Archive for the ‘strategy’ Category

Six essential shifts in social media strategy

We’ve reached a critical point in the evolution of social media as a business tool. Gone are the days when the GMOOT (Get Me One Of Those) approach will get you anywhere – simply having a Twitter account, or a Facebook Page, isn’t enough. We’re at the point of social media saturation, and something’s got to give.

So began the session description for my recent presentation at BlogWorld New York. The crux: that the days of social media as an experiment are over – it’s time for a more mature approach to social media within companies in order for social media to be viewed as a sustainable communications and business function.

Unfortunately, we’re also at a point where pursuit of the shiny object has reached an extreme, and that this pursuit is conducted within an increasingly transparent fishbowl while armchair critics circle, waiting for the next “fail” from companies.

In this environment, where transparency and scrutiny are paired up with a shift in focus from experimentation to results, and yet where the allure of “the next big thing” persists, companies need to structure and approach social media differently.

My presentation focused on six essential shifts that I see in how many businesses approach social media strategy. Of course, not all companies are in the same situation. Some with mature programs have evolved beyond this stage; some face just a few of these shifts; others face them all:

  1. Moving away from shiny objects and towards social business
    1. Asking “why” to understand demands
    2. Building a social media infrastructure to support the social brand
    3. Taking baby steps in implementation – from crawl, to walk, to run, to fly
  2. Setting better objectives for social media
    1. Setting SMART objectives
    2. Tying back to broader business goals
    3. Staying clear of the “how” and “what” when setting objectives
  3. Measuring effectively against those objectives
    1. Focusing on the right numbers for the audience
    2. Understanding what numbers really mean
    3. Avoiding made-up numbers
    4. Measuring to drive insights alongside determining results
  4. Breaking down silos and integrating across functions
    1. Approaching social media as an integrated function
    2. Breaking-down silos through day-to-day tactics
    3. Integrating through reporting structures, governance and social media organizational models
  5. Planning and executing content more strategically
    1. Considering content objectives
    2. Identifying appropriate content sources
    3. Fine-tuning execution via appropriate content volume, mix and format
  6. Engaging effectively to build relationships and communities of interest
    1. Embracing negative and neutral conversations
    2. Establishing processes to minimize risk

How about you – have you seen companies needing to make these improvements to their social media strategy?

For more on the topic, check out this excellent write-up of my presentation over at SmartBlog for Social Media.

Thanks once again to Rick, Dave, Deb, Shane and the rest of the BlogWorld team for the invitation to speak. This was my fifth BlogWorld presentation, and I always enjoy it. 

Book Review: The Social Media Strategist

“Page turner.” Not words you usually expect to associate with a social media book.

For anyone who is looking for a solid primer on social media within corporations, though, those two words perfectly describe Christopher Barger’s book The Social Media Strategist: Build a Successful Program from the Inside Out.

In case you aren’t familiar with Barger, he’s headed-up social media at two of the world’s largest companies – IBM and GM. While at the latter, he led their social media communications around GM’s bankruptcy filing. Suffice to say, he has the chops to write a book about corporate social media. Nowadays he plies his trade at Voce Communications.

Despite the over-abundance of social media books nowadays, you can generally divide them into twocategories: the inspirational, philosophy-level books (Trust Agents, Six Pixels etc) and the practical, action-focused books (ok, there are probably many more, but work with me on this…). The Social Media Strategist falls firmly into the second category – one that I think is very thin on the ground right now – and immediately takes its place as my pick for one of the best in the category.

Barger writes in a pragmatic, realistic style – he doesn’t pull any punches, but more importantly he doesn’t focus on shiny objects and he doesn’t bullshit you with visions of a social media-driven utopia. He’s honest and to the point about challenges, and this book is all the better for it.

Barger gives a nod towards social media 101s, but this book is intended for people who have already bought-in to the potential of social media, and are looking for the “how”, not the “why”.

The vast majority of the book is taken up with chapters on critical pieces of the corporate social media puzzle – roles, responsibilities and key infrastructure. Barger leads with substance – early chapters on the executive champion, the social media lead, and the challenges they need to overcome are some of the best parts of the book. Later on he delves into aspects of social media training, policies, crisis management, blogger relations and more.

One key point to note is that this is not a tactical “how to” for social media programs, or a case study-focused book. You won’t learn from detailed walk-throughs, and case studies are limited to comments from a few key individuals in the space (all of whom are highly credible, however). This book is focused at more of a strategic and structural level.

Equally, if you’re already a long way down the road with your program then you may get relatively little from this (although there will certainly be nuggets and reminders throughout) – this is focused more on someone starting from close to scratch.

Neither of these things is a problem, though – Barger knows who he is writing for (he states it explicitly at the outset, in fact) and he caters to that audience with aplomb.

If there were one thing I could change, it would be the flow through the book. There’s no narrative through the book – partially because Barger doesn’t prescribe a set process to follow, but at times the leaps from topic to topic between chapters could use finessing (while chapter 9 focuses on social media training within the organization, chapter 10 focuses on blogger relations). Also, the crisis communications chapters have relatively little substance when it comes to how to prepare for those events (the GM-focused chapter, alone, could frankly be a book on its own).

Ultimately, if you’re working on social media within an organization and need a handbook as you get started, I can hardly recommend The Social Media Strategist more strongly. I’ve already suggested that several people I know read it, and suspect that several others may find it in their stockings next time Christmas rolls around.

Two thumbs way up.

Want to get better at social media? Ask “Why?”

Social media practitioners: want to get better at your job? Learn one word:

Why?

Used well, asking “why?” can help you get to the bottom of almost any problem, push your colleagues to explore new options, and force a new level of honesty in decision making.

I’ve just started reading Christopher Barger‘s book The Social Media Strategist (side note: only a few pages in and I already like it), and one particular section stood out to me:

“The individual connections and relationships made within social networks on behalf of organizations and brands don’t happen because the brands want to appear more approachable or more human. Those are nice side effects. But make no mistake, as unromantic as it sounds, businesses and organizations get into social media because they want customers (or potential customers) to eventually buy their products, feel better about having purchased their products, and have problems with their products resolved more efficiently, and they want to get insight on what might make a customer more likely to buy those products in the future. “The conversation” and “engagement” are just means to that end.”

We’re operating in a field which is still full of kumbaya and hugging. Social media is still a shiny object to many people – companies still come at it with a focus on the shiny object rather than on what they really need. In that context, asking “why” is critical to improving your odds of success.

Let’s take an all-too-frequent conversation that agencies have with clients: the “we should be ‘in’ social media” conversation. At face value, a statement from a client like “we should be in social media” has no meaning, direction or any sort of objectives whatsoever. However, by asking “why?” a few times, you can dig to the core of it. The conversation could go something like this:

A: We need to be in social media.

B: Ok, why do you want to be in social media?

A: Because we’re a customer-focused company and we want to get closer to our customers.

B: Fair enough. Tell me, what do you hope to achieve by getting closer in this case – why do you want to be closer to them?

A: Because we want to build a relationship with the people who use our products.

B: Great. So why do you want to build those relationships?

A: To help us hit our sales targets.

That’s by no means the end of that conversation – it’s just the beginning – but in just three questions you’ve dug down from “get me one of those” to a more focused objective of increasing sales volume. Other times that might be increasing loyalty; other times it might be gaining product insights. Once you’re at that point, you can help to re-focus objectives, and can work to build strategies and tactics that drive at the true business need rather than the one originally stated. You can apply the same things to strategic or tactical conversations too, with the end goal of driving better thinking, better communication and better business decisions.

What’s more, you can do the same thing internally. Instead of challenging or editing, ask:

  • Why did you use that particular phrase?
  • Why do you think that’s the right platform for this contest?
  • Why do you think a contest is the right tactic for this objective?
  • Why do you think we should be on Pinterest?

Build a team culture where asking “why” is the norm, and you’re well on your way to building a high-performance organization.

(Image credit: a_ninjamonkey)

Trust in 2012: 4 Implications for Social Media

Edelman recently released the results of its 2012 Trust Barometer survey. Given the events of the last year, it’s hardly surprising that trust is decreasing pretty much across the board.

That is, except in Canada.

Results of the 2012 Canadian Trust Barometer

Today we announced the Canadian results of the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer at an event in Toronto. A few highlights from the Canadian survey:

  • “A person like me” and regular employees both saw the biggest increase in trust in Canadian Barometer history. “A person like me” in particular has re-emerged as one of the four most trusted spokespeople behind academics and technical experts.
  • Trust in social media increased by 175 per cent in Canada, and trust in other online sources rose by 20 per cent. These increases are consistent – but larger – with those in the US.
  • CEOs are now the least credible spokespeople in Canada. While trust in business as an institution remained steady, business is not meeting the public’s expectations when it comes to building trust in companies.
  • Unlike in other countries, trust in media remains steady; in fact it was the only institution to see trust rise in the last year in Canada; possibly partly because the definition of “media” is changing and because the media is beginning to be seen as leaders in breaking news, rather than followers in reporting it.

Implications for Social Media

So what do this year’s results mean for companies in Canada, and those using social media in particular? Here are four social media implications from the results of the 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer.

1. Transmedia storytelling is critical

The continuing rise of trust in social media and online sources is a clear signal that companies need to think beyond text when it comes to communicating. However, trust also increased in the Canadian media (and remains higher than other sources) – a signal that proclamations of the end of traditional media were very much premature.

Companies need to consider the complete media cloverleaf – traditional, owned, social and hybrid media, and to use them together effectively in order to communicate effectively.

2. Social media is not the end goal

While trust in social media has increased, and in Canada has more than doubled, it still lags well behind that of other sources. However, trust in “a person like me” is through the roof. There’s a dichotomy here, quite possibly because “social media” means different things to different people – plenty of people think of Twitter as a bunch of people talking about their lunch; I think of it as my industry peers discussing trends (and the occasional LOLcat).

The dichotomy of trust in social media means we can’t think of social for its own sake. Gaining new fans on your Facebook page, or followers of your Twitter account, won’t solve your business problems. Companies with a primary social goal of adding new fans/followers, or of gaining views on a video, are missing the point. To drop a cheesy line, it’s not the size of your community but what you do with it that counts.

3. Use social media as a conduit and a connector

If trust in social media, although on the rise, is still low, what does that mean for us? It means we need to think of it as a conduit rather than a destination.

Just as search engines are a conduit to useful information, social media is a conduit to connecting with other people – both those inside the company (e.g. regular employees) and to “people like you.” As a starting point, stop thinking about social media in the same way you think of traditional marketing campaigns, and start thinking in terms of bringing people together around a common interest. However, that’s just the beginning. What do you do with (and for) them? What do you enable from that point forward?

4. Enable and amplify advocacy

Experts and “people like me” are among the most trusted sources of information. One of the most interesting uses of social media is in enabling and amplifying the advocates of your company. Become the enabler – provide your organization’s fans with the information they need to speak in an informed way about the things they’re passionate about, and provide them with the opportunity to do so. The recent partnership between Bazaarvoice and Buddy Media is a great example of a key piece of this puzzle.

Also posted on the Edelman Canada site.

Six important shifts for social media in 2012

It’s hard to believe we’re about to tick over to another calendar year. So, as usual, I got to thinking about the shifts I think companies need to make in their social media activities in the next year.

These aren’t necessarily trends that are already happening (although I’d like to say they are), but they’re certainly where my head is at and hopefully where others are, too.

Here are six shifts I hope to see in social media use by business in 2012.

Better objective-setting

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a slow maturation in the way companies develop their objectives for social media. My hope is that this will continue in 2012. That means fewer companies treating fan or follower growth or video views as goals, fewer made-up numbers and more focusing on business outcomes – sales, cost savings, customer/employee retention etc.

More effective measurement

As companies get better at setting objectives for social media, they’re going to need to get better at measuring against those new objectives. That means shifting focus away from  anecdotal evidence and simple outputs, and looking at indicators of the behaviour you’re looking to drive. It also means taking a closer look at the reporting of that measurement. See my recent post on five ways to improve your social media measurement for more on this.

This will be accompanied by increased realism over social media results. I’m currently reading a book that points to a multi-national company having 27,000 Twitter followers as an indication of social media success. Let’s face it, that’s unlikely to move the needle for lots of companies. As companies focus-in on reporting business objectives, we’ll see a continued shift away from high-fives over anecdotes and minor wins and a more hard-nosed focus on what really matters.

Improved Integration

Key to measuring more effectively, but with far, far broader effects, integration (and the breaking down of silos) will become even more key in 2012. The smart organizations have already figured out that social media works best when supported, and supporting, other forms of communications; look for more companies to mandate a silo-busting approach over the next year.

Strategic content planning

As organizations increasingly adopt the role of media companies in their online communications, watch for content strategy to receive greater focus in 2012. That means shifting from a “we have to fill these content slots” approach to one that carefully considers the objectives of each piece of proactive content and why it deserves its place in the content calendar. Sometimes it might be to drive community engagement; other times it might be to drive business conversion, and so on.

Increased search focus

An increased (and improved) search focus sits alongside more strategic planning of content. It means broadening the scope of how you target content, from point-in-time to point-in-lifecycle – thinking about what people are looking for at their stage in whatever process you’re targeting, and helping them through that and on to the next stage. That could be a stage of the purchase cycle, it could be a stage of the support process, or any number of others that you choose to focus on (thinking back to objectives).

Focusing on the less-shiny object

This is a big bucket of all sorts of increases, but my hope is that as companies move away from shiny-object snydrome in 2012 they start to take a more sophisticated approach to the less-shiny objects – policies, processes, listening, crisis plans etc – or, more formally put, to social business.

Social business

For me, this is an exciting time. I’m jazzed to see more mature use of social media help it to evolve into a more powerful tool for organizations – “life after likes“, as David Armano puts it. This is the cool stuff – the stuff that will move the needle and add real value for companies.

That makes the non-shiny objects the shiny ones for me.

 

You’re Not a Strategist – You’re a Punk

I’m constantly astonished at how many people looking to get into agencies describe themselves as a “strategist” and think that by doing so, they can now avoid all of the work they don’t want to do. Whether it’s planning and budgeting, client project execution or measuring the outcomes, some people seem to think that by calling yourself something different, you can avoid learning about critical elements of a communications function.

Here’s the thing, though: it’s by doing that that you learn how good programs and strategies work.

I know I’m going to piss a lot of people off here, but in my opinion you can’t be an effective strategist until you’ve got some experience to rest behind it.

Mashable recently published a post that nicely explains my frustration. It’s entitled “What Does It Take To Be a Social Strategist?” Key points:

  1. About a third of companies look for at least six years of experience when looking for a social strategist
  2. 92% of social strategists are manager-level or higher
  3. Key success factors:
    1. Rallying stakeholders across the organization
    2. Leading multi-faceted, cross-departmental efforts
    3. Having a long-term, customer-centric vision
    4. Being multi-disciplinary and wearing “many hats”

Sounds pretty intense, right? So then why do I encounter so many inexperienced people giving themselves that title?

Here’s where I’m coming from: When I started working in communications, after doing a few internships during school I spent four years, analyzing quality assessments of communications plans in the public sector.

Sounds mind-bogglingly boring, right? On the contrary, I think that experience set me up fabulously to succeed later. I looked at poor plans and learned to spot the holes and what doesn’t work. I looked at good plans and learned how they effectively fit together. I did the same for tactical materials, too.

Later I moved jobs, began executing things myself, and learned from my mistakes. I organized a media event that I thought was near-perfect but that had ZERO media show up (sob!). I had drafts returned to me by editors with so much red ink on them, you could barely read the original draft.

On the flip side, I also wrote a release that got verbatim pick-up on the front page of tier-one media (I still have a copy of that paper!), and led programs that delivered great results for clients. In short: I learned.

You can’t just flip a switch and consider yourself a strategist without gaining experience in these other areas. You need to get in the trenches, get your head down and learn.

What’s more – sorry to say it – but there’s a lot more to strategy than just idea creation.

You might be great at putting the pieces together, and have a really great mind for integrating different elements to solve problems, but until you’ve gained enough experience to know (the majority of the time, at least – communications isn’t a science) what is likely to work and what isn’t, be quiet and continue to learn.

If you think you just flip a switch and become a master strategist overnight without gaining the experience needed first, you’re not a strategist. You’re just a punk.

(photo credit: Flickr)

Two Ways To Quickly Improve Your Communications Plans

I’ve worked in communications for a while now, and one thing I’ve noticed — consistently — is that the same two elements of communications plan get overlooked time and time again:

  • Objectives
  • Strategy

These almost always get sacrificed in favour of the bright, shiny part of the plan: tactics.

What’s more, your objectives and strategy are the most important part of the plan. They’re the part that frames the ultimate goal that you’re trying to achieve, and provides a focus for the tactics that should aim to achieve that goal.

That means that, sadly, most communications programs fail to live up to their true purpose.

I think this failure stems from two primary misunderstandings:

1. People don’t understand the difference between objectives, strategies and tactics.

Simply put, your objective should state what you’re trying to accomplish. Are you trying to sell 30,000 units of something? Increase customer loyalty? Reduce employee turnover? Remember, too, that there are business objectives and communications objectives, and the latter should flow up to the former.

Your strategy defines how you will achieve the objective you just outlined. If you’re looking to sell product, for example, one strategy might look to raise awareness of the product among a key audience. Another option might be to improve its visibility among key purchase-driven search terms.

Your tactics provide the final level of detail in your plan – the granular activities that will drive towards your strategies, and which ultimately fuel the accomplishment of your objective.

Too few people understand the difference between these three areas. If they’re on the client side, they’re the ones who, despite the great program delivered, still ask “but how many media impressions did we get” even if the business results are there for all to see. On the agency side, well, they’re the ones who risk those same clients never having the business results to ignore in the first place.

It’s CRITICAL that people get their heads around this, as these parts of your plan ensure you’re driving at the right result.

2. People focus on shiny.

Lots of people, especially in the communications industry, are highly creative and really enjoy the creative side of things. Let’s face it, brainstorms are fun. Blue sky thinking, a “there’s no such thing as a bad idea” mindset and no consideration of limitations is a nice mindset to have. Unfortunately, I’ve found that that often comes at the expense of strategy – of putting boundaries around creativity to ensure it is pointed in the right direction.

I had a great discussion with a colleague last week after a brainstorm. I commented that we had some great ideas coming out of the session, but that at that point most of them totally diverged from our strategy for the program. Her response (paraphrasing) was: “Agreed. It’s our job to take those ideas, filter them and tweak them so they fit.”

The perfect team combines people with creative strength alongside those with a strategic mindset, so you get the best of both worlds.

Want to improve your planning? Educate your team and your client about the difference between objectives, strategies and tactics, and make sure they’re taken into account when developing your plan.

Why And How To Scale Social Business Programs

As time goes on we’re seeing a rising trend toward social customer support, largely driven by three forces:

  1. Companies are observing high-profile brands successfully executing social support programs and want to realize those benefits
  2. As more and more companies engage in marketing programs through social media, customers are using those two-way channels to demand support from companies
  3. We’re seeing more and more examples of crises driven by online activity; social support offers a way to prevent issues from becoming crises

The challenge companies are facing is how to scale that support in the face of massive demand from a customer base that comes to expect quick, direct engagement.

Jeremiah Owyang recently posted the slides from his presentation on scalable social business programs. Some of his key points:

  1. Get into Hub and Spoke and develop a Center of Excellence
    • Get away from organic and centralized structures, and develop a hub that can support activities throughout the organization
  2. Leverage community for first tier marketing and support
    • Don’t try to just scale 1:1 support – provide the means for customers to support each other then provide second-tier support for those who need it
  3. Integrate both in the customer lifecycle as well as your corporate website
    • Think of how you will engage with people at all stages, from awareness through to advocacy, and think about how you can build social functionality into your corporate website (one of the key trends we’ve identified for 2011)
  4. Launch a formalized advocacy program
    • Cultivate a group of independent advocates who can transparently engage where they see fit
  5. Invest in Social Media Management Systems before you lose control
    • The recent Kenneth Cole and Chrysler mishaps shone a spotlight on the need for controls and education around social media activities. Appropriate systems are a key part of that.

Point #2 is a key one – help your customers and advocates (point #4) to handle a lot of the low-level support for you. That doesn’t mean leaving them unattended; it means providing them with the means to do so – a place to do it and the resources to do so.

Keynote: Invest in Scalable Social Business Programs

These points on scale nicely complement Steve Rubel’s recent thoughts – that, operating in a world limited by time and space, when you can’t expand time you need to focus on expanding your organization’s surface area to scale your activities.

What do you think of all of this?

Trust Barometer Reveals Need For Mature Social Media

Yesterday I was privileged to attend the Toronto launch of the Canadian results of Edelman’s 2011 Trust Barometer survey with my employer, Richard Edelman.

This year, even more than in recent years, I find the results of the survey fascinating from both traditional and digital communications standpoints

Trust in 2011

The broad findings of this year’s survey are themselves interesting:

Credentials Count More Than Ever

  • Trust in experts rose over the last year — and after years of being at or near the bottom, CEOs saw an increase in credibility, rising from eighth (bottom) to fifth in the rankings.
  • 99 per cent of informed publics find academics and experts — long the front runners — “extremely,” “very,” or “somewhat” credible.

Trust in Canadian Businesses

  • Canadian headquartered companies maintain high levels of trust, at 75 per cent.
  • In Canada, trust in NGOs exceeds trust in business.
  • When a company is not trusted, 63% of people informed publics will believe negative information after hearing it 1-2 times. When the company is trusted, that falls to 22%.
  • When a company is trusted, 40% of people informed publics will believe positive information after hearing it 1-2 times, compared to just 7% if that company is not trusted.
  • In general, 65% of people informed publics need to hear something 3-5 times before it is trusted.
  • The new trust framework involves profit with purpose, engagement with stakeholders and transparency around the company’s activities.

Social media and trust

Deeper within this year’s results, there are some really interesting findings for people in the social media space:

The fall of “people like me”

Trust in “people like me,” which peaked in 2006, fell 11% this year. While it’s still high – 80% of Canadians informed publics trust ‘people like them’ as an information source – it fell to the bottom of the rankings, below CEOs, regular employees and technical experts

For companies engaged in social media activities, this is a clear pointer that they need to incorporate a range of spokespeople in their activities. Relying purely on ‘word of mouth’ is not enough. Combined with the findings about the number of times people need to hear something, this points to the need for integrated communications approaches using a variety of sources and spokespeople to reach companies’ audiences.

The credibility of online news

Online search engines are Canadians’ respondents’ number one source for news and information about a company. Social media comes in at the bottom of the list.

Frankly, this isn’t too surprising, from a couple of angles.

Social media is increasingly moving to bite-size chunks, and taking on a role as a portal to company news. As such, there’s less room for context and for fact-checking, leading people to look elsewhere for information about a company (Richard did make a point that the research looked more at company information for considering stock purchases, for example, than at information for consumer-level purchase decisions).

Secondly, as outlined in my 2011 trends presentation, search strategies are becoming increasingly important to digital activities – not just from a content development perspective but at a strategic, cross-channel level.

Thirdly, the lines around “social media” are becoming blurred. For example, company websites may make a resurgence, as companies integrate the social graph into their owned media (see Etsy, Levi’s (client) for example). Does that count as social media? Is the Huffington Post a blog or a news site? It’s not a black and white distinction.

Fourthly, there’s much more to social media than just reaching consumers. Key influencers, stakeholders and mainstream media can all be engaged through these channels.

Social media needs to mature

This all speaks to a broader need for a more mature approach to social media. It’s not enough to just be there any more – those times have come and gone (good riddance). It’s not enough to just tweet something out and expect everyone to believe it. It’s certainly not enough to let your social media channels operate in a corporate silo, detached from other communications functions.

To continue to approach social media in this immature way is a recipe for failure.

It’s time for a more mature approach to social media and trust – one that integrates different media forms; one that engages people over the long term and one that takes a more considered approach to generating trust among audiences.

What do you think?

Here’s the executive summary of this year’s results. Take a look for yourself, and tell me – what are the stand-out results for you?

(Updated thanks to some thoughtful input from Daniel Blouin in the comments below)

Your Brainstorms Suck

Brainstorms are one of the most fun parts of the communications planning process. You get to remove restrictions from your mind, pretend there are no limits and be as creative as you like.

The trouble is, most brainstorms suck.

Huh?

Most brainstorms focus entirely on tactics… on coming up with ideas in whatever way you can. You end up with ideas in search of a strategy. People then try to craft a strategic framework around it to justify the “big idea” to the decision maker.

If course, decision makers love the big idea. It’s glamorous; they can get excited. The strategy seems to fit with the idea, too (because you made sure it did).

The critical filter to apply is: do the ideas and the strategy flow back up to the objectives at hand?

You won’t make many friends if you only push this line of thinking towards the end of the process, especially if you keep pressing the issue. People will often have to admit to themselves that there isn’t a fit there, and you’ll become the bad guy. EVERY communications person out there thinks they come up with strategic ideas, whether it’s true or not.

Instead, try to rig the process from the beginning. Pull a smaller group together and figure out the strategic approach you want to take to the issue at hand. Pull that into a briefing and make sure everyone has read it before the brainstorm. Review it again at the beginning of the session. Then, take the handcuffs off and brainstorm away with the same freedom as before.

Finally, at the end of the session (either with the group or separately), filter the ideas through that strategic approach and see which ones stick.

The result: ideas led by a strategy that hits the business need, not the other way around.

Make sense? How do you ensure your brainstorms are effective?