger, used to say that blogging is not about providing an information, but rather about starting a conversation. Blogs can be read by everyone, provided that they have an interest for the subject. They are used by Companies as a CRM media to keep contact with the customer, and by person to show their expertise or share their opinion on a specific subject, mainly for personnal branding purposes.

On the other hand, newsletters are informations. They can be used in a Knowledge Management process to spread knowledge inside an organization. They are the last step of the information management process, as the data have been transformed into information through an analysis process. The newsletter contains some high value information. Which is why it is sent to specific people inside the organization. With a newsletter, any manager should have a base to decide which way he wants his Department or his Company to go to. Which should not be possible with a blog article.

« Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another » George Eliot once said. Unfortunately, not all of them are.

 

Organise your job search around a Strategic Intelligence process

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Sometimes, we do not see what we have just in front of us.

I met yesterday a young graduated student in Strategic Intelligence. It was not one of mine, but as a teacher, I feel I have to help as many people as possible.

His difficulty was that, after some time as a trainee in several Companies, no one wanted to hire him as a professional.

I am no HR professional, but I know some traps in recruitement, as I fell in some of them. Upon checking his resume and listening to him explaining me about his job search strategy, I instantly see two wrong moves :

1Too much theorical concepts : in France, no one cares about Strategic Intelligence, risk management or whatever. As previously shown in a previous topic, Strategic Intelligence is everywhere, but no one talks about it. A little bit like sex…Therefore, do not mention the expression, except on your education topic if you have a degree in Strategic Intelligence. Instead, show in your (short) professional course what aspect of Strategic Intelligence you used in the missions you successfully fullfilled : issuing an online reputation audit (online visibility & presence), sourcing new sales leads via telephone and face-to-face meetings (information management), handling customer complaints or any major incidents (crisis management)…Do not hesitate to benchmark online CVs to find more examples like these (which, by the way, I found on LinkedIn). Benchmarking is having a Strategic Intelligence attitude…

2An outdated promotion strategy : the time when sending bulk application letters (or e-mails) was enough to be recruited is over. Recruitment professionals receive several dozen of such letters, which they usually don’t answer. Stop spending your time and your energy in dead-end processes.

Instead, organise your job search using Strategic Intelligence concepts : write down you job search strategy (name of the job, freelance or employee, public or private organizations targeted, in or out of your living area…), organise your information management process by checking what data you need (job offer, names & e-mail adresses, professional topics…), list your contact in regard with your professional search, so that you may map the existing community, as well as expanding it. And, of course, work on your communication/influence tools : resume and application letters, but also some business cards, which allows a contact exchange, and not only begging for a job. And show everyone how expert you are through social media, trade shows, after work meetings, etc. to improve your online visibility and presence.

Strategic Intelligence is not theoric, it’s realistic. And you must be the living proof of this.

 

Strategic Intelligence : forget the « closed box » state of mind

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« All of these things are connected together in a really fundamental way«  Niantic’s Jim Stewartson recently said.

Google issuing « Endgame« , an augmented reality game which can be played worldwide, to promote James Frey’s novel « Endgame : the calling » is quite catchy, as a promotion campaign. But it is more than that.

First of all, it shows us that some frontiers are falling apart : we already knew it about books becoming films, or films becoming games and book becoming games. But what is new with « Endgame » is the combination of both the book and the game to bring together readers and players in the same universe.

When teaching Strategic Intelligence, I don’t say anything else. In Strategic Intelligence, all things are connected : the way you manage information will allow you to benchmark your competitors, while having a clearer view of what your of customers think of your products (online reputation). You will also be able to foresee coming crisis, update the organization’s knowledge (Knowledge Management) as well as to foresee emerging standards. This will have a huge impact on both your strategy and your influence communication.

From there on, it is easier to understand that all the Department of an organization, whatever its nature or its size, will be connected to one another. A buzz (marketing), be it positive or negative, aiming at the corporate responsibility (governance) or the product quality (R&D) can have a significant impact on the organization’s turnover (finance) as well as on jobs (HR). For this reason, it is important for each Department to be aware of the other. For instance, the bond between marketing and R&D, although it is not obvious, is undeniable. The marketing Department can say whatever they want to have customers buy the products, if it does not fit with what they expect from it, the marketing campaign will be a failure.

Strategic Intelligence is the esperanto of organizations.

 

Information management : know your environment before collecting data

 

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Managing information is like looking at the sky to guess what the weather will be. Although it seems obvious, most organizations tend to forget it.

Two weeks ago, I wrote something in French around Data Scientist,

One of the comments I read was a surprise to me : according to its writer, the main difference between information managers and Data Scientists would be that information managers have no idea which data they are looking for.

My surprise comes from the fact that, each time I have to teach information management, I carefully explain that, before collecting any data, it is essential for the organization, whatever its nature or its size, to determine what information they need to know. But most important, the organization knows how the environment works, who are the main actors and how they interact with one another before collecting any data. This is something essential in order to be part of the environment, instead of running after it.

Imagine the situation : you are at the station, waiting to know where the train you wish to catch leaves, and the speaker gives you the appropriate information five seconds before it leaves. This is not only frustrating, but of no interest. Should you have the information fifteen minutes before, you would have been able to get it.

Information management is the same : it is not about what is happening right now. It is about catching the foreseeing signals of what may happen, in order to have the choice between being on the train when it leaves or letting it leave without you in it. And economic crisis is no excuse.

Change prospects into customers with Strategic Intelligence

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Strategic Intelligence is everywhere, even when it is not mentionned.

My attention was brought this day on how social media can help win new business.

A rather sales/marketing topic, at first sight.

But, reading the article in depth, I realised that the tips to catch these new customers rely mainly on Strategic Intelligence.

First, because sales and marketing is about having customers buy and use your Company’s products. And to get this result means either have these prospects’ opinion about your products changed or bringing them the opinion that your products is better, or, at least, as good as your competitors’. This is something Strategic Intelligence calls influence.

And to be able to influence prospects, it is essential to understand what they need. And for this, you have to come up with what Strategic Intelligence calls an information management process, which gathers not only data collected online, but offline as well. Information management will also help the organization staying advised of standards changes. They will also allow the Company to keep an eye on their competitors, through benchmarking. All these information will be passed to each Department of the organization, which is what Knowledge Management is about. From information, a strategy will arise.

In the same time, the organization will appear on Internet, whatever its size, not only with a marketing message, but with a corporate one as well. This is called online visibility and presence. The purpose is to gather around the Company a community of people, who will become the ambassadors of the organization and their brands.

This quick enumeration, based on this book’s summary, which is the heart of all my lectures as a consultant, points out the importance of Strategic Intelligence in a Sales/Marketing Department. But not only on this Department.