Posted tagged ‘management consulting’

Enough with the social networking!

April 6, 2008

This week I received invitations to two more social networking sites. In this case they were promising to help me manage my online reputation.

I seem to be getting these continuously these days. In the early days of LinkedIn, I used to think “cool, a great way to network and enhance my SEO efforts.” I even advised clients and everyone I knew to do the same. (and yes, I secretly smiled at the “luddites” who said they couldn’t see the point.)

Now, I just think “what a nuisance.”

There are the really big sites, of course, such as Facebook and Linkedin (sorry I could never get interested in MySpace — I don’t work in cartoons). They’re good for just general networking, socially or for business purposes.

But every pursuit in which I’m interested now seems to have at least one, and often several, community site dedicated to that pursuit alone. Marketing — many. Management — several. Consulting — a few. Science — a couple of good ones. Music — of course. Job searching — oh yeah. Online reputation — apparently at least three.

All of them are vying for my time constantly. I could literally spend my entire day on these sites, networking myself into poverty.

What I find particularly upsetting about this avalanche of social networking is that they all claim they’re “innovative”. Since I work in the innovation management field considerably, I beg to differ. Innovation is creating radical or near-radical change — in products or business models. These are not innovative: they’re just taking standard community building tools and slicing up the social networking field in ever more fine gradients for marketing purposes.

At best it’s called working a niche. More likely, it’s simply copycatting with a slight differentiation.

Let’s take the latest invitations I’ve had. They are part of a group that includes companies like Naymz.com ReputationDefender.com and DefendMyName.com. For a fee, they promise to scrub search engines of anything I don’t want to see about me out there, or to create a new online identity for me.

Isn’t this just search engine optimization, which I – and probably you — have been practising for years? It’s just a newer version of the Google Profile technique.

Also it presumes that social networking sites are where most of our content rests — which to me seems a pretty narrow view. Most MarCom people have (or should have) much more content on their sites than simple social networking profiles, or blog comments.

A well rounded search engine profile should have these, of course, as well as white papers, FAQs, articles, endorsements, and other expertise-marketing content.

To help in organic search, SEO should be a planned and consistent process, with new content added on a schedule. If social networks are to be part of this mix, fine, but it shouldn’t take it over.

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Solve Marcom Problems The Managerial Way

October 22, 2007

As a management consultant I see organizational problems all the time. And I always approach them from a consulting viewpoint that’s based on the understanding that all organizations, whether for profit or not-for-profit, feature six functional areas of management: Strategy, IT, Finance, Human Resources, Operations, and Marketing.

Note the last one. Marketing isn’t some junior department that’s at the beck and call of people like the VP of operations. It is integrated with the other functional areas of management and so has an important role on the management team.

Marketers and communicators may have specialized knowledge, but they have to think like others on the team, the people in finance, operations and other management areas. This means that management of marketing and its subset, communications, should be approached from a business operation point of view.

And one of the first roles of any manager is to solve problems. Marketers and communicators face problems all the time: Sometimes it seems that’s all they do. But they often approach them in a reactive way, applying some familiar methodology in order to deal with the problem quickly.

In some cases, that suffices. But other problems are sometimes larger, so knowing the methodology of managerial problem solving can be very useful in the every day lives of most marketers and communicators.

With that in mind, here’s a template to approaching problem solving. It can be as detailed as you want, or reduced to a very simple exercise, depending on the severity and impact of the problem:

1. Define the problem — this can be harder than it seems. Most problem solvers founder because they attack symptoms instead of identifying the real problem.

2. Identify requirements of a solution — You have to know what exactly constitutes solving the problem. So you have to list the requirements that a solution should satisfy.

3. Generate alternative solutions — Don’t get hung up on one solution. Shoot for several, even if they’re a little crazy. This is where the real work is done, and so some methods demand that you score each alternative solution against the solution requirements.

4. Identify risks, hidden assumptions, and unexpected impacts — We all have a tendency to fall in love with our own ideas and be blinded to unexpected results and risks. So this risk analysis process is very useful. Again you can use a scoring system if it helps.

5. Select the best solution. This would be the one that directly speaks to the problem, satisfies the most requirements, and poses the least risk.

6 . Plan how to implement the solution. Too costly, not enough capacity, no one knows how to do it — solutions aren’t worth much if they can’t be used. So you have to plan out how you can actually use the solution you’ve identified. Sometimes this might mean changing the solution somewhat: For example, you may have to combine some aspects of two different solutions to arrive at one that works.