Education – a battleground – Like Media will be won when we can choose

I have no faith that the existing education system can change – no more than the existing media system. In the end it will fall over from its own weight and poor outcomes. But as with media, the new Ed system is visible and will gain strength and will make the old irrelevant.

After many years of thinking and talking, here Sir Ken I think nails the problem and gets the direction for the right new path correct. Helped a lot by the guys at RSA.

So what can we do with this insight?

My experience in public radio and TV – which also is at a crossroads from one culture to another – is that we must not underestimate the power of the entrenched culture. Most people inside pub radio/TV and in education are so invested in the old that they can only fight an alternative.  This is not because they are bad or stupid – it is because they are human and their identity is the system as it is. So to change it means that they have no place. So they cannot go to the new.

If you long for a better education system – you are also worried about how to breakthrough all these barriers. You don’t know how to change the system. I think that we can look at what is happening in media and find a way.

So where is the change happening in media that we might use to help us in education. As I write them I can see how these factors apply to education – can’t you?

  • The long term effects of the poor economy is pressing the system
    • The school system is under huge funding pressure too
    • In higher ed – the degree also costs too much now and drives loans that canot be repaid
    • Kids will seek out new ways – they have to
    • In the next 10 years the pressure to find a new way for the money will become unbearable – thus creating the same kind of context for change that we see in media
  • There are organizations like Craigslist that are killing the economics of the old and forcing economic pressure – the old way leads to economic starvation and sets a context for change
    • There are new online schools such as the Khan Academy that offer kids a wonderful alternative to school
    • Great Schools like MIT have put a lot of superlative content online
    • Kids are voting with their feet – better content will be available online for next to free as with Craigslist and personals that will ad to the economic pressure
  • The web has a bunch of new tools such as Twitter, YouTube, Netflix, iTunes, Apple TV etc that are empowering new sources and new ways of finding, producing and using content
    • Same for Ed – iTunes, YouTube are already there
    • Why take Math with Miss Jones when you can get the world’s best math teachers on your time at your pace?
    • Parents will buy into this too
  • There are entirely new organizations – Huffington Post, Daily Beast, Politico – Greenfield that go through no transition but start with the new model – they are forcing competitive pressure
  • There are a few old leaders who get it and have enough critical mass inside to go for it now – The Guardian in the UK and NPR – they are forcing change on their system
    • Athabaska and Phoenix come to mind in higher ed – they are moving to the mainstream
    • Soon there will be Grade Schools that have the same features
  • There are  few local small organizations that have the leadership to go for it too and are making enough progress to show the rest – KETC is the one I know the best.

So what to do?

Don’t think about changing the whole system!!!!! It’s too big and powerful.

Instead take advantage of these powerful forces.

If you are a learner – Explore the new world of resources – do not feel trapped in school as it is or feel that you have to wait – enough change is here for you to take full advantage now

If you are a parent – see the whole picture for you child – help line them up into that is now available that is more fitted to them and at a cost you can all afford. Vote with your feet.

If you are a school board – Learn how to make the shift from the old to the new – Do a KETC – pick a school with the right leadership and try the new in ONE place – learn from this – use this test bed to expose others to the new from their peers.

If you are a teacher – Learn how to be the new – participate in the new world – be a citizen teacher – offer content or coaching – learn how to be an entrepreneurial teacher who can hang up their shingle on the web or locally. Be the math coach or the history coach in your place or globally!

If you are a social entrepreneur – Build the new a place together so that you are the convener of the a place where kids can be together and yet be part of the a larger universe of resources that fits them!

It’s coming folks – the forces in play are too great to stop it. BUT you have to be a player now if you want to benefit.

After the jump – the end of text books – Bill Gates and my own view of the university that I would like to see

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Expand your audience by dumbing down or expanding your platform – NPR

The Holy Grail in Pub Media was to get a younger audience. For most this meant finding a way to alter the content mix – the CBC has done this with the result of losing its traditional audience and not gaining the young – who DON’T watch TV or listen to a radio!!!!! NPR is winning this by expanding the platform to include who the young want to get their media.

One of the Holy Grails of the Public Radio system when I worked there back in 2005/6 was to attract a younger audience. At the time – even though the context of my involvement was the web – the CW on the solution was to add more younger programming – Hence Bryant Park. Of course this failed as what station manager was going to give up the BlockBuster Morning Edition to have an alternative that the mainstream would not like. The CBC has gone full on to find a younger audience by changing the POV of its programs. I wonder how they are doing? They have largely driven me away.

But the guys at NPR are smart and they learn. They went full on into the use of Social Media. New data out shows that their drive into social media – Twitter in particular – has given them what they wanted a new and younger and larger “audience” that have been attracted to NPR’s programming – not because of a content shift but because they made it easier for a younger audience to connect to content on their terms! The secret was in the flexibility of the new connection NOT the content.

In a survey of more than 10,000 respondents, NPR found that its Twitter followers are younger, more connected to the social web, and more likely to access content through digital platforms such as NPR’s website, podcasts, mobile apps and more.

NPR has more than one Twitter account; its survey found that most respondents followed between two and five NPR accounts, including topical account, show-specific accounts and on-air staff accounts.

The data on age is hardly surprising. The median age of an NPR Twitter follower is 35 — around 15 years younger than the average NPR radio listener. This lines up with data we recently found about other traditional news media; the average Facebook user reading and “liking” content on a news website is two decades younger than the average print newspaper subscriber.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the future of news media lies in successful integration of social media to get the attention (and click-throughs) of a younger generation — a generation whose news needs are vastly different than those of the generations that preceded it.(My emphasis)

Of NPR’s Twitter followers, the majority (67%) still do listen to NPR on the radio. But the other ways they access NPR’s content are indicative of a growing trend:

Of survey respondents, 59% said they use, 39% listen to NPR’s podcasts, around half use an NPR mobile app and 28% say they access NPR via Facebook. All told, 77% of NPR’s Twitter followers said they get all or most of their news online.

And Twitter followers are more likely to expect breaking news, too, likely because of the real-time nature of the medium.

At KETC we found the same thing when we ran out project to help people find a safer more trustworthy route to help in the Mortgage Crisis. KETC helped many people who never watch our programming and who never will. They got connected to KETC because they found what they needed on the web. It was how we connected that was the key.

When NPR hosted the New Realities Project back in 2006/6 – the intent was to imagine our value in 2009 and beyond. We did this. Most saw that one of the things we had to do was to do a Burger King and offer our content up “Your Way”

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The guys even wrote a song – but while some – mainly at NPR really got this – of course as we know today about adoption – most did not and have not and still hope that all of this will go away.

Want a larger and more committed “audience” – let them find you “Their Way” – Integrate the web into what you do fully.

So what then is the leadership story for making the change from machine to network?

I wrote this with a client in mind – sadly he stayed in the valley and left the new alone – it’s hard! Many cannot leave the old even though they know they have to.

Going 2.0 as Lee Bryant says is not about hanging shiny new objects on your old form. It is in truth that hardest of all things to do – changing who we are. As Euan says – it is the hard work of giving up our institutional form and re-becoming human again. So how do you make these changes to the inside of ourselves and our organizations?

I have been forced to reflect on this as one of my projects comes to the very edge of success. Here is the story I told the CEO today.

You are a chief. Your tribe lives in a valley. Over tall mountains is a much larger valley that has a huge lake – larger than Lake Ontario. It is like a vast sea. But you have never been there. You have never seen a lake. You have never fished in a lake or seen a boat. This new valley is beyond what you have ever experienced and so beyond what you can imagine. For your valley is savannah. It is plain full of herd animals and game of all types. It is lush and there are many plants that you use as well. Your tribe has been there a long time hunting and gathering. You are good at this. The Tribe has organized to do this work well.

But over the last few years, there has been a shift in weather. The savannah is drying out – the drought is getting worse. The game is getting scarce. The plants are dying too. Your success over the last 100 years means that you have many mouths to fill too.

So you have heard stories about the lake on the other side of the mountains from traders who go everywhere. So you send out a small reconnaissance party over the mountain to explore this new land. A new land where the skills to get food and the processes are very different. For remember none of you have ever seen a lake, a boat, a weir, a net. None of you have built houses in such surroundings. You don’t know what a pier is. You have no idea what weather can do on a lake. All you know are stories. Stories that might be fables.

The small party does quite well and returns home to tell you what happened. Now the lake and all that is needed to live by a lake is more real to you. At least people that you trust – your own tribesmen have seen it. But you are not going to up sticks and take all your people there just on the evidence of one trip. The risk is too big. You don’t know if enough of your people could adapt. And anyway, maybe the drought will end soon.

The drought gets worse. Now you send a larger party for a longer time. You tell them to really test this new life. Their mission to to see if a move to the new place is feasible. They set up a base camp in the new valley and build some boats and make nets. After much trial and error, they start to learn how to do well in the very new place. They spend a whole year there. They make a of of mistakes. Some die. But they can now see what has to be done. They are not good at any of it but they know the basics. They return home. Everyone is both fascinated and fearful. For if it is possible to live in this new valley, then it will be possible to leave our ancestral home. Everyone hopes that they don’t have to do that. Who wants to give up all they know? Maybe the drought will end.

But the drought gets worse. It is clear that this is a trend. It is clear that if the Tribe does not leave the valley, that in 5 years all will die. So now you send a lead party back over the pass into the new valley. Their job is to set up a new home for the tribe. They are not coming home. They are the beach head.

But as the new team settle in the new valley, they go home all the time in their minds. For the only home they really know is the old valley. Even though the new is feeding them. Even though they are gradually getting the new skills. They long for what they know. They are torn. They are in the new valley but they still are organized as if they were back in the old.

Still part of the tribe is left in the old valley. This left behind part of the tribe feel bad too. They know that they have been left behind. They know that the future is in the next valley. Both sides feel separated. One from the old, the other from the new. But this separation had to stand until the Chief knew that his people could make it in the new.

You could not wait however until he was completely sure because you could feel that the disconnect between the two groups was starting to threaten the whole tribe. So you moved the rest of the tribe over the pass into the new place as well. Because they were in a new place that needed new skills and new ways of working, you also had to realign who did what and for whom. You had to ensure that the tribe was organized to live in the new way. Fortunately because of the tension of the separation, most were relieved to have their doubts settled and quickly settled down to the new. Also because they all knew that they could not go back, that longing for “home” faded. After a while the new home became “Home” for all.

As I told this story, I started to see what had in fact happened. I had missed it all even myself. What we had done only became clear today.

The institutional world is dying. But it is the only world we know. Our place in it is home. We cannot just jump to the new. We have to explore it.  This exploration needs to be organized as history tells us successful explorations are conducted – using larger and longer staying expeditions. At some point some people have to stay in the new world.

Even then history tells us that we at first long for the old. We even organize based on the old even when we live in the new. This tension is debilitating.

This is the story of America itself. Many expeditions lead in the end to the early colonies. The War of Independence is the re-org. This then opens up the west and the new culture and millions cross the sea for the dream.

Yes the tools are important, but it is the change in world view that is the key.

Soon I will have the data to prove this.

What do you think? Where are you on this journey?

Boingo – Using the Network to aid Sales and Marketing

So how do you apply the network to a conventional business? Here is how Boingo has done this.

What would it be like if your business had a sales, marketing and support force that was 1.3 million strong that you did not have to pay for? What if you could source this leverage with a tiny central force? Sounds impossible? Do you have any idea of how this could work?

Now that everyone is using Social Media – what I am seeing mainly are people who using the new tool in the old way – trying to shout above the noise – “Look at ME!” “Aren’t I cool!” “Aren’t we good!”. I am seeing a Dilbert approach – “Let’s have a Facebook site” “Let’s get on Twitter”.

Most do what most do when a new technology arrives – they apply it in the old way and so get nothing in response.

So what then is the power and leverage that you can harness by using social media well?

Boingo are on their way to finding out how to do this. Oh yes and I am one of the people that are part of this and oh yes I am not being paid and nor do I in any way work for them. I am living the theory.

So how might this work and so how might you do this too?

Boingo have a class of people that are deeply committed to the enterprise that Baochicalls her “Super fans”. They and why they are connected to Boingo and each other is the core of the leverage potential. We will meet 4 of them in this post who agreed enthusiastically to be interviewed by me. As you will see, these Super Fans are attracted first of all to Boingo by the obvious:

  • The service – easy one stop access to Wifi in Airports and Hotels – is now no longer a nice to have for travellers but an essential
  • The support for the service is outstanding – got a problem – you get instant personal help

But a great product is not enough. Nor is good service. What is the differentiator for Boingo is the human nature of the relationship that Boingo has with its customers. Most organizations do not allow their people to be human. Service people are often ciphers working from a script. Boingo have set up an environment where their key point of contact is a real person who is allowed to be herself.

She has a name and a face and we are all in awe and a bit in love with her. We all feel her presence watching over us. It is way more than getting her help when we can’t sign on. She watches out for us. Have a problem – A quick tweet. In minutes she is there. She is like the guy who runs the old corner store who holds your keys when you go away, keeps an eye on your kids in the street, helps you find a new roommate.

As Nuno Montegro, a customer in Portugal says – It is not what she says but how she says things that is the difference.

Nuno is like me, a customer who actively refers others to the service.

Most of Social media is all about Weak Ties – They are very useful but Weak Ties don’t get people to do much – or risk much – or commit much – that is why they are Weak – they are easy.

If you want to do something – Civil Rights in the US – you need Strong Ties. (Nice new piece by Malcolm Gladwell that explores Weak and Strong Ties in depth)

The key to attracting Strong Ties is being human. It is NOT PIMPING your product. It is instead to show that you really do care about ME. It is instead to show that you can indeed be trusted.

How do you show this? Nuno makes the point that every service and product fails at times. The key is to offer the best possible response to the inevitability of a problem. The best possible response is to know from experience that if there is a problem, you can reach a real person quickly and that they will go the distance to help you get it fixed. “I felt as if I was the only customer in the entire world when she was helping me” Nuno told me. I had the same experience.

Attracting Strong Ties is all about “Giving”.

Aaron Strout is the CMO at social media agency, Powered Inc. and is also Super Fan. “Boingo is proactive and they don’t expect a direct return – they are not selling all day – so if they want an inch, I go the mile back. It’s Karmic! I know if I have a problem that they will look after me. If people are good and do good, then good comes back. Not necessarily directly but good gets attracted back. We talk about a wide range of things that affect me not just the product – which is great too – have to have that – they listen.”

What Aaron is talking about here is a very old model for an economy that was the centre of all tribal economies – the Gift Economy. In the Gift Economy, the Big Guy is not the man who has the most stuff but the person who gives the most.

This is the power in networks – this is how Open Source Works too.

Cliff Bremmer is a programmer who works for a company called Carley Corporation that bids on government contracts to develop instructional CD base/computer based training for the US military.  ”In my spare time I help companies understand and navigate the social media spectrum in a professional yet interactive way.  The company I’m currently helping is the one my father works for called the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel“.

The Gift?

Not only is he a fan but in interacting with Boingo he has learned a lot about how to use SM media well. “If there is anything I’m proud of lately it’s that I helped the Pegasus Hotel promote their brand with the help and support of @Boingo and other companies to become one of the most popular brands in Jamaica.” Boingo is  not only helping him with his travel and Wifi but is talking with him and helping him help his dad in his business with advice and Tweet Up prizes such as free access and bag tags. The Gift in action!

He can see the flaws of how most use SM – “They are stuck in self promotion versus communication. I can see through it all – it’s all about them.”

In the Gift Economy that drives Trust and so Strong Ties, the starting point is YOU. In the non network economy the starting point is ME. No small difference!

Shelby Rogers is a flight attendant, a serving soldier (in the active reserve) and the wife of a serving soldier. Travel is her life. When she is not working, she travels. Access to Wifi has made her travel better – “I now know more than the Gate Agent does about my flights!” and it has taken away much of the loneliness that travel brings with it. Who has not been alone eating room service and watching TV in our room? “I can stay in touch with my husband on Skype and every city seems to have a friend in it.”

For Shelby, Boingo is a service that truly meets her needs. But it is how Boingo is connected to her that has transformed a pleased customer into a Super fan.

How often has your service provider taken you out to dinner? “We have even had dinner recently. I am now a walking billboard for Boingo with winking bag tags!”

So what does this mean? What are the lesson for both Boingo and for you?

  • Baochi is no accident – the Boingo senior leadership have created the role and given it the space to enable someone who is naturally humane to be herself inside it. This new way of using Strong Ties to be the centre of a network is all about culture. In most cases senior leadership is too scared to let go. But if you do let go and create this safe place then the power of the network effect can be yours
  • A really powerful network has to have an inner core bound by Strong Ties. This is where the leverage is. One staff person like Baochi can without too much trouble have close ties with 34 people. That gives her an outer network of 1.3 million. If she can handle the Dunbar limit of 144 that creates an opportunity of 400 million! You can see that with the right person, you can have a vast reach – provided you realize that your goal is not to have thousands of relationships but a few Strong Ones
  • The secret is the math of social leverage. Many of you know about the “Dunbar Number”. Some of you know about “Magic numbers – the hierarchy of trust in human groups. If you don’t here is a quick primer.

So what now?

I think that the next stage would be this:

  • At the moment all the Super Fans have a strong relationship with Baochi – I think that the best next step might be to find a way to connect them to each other
  • At the  moment most of the dialogue is still about the obvious and excellent service that Boingo provides – I think that some of the work that the Super Fans could do might be to deepen the conversation – Shelby touched on this in her interview with me – What is it that being easily connected while travelling does? In her case it helped her deal with isolation and loneliness – it helped her do her job better – it kept her in touch with her husband – these are deep issues that I think connect all of us who travel a lot

As I think about networks, I think about the laws of physics. All systems have order and attractors. Some force is needed to keep systems coherent.

Think of the Sun in our own local system. It has mass that provides a gravity that holds all the planets and asteroids and stuff in a pattern. It has energy that creates life in the system. I think that any healthy human social system has to have gravity and light.

At the very centre is the “Right Space” a Trusted Space created by the leadership. In this Space, the Right Person – Right being a person who as part of her natural persona truly cares about others. Connected to her is the fuel and the mass that makes up the Sun – the Super Fans. The closer they are to the centre and the closer they are to each other – the more mass and the more energy. The more mass and energy, the larger and more healthy the network of Weak Ties that form up around the Sun.

What gets in the way is our fear about losing control.


At Disney the surface of the Brand Icon never changes but inside the mask is a person who changes all the time and so is never allowed to speak.

But in the new world we have to take off the costume and let the person inside have conversations with the public – HARD to do.

So then how did Boingo organize to do this internally?

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NPR at the Tipping Point

With the launch this weekend of the new NPR Mobile App, I can look back over the last 4 years and see a pattern emerge that tells me that NPR is poised to be the first major new organization to break through into the new Media Reality.

That’s a bold statement so let me try and back it up.

First of all, NPR and the public radio system have got something that no other media has in America – Growth in audience.


Why? I suspect that a large part of the answer is to be found in one word – “Trust”. As our world becomes more uncertain, it is also clear that much of the media was either complicit in hiding the truth about what was going on or that they just missed it. The non profit aspect of NPR and its system, I suspect helps keep it more trusted. The second point is just good journalism. As all other sources of media have retrenched on their staff, NPR and its stations have continued to invest in great staff.

But there is more going on here than the core journalism – NPR – like no other organizations except the BBC – is there a pattern here too? – Has made a decisive push to make the web work for it, for the stations and for the audience.

Here is the “Story” as revealed in a “Power Curve”.

NPR Growth story.002

This suggests that NPR is at the Tipping Point. Why? Because we can see both the acceleration and also the growth of the supporting system that will facilitate the growth.

We see a long gestation period from 2005 – 2007. Podcasting began then – greatly facilitated by iTunes.

It is in 2008 that we see progress begin to accelerate. In 2009, NPR is positively rocking.

How did this happen when so many other media organizations are merely hiding behind the castle walls?

I think the answer is in the New Realities Process that NPR undertook at the end of 2005 – May 2006. Over 800 people were involved in “Exploring” what the web might mean to NPR and the system of stations.

This was the basic problem presented to all.

NPR Growth storyquestion.003

Please let me explain. Remember this was done in early 2006. The core assumption was that by 2009, the web would be ubiquitous. NPR’s relative position versus the web at the time was that tiny black line.

The question was this – How did we get to scale on the web in time AND still not piss off the audience AND the Stations?

Looking back, the time line we posed was correct and it seems that we have solved the key question.

So how did this process of mutual exploration help NPR and the stations do this? My answer is this – It gave everyone a real voice. ALL the issues were on the table. A real common view emerged.

NPR Growth story.003

In every meeting, groups came up with the same big idea. That we had to be able to offer the audience what we did “Their Way”. This appears to have been an underlying idea that has been realized by the Mobile App – many groups even envisaged a device like the iPhone that would enable this.

Surely this is no small thing? Most media organizations still insist controlling everything.

NPR Growth story.005

The underlying constraint was what would be the role of NPR and of each station? At the time, many believed that NPR had a “secret plan” to go it alone. In truth many at NPR also did not know what to do. They talked about working with the stations but were uncertain.

A major result of the process is that the senior NPR folks realized that they HAD to work with the stations. It has taken years for much of the fear that NPR would go it alone to dissipate but it is. NPR have proved by their actions that they are in this together.

NPR Growth story.004

For another common theme that kept coming up again and again was this. That the end game would look like this – a REAL NETWORK based on Natural Systems. This was the systems’ great hidden strength.

This idea of a large natural system is now even bigger than anyone envisaged in 2006. For the CPB has been making major investments in creating a Public Radio AND TV system. The Facing the Mortgage Crisis project is one of these investments where radio and Tv stations in 32 markets are working together. NPR and the NewsHour are working together to offer the best news service in the nation. Key local stations are creating local news hubs.

All this is going to come together in late 2009 early 2010.

2010 will be I think THE year. The product will be unparalleled. The Web approach will be ideal. The resources will be all that such a network can supply.

With the audience, with the engagement and with the web fully supporting the air all that is left is this..

NPR Growth story.006

I think that with the underlying audience, engagement and a network – it should be possible to make the money and the system work – don’t you?

So in closing I return to the question of our time. How do large organizations make the changes that they have to? How do they do this when the New is often the opposite of what they are and what they do today?

I think that the answer for NPR and Public radio is that they overcame the huge natural resistance by investing in a shared and deep exploration of what confronted them. What they have done since has come from the genuine emergence of ideas and of a language that they created for themselves.

It has not been easy. I admit to being in despair in 2007 when I could see no visible progress. But in retrospect I was naive. The laws of nature demand a period of gestation. 2007 was that time.

What is remarkable now is that NPR and the system has fully met the challenge set out in the starting question of the process. They have kept their audience, kept the system together AND become a leader in the web.

Now they have to turn this into revenue. I think that they are up to this.

Dominos Pizza – The Rubicon of PR – When you had to get involved (+United & guitars)


The Dominos “YouTube Adventure” last week  – when a couple made a disgusting video of what they did in making a Dominos Sub – is I think a “Rubicon” moment.  Not just for Dominos, who had already put their toe into the river of Social Media but for every enterprise. (Excellent revue here  by Frederic Lardinois from Read Write Web on what happened + Stats + Dominos response + an analysis)

All your customers, voters, members, suppliers – the public are now linked. Newsworthy events that are good and bad will spread like wildfire. Look at the “Good” event of Susan Boyle – as of this date 20 million views in less than a week!

The Rubicon is that – whether you like it or not – the public are now linked so well, that anything said about you will now spread everywhere and very quickly. This linkage, and hence the speed and immediacy of the spread, can only get wider and faster. Maybe, in a few months, events that affect you will spread instantly to everyone. What will spread the fastest of course will be the bad things.

So the new reality is that it is what others say that will matter not what you say. So your reputation – your brand – the trust you have – is now not longer easily or directly controlled by you.

You have to be swimming in this river to have any chance of protecting your name.

As with Dominos – using the new social media tools is not enough. You will have to understand and become a master of how to live and do well in thus new world.

Compared to many today, Dominos were somewhat ready. But even then – I think because they had only installed the tools but not the culture – they were awkward. They were late in catching their problem. Late in a their response. Stilted in their response – they did not understand that a scripted response is not going to help much.

They were still operating the new tools with the old culture.

They gave their CEO a script. He read from the prompter and did not make emotional contact with the audience. But Dominos still did well compared maybe to you! For do you even have the tools?

But of course it is not just about the tools. The issue is that you can no longer control. So their new plan is of course the old plan – “let’s control the store”. Their key response is to ban video cameras from their stores! This means a ban on cell phones really and how practical can that be?

The only effective response will be to get into the river with everyone else and get really good at how to behave in this new river. It will be to become so engaged that the conversation can be affected or shaped. You have to be a trusted part of the conversation to do this. You cannot just barge in.

Dominos and you will have to unlearn and put away all of what made old PR work. For all of PR up to now has used “Message” – a tightly controlled and scripted response where the text is key. Now you have to use “Presence” – an emotional message where the authenticity of the humanity of the “speaker” carries the point. Volts versus Amps.

This River will soon operate at the speed of light. To protect your name, you have to be a major presence in the river now. You have to merge with the river so that your nervous system is acutely attuned to the slightest hint of trouble. The leverage is Trust. Only a trusted player in the river will have any chance of settling down the ripples.

To have the Trust, you need to be known. To be known, you have to be a person and not an institution.The people that represent you in this river have to be free people who can be trusted. They have to have won the trust of the river. If trouble occurs, they have to respond immediately without a script. They have to be empathic and not controlled.

This role is foreign to institutions who are all about control. The answer are not the tools but the culture.

The error is to see your participation in Social Media as having the right Tools. “We use Twitter!” is a meaningless statement. Hey you can give me all the tools I would need to fix a car and I still will not be able to fix a car. Worse you can give me an airplane to fly and I will crash every time. The people who work for you in this field have to be the real deal. You would not hire a CFO who did not know her stuff?

Why simply tell your existing PR folks who know nothing about this – in fact who hate it – to take over? All of how PR, Research and Marketing has been done until now will have to be unlearned. Traditional PR, Research and Marketing folks will feel very uncomfortable and will do what all prior paradigm leaders do when confronted with the real future. They will undermine and fight it. They have to. For this is their nemesis.

The context for this decision is that the old world is dying. Here is how Coke is responding:

ATLANTA: Coca-Cola has created a new office of digital communications and social media within its public affairs and communications department. Clyde Tuggle, SVP of corporate affairs and productivity at Coke, noted “mass media is declining in importance,” when introducing the new department in a memo to staff, which the beverage manufacturer shared with PRWeek.

“Our future success depends on our continued ability to connect people to our brands and our Company all around the world, one person at a time,” Tuggle wrote. “Our new office of digital communications and social media will help us become even more comfortable and effective in these new spaces.”

The new unit will work in collaboration with global interactive marketing, IT, and consumer affairs, as well as legal and strategic security.

Adam Brown, digital communications director, and Anne Carelli, digital communications manager, will have oversight of corporate digital and social media communications efforts. Both Brown and Carelli will continue ongoing training programs, such as “Training Byte” online videos, in addition to “more robust” programs through its new PAC Institute.

The ideas in the new world that will have to be learned anew include these:

  • Listen before you Speak – The New Tools allow you to hear the slightest tremor. Last week I Tweeted that I had done my taxes and that I had used QuickTax. Within minutes QuickTax had responded with a thank you. A week earlier I Tweeted that I had had a problem with accessing Ning. Within minutes a customer service person from Ning contacted me and worked over the weekend to solve my problem. If you cannot do this – you are not in the game. In future, most of your research will operate in real time without you having to ask any questions. Your new job will be to listen minute by minute and to have tools and people that can make sense of the stream. Not only to make sense of what you hear but also to shape the stream. QuickTax is responding to every mention good or bad. An early and a personal response, can settle a problem that could become a crisis. Such a strategy dramatically reduces your costs in research and brand management. Such a strategy dramatically increases your effectiveness and reduces your risks. More for less.
  • Participate not Pontificate – To be heard, you have to participate. To speak, you have to lose your corporate voice. You have to lose the official tone of voice. You have to regain a human voice. This can only be done if you allow your social media staff to be themselves. They cannot be the highly controlled drones that are the standard in the corporate or bureaucratic world – many people in your organization will not be able to lose this voice. They even use it at home. Simply training old staff will not be enough. For how can you have trained people in the Shetl to be Americans?  You have to live in the New World to become a citizen. To have the new voice is to be a native of the new culture that is the very opposite of the norms of the old country. As with immigrants, it will be the kids who will get it first and they will train the others. But the Bubbies will never get it. This aspect of having the new strategy work or not is the most challenging part of all of this. In the end it means, that the old culture has to die too. Maybe in the interim, you set your unit up apart from the rest and have it report to the CEO for protection. Clayton Christenson has a lot to say about this problem. For to respond to this new reality demands that you disrupt your culture. The most difficult of all acts for a leader.
  • Importance – Life or Death: This is not an add on or a side show as Newspapers found – This is all about whether you are going to live or die – As the Coke folks say but more gently than I – Mass Media is dying. So then is the entire Mass Media approach to PR and Broadcast – the God-like Voice and Moses with the Text of God from on high does not work. So how important is your reputation? How important is your business or enterprise? Adopting this new way is one of the most important decisions you will make. So also having the RIGHT PEOPLE to do this for you is the second decision you will make after deciding to cross the River. Ideally you have to have them report to the CEO. Ideally the CEO needs to become immersed as well. If I can do this, aged 59 and having spent most of my working life in institutions. Then so can you. The only issue is will. Do you have the will as a CEO to move into the future?


Caesar made the call by crossing the Rubicon to end the Republic and to begin the Empire. He had the will to stake it all. There was then no going back.

Actually it is society that has crossed the Rubicon. The new interactive and participative world is now here.

Will you cross too? This is a life or death decision for you. It’s also a winning choice. Many will not be able to make this choice. Their own culture will be too powerful. If you can, you have the advantage. The earlier you move, the better you will get at this.

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Convening Community to solve bog complex problems – Future of Pub Media?

Social Media for what? As the shadows lengthen, I am seeing that the new role for public media is not simply to bring you Jane Austen on Sundays – though that is worthy – but to use the trust evoked in a generation public TV and radio to help us as citizens help each other face terrible times.

The mortgage crisis is now clearly not just about a few people who should have known better, as many like to see it, but is a crisis so deep and wide that it has the power to doom not only individuals but cities. As houses fall, so do streets, the blocks then neighborhoods and then entire cities. Loss of taxes will shutter schools, loss of taxes will neuter governments, loss of mobility and loss of value will shut down people. So the financial cancer spreads until maybe America comes to a halt.

So what to do? This is where social media will I think play it’s most important role – that of empowering people to come together and to help each other. This is I think where the history books will tell the story – not that Facebook or My Space were cool, not that business finally got it. No I think the story will be that Social Media enabled the rise of Community Power and that it was Community Power that helped America through these times. That it was Community Power that replaced machine Democracy and restored the Republic.

Big claim! So here are some early signs – you can see this great power stir before your eyes


KETC, a client of mine, the Public TV Channel in St Louis, has been chosen by CPB to test how well a public TV station can be in Convening the wider community of its city to come together and help each other cope with a giant crisis. Here is a link to the background.

I am writing today to offer up an early report. This week we held the first on air/web town hall meeting.

For the first time St Louisans could see that they were not alone. The room was full of all sorts of people. St Louisans could see the enormous amount of help that was there for them. They could hear stories of all the things that could happen for bad or good. They could feel hope.

The show (links part 1 – part 2 – part 3 – part 4) was masterful. First of all it set the context – it gave the whole story. Then the full range of risks and remedies were explored.

As I watched this show, I felt as I had after Robin’s cancer diagnosis when we met the wonderful team of people who saved her life. I felt that while the situation was dire, that I might lose not my home but my wife, that we had the benefit of a great team and of the best that medicine could offer – we knew what we were up against. We knew that we had a chance. We had hope whereas before we had only fear.

I thought that I knew it all before the show. But I didn’t. In an hour, Ruth had covered the full story. No sound bites here. The full story!

The last segment was for me the most gripping. Here the show is opened up to the audience, to callers and those on the web. Here the voice of the community spoke. The dignity of the people and the panel was something to behold. The barriers between the helpers and the helped were eliminated. Something important happened.

The full impact was also revealed.

This is much more than a person losing their home. This is about the ripple effect that kills blocks, kills communities and in the end can doom the city. The ripple effect affects us all.

Next week we have a second show. This time we will focus on the the ripple effect – how can St Louisans work together to protect their communities? How can the people save their city?

Of course what you see on TV is merely the surface. If you look at the video, you will see The Swan – You will see the show but behind the scenes the feet are paddling hard under the surface.

The guys at KETC are paddling like fury all over the city and the state connecting people to help and more important connecting the help to the help. Have a look at the credits at the end of part 4.

This is the hard graft – many organizations, I call them Nodes of Trust, are meeting each other for the first time and seeing how much they can do to help each other do a better job.

Many are also seeing that the mortgage crisis itself is only part of a much more dangerous threat, the Ripple, that has the power to take the entire city down.

This is why I make the claim I do. I can think of only one way to dig our way out of this mess – to connect the people so that they can take charge themselves. Social Media and stations like KETC are the way to make these connections.

Many are starting to see that many who got caught were not foolish but unfortunate or worse exploited.

St Louisan are starting to feel that they might have a chance of beating this – a chance not because of false hope or exhortation but hope drawn from meeting other good men and women and seeing that together they can make an impact. Seeing that they are not helpless.

I think that KETC is on its way to prove out the hopes of CPB – that Public Media can be seen as a powerful force for good in their community. For who else can do this work? Who else can act as the convenor in these tough times?