We have trained hundreds of people within our company and our clients to use social media effectively not just in marketing and communications (marcom) but across the enterprise. We have designed and delivered curriculum over the past 5 years that has really served to empower both the 'thinkers' and 'doers' in social media. We have wrestled with and addressed the three key challenges with affecting change through training (not "won" as there is always room for improvement):
1. Deliver experiential training that goes beyond knowledge and information - we roll up our sleeves and use social media during training to solve business problems. Its not enough to understand our planning framework or the digital crisis management system we apply or how we combine social grassroots (e.g. Facebook) with content and experience design. We run trainings around business problems in a challenge setting. That drives understanding.
2. Add scale via an always-on, on-demand system - we launched our online Social Media Belt Training resource this year. Team members from anywhere in the world can hone their expertise by accessing dozens of training modules to understand how to activate events via social media, ensure best-practice ethics in their work, measure performance and more. Now we can reach beyond the never-ending schedule of terrestrial trainings to reach even more people.
3. Design everything around an accredited "belt system" - People need to have goals that they recognize. Business managers need them too. Our belt-system, defined 3 years ago, has been formalized and expanded. And its being tracked.
This has all generally worked. Now the temptation is to slightly improve upon this model and continue to deliver it. After all, this has accelerated our ability to have the most experienced and expert global network of social media strategists that I know of. (This is a claim I feel confident of and have worked hard to deliver. I am keenly aware that this may draw challenges from other expert groups out there and I look forward to that challenge).
That being said, it will not be enough going forward. In the spirit of Ogilvy's "divine discontent" we must reinvent our approach to training. There are three key pressures that cause me to rethink this approach.
Three Persistent Pressures
We have focused our training on creating "white, red and black belts" in social media throughout the agency. Our never-ending goal is to maintain every agency team member as a "white belt" with a large group of red belts and a growing group of super-expert black belts who not only design programs but execute them, as well.
1. The expanding application of social media to business - IBM held their Social Media Business Summit, more brands than ever attended the WOMMA Summit and the Marketing50 event in Boston earlier this month brought C-suiters together to wrestle with a bigger impact on business than just marketing and communications innovations. Social media affects employee policy and communications, IP protection, IP development/innovation, legal and more. Our training must expand into these areas.
2.The leadership divide - current business leaders around the world continue to wrestle with a divide of those who believe and even understand digital and social media innovation and those that remain either skeptical or intimidated by the change. No single "executive digital immersion" workshop will solve eradicate the divide. Rather there is a cycle of learning and embracing that will continue for some years until the application of social and digital become so pervasive in business to the point that we will likely stop using the words "social" or "digital" to qualify initiatives. Everything will be social and digital.
3. We are talking 'behavior change' not new "channels" - 90% of the gifts I purchased this holiday season were researched and purchased online. Some I bought through my smartphone. Almost all were ideas I heard from family, friends and peers at least 50% of which I heard about online. I paid attention to reviews on many of them. I Googled to find variants and colors I wanted. I never went to a mall. I didn't have the chance to watch much television as I was too busy. I read 5-6 magazines religiously yet none were key to my purchases except one (Monocle). Anyhow, you get the point. My behavior is much different this year that last. My influences are more personal and more complex at the same time. Advertising plays a role but is not primary the way it once was. This means that the entire marcom "industry" will be trying to change going forward to match that change.
One of the highlights I took away from the recent experience Ogilvy had with the Hyper Island digital training that was also highlighted in a solid article in Fast Company. That highlight was captured by my colleague, Sean MacDonald who runs a digital strategy group at Ogilvy. His point was that there are so many great thinkers/creators in the marcom disciplines who are essentially intimidated by 'digital" and "social." If we could reduce that barrier - make them more confident through knowledge and experience - we would all reap the benefits of their seasoned expertise and creativity. While that may simply sound like a justification for more training, it also means the existing "black belts" in social have to be a bit less exclusive about their expertise and quite a bit more willing to admit that making social media principles accessible to more seasoned marcom pros will unlock more social media creativity.
These persistent pressures and our own experience training marketing and communications professionals over the past 5 years points me towards a new training priority next year: Sleeveless Social Business Training in 2011
more on that in the next post...