It’s All About Engaging in the Conversation

Our very own Sam "The Hilltopper" Ford moderated a most excellent PR Week webcast yesterday on the subject of digital communications. Specifically, Sam and his three panelists (Paula Berg from Southwest Airlines, Russ Castronovo from Sun Microsystems and Paula Drum from H&R Block) discussed best practices for closing the gap that exists in many corporations between communicators who "get" digital" and senior management who don’t.

Each panelist had different success stories and cautionary tales, but each seemed to focus on one central theme: the best way to convince the c-suite of digital’s importance is to share what’s being said about the organization on the Web. To be more precise, Paula Berg showed her executives what Southwest’s customers were saying about the airline in various chat rooms. From there, it was relatively easy to convince them to not only begin blogging, but to be strategic about it. She cited her company’s anticipation of Aloha Airlines’ chapter 11 filing and Southwest’s aggressive Web postings that offered stranded passengers immediate solutions.

Castronovo said Sun is blessed with a culture that revels in blogging and believes that not responding to what’s being said on the Web is akin to not answering the phone.

For her part, Drum credits H&R Block’s digital communications program with helping to re-position the firm away from being solely seen as "store fronts on a corner" and, instead, as a financial counselor.

Each panelist agreed that, when it comes to digital, seeing is believing. Paula Berg said her CEO’s "Eureka" moment came when she forwarded a Twitter comment from a customer. He immediately sensed the new technology’s importance and asked for a 45-minute tutorial.

I’ll add other observations in coming blogs, but rule one for closing the digital divide with the C-suite seems to be sharing what’s being said about the brand in Cyberspace and encouraging the decision-makers to engage in the dialogue.

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