Guest Post by Richard Harmer from the Brady Media Group
Let me say this, we need these people. I mean, in my adult life…or any other part of my life for that matter, I have never had to balance a checkbook…… I KNOW!!! That’s what I thought! From the smallest company to the largest corporations in the world, someone has to balance the checkbook. But does that mean that’s all they have to do?! CFO’s are, for the most part analytical thinkers. Now I don’t believe in “categorizing” people. There are as many categories of people as there are people. However, most would agree it takes a special person to crunch numbers all day.
The role of the CFO hasn’t changed much, I could be wrong, (I’m willing to take the criticism if it has) but the very nature of the job has become more, I guess, public in a way. That to me, as a brand strategist, creative, marketing type person presents a pretty unique opportunity. If people in the national media want to talk to you or your CFO about good stuff in regards to you and your company, well, F%$#@&% TALK TO THEM!!!! As many of you know, I write a lot about corporate red tape and complexity, so here is just one example we can ALL learn from on what NOT to do. In the follow paragraph you’ll find examples of stupidity, arrogance, ignorance, dumbasseness, red tape and a blatant disregard for the world in which we live.
Explicit content may follow!
Here’s the situation: Oh…Due to my “relationship” with the involved parties I cannot name names, otherwise I would! I LOVE calling companies “out”, but… this is true!
OK…A well known company in a “specific” field opens up a place outside Dallas, Texas. They are known to those in their respective industry, but not so much in the Texas region. They bring in about $75 mil a year. Been around for about 50 years, but seem be practicing some “good ole boy” techniques. When you are new in Texas you must “earn” your way by building trust and credibility. I don’t care what anyone says…Texas is different! This company is from the northeast by the way. I mean…people have the state of Texas tattooed on their body!!! Never saw a Vermont or South Dakota tattoo! Needless to say this company failed to come in a year before to build relationships and brand themselves in the community. Besides that, they did a bunch of other things half-ass and so here they are…off to a “smmaaaashing” start! : )
So anyway on with my story…Now I mention I know these people, very well, and they know who I am. So they know if I contact them about something it’s not like some crazy nut job wahoo tryin to feed them a line-o-shit. I get an email from someone at Newsweek wanting to talk to a CFO about how they have weathered the recession…in particular a unique business in growth mode. The person said this would be a “feel good” story on businesses that can succeed in any economic condition. Now mind you, just because someone says they will “run” a story doesn’t always mean they will. So anyway… I thought OMG, I have the PERFECT people!! So I proceeded to text the CFO of the company, don’t forget, he knows who I am. “Hey (bleep) something came up, I know you need some PR right now and something came across my email.” “Can I have a writer contact you today from Newsweek, they want to talk to a CFO, it’s about growth or something… good stuff!” “Could be great exposure for you and (bleep).” Now they were not paying me for this…I just did it because…lets just say I have close relationships on the inside. Two hours later he text back. “Call (bleep) she can take care of it.” Hmmmmm….I thought. I text back, “they won’t talk to her, they want to talk just to you, a CFO…It’s national.” He wanted me to call the marketing person to “check”! WTF does that have to do with…huh, CFO and FREE PR? The company is literally looking for ways right NOW they can drum up PR and business. What a complete idiot!! Are YOU F$#@&^% serious?!!! He had a chance not to just get a positive article in a national magazine, but an opportunity to start building a relationship with someone that can help get them exposure!! Not to mention SEO for their new site. Is common sense just gone when you get in that position?! I am by no means the brightest light in the house, but you don’t have to be some genius marketing person to figure this one out! At what point does this make any sense?
Chances are you already know the moral of this story. PAY ATTENTION!! Make sure your people are paying attention! If an opportunity comes from a credible source, use your freeeeekin head! What can you gain? It doesn’t matter if you’re not the marketing person. We are ALL marketing people. Complexity and red tape will stagnate growth or kill a company every time! As an executive you must realize opportunities that come along. That’s what makes a great company! I could think of a million ways they could’ve milked the article long after it came out.
Many don’t realize this, but we as a nation have a tremendous opportunity here. This recession has given us a chance to look at ourselves and evaluate how we do business. No matter the size of the company, change can happen. Strip away the complexity and all the bull and use common sense. How long would it have taken for (bleep, the CFO) to talk to that writer? What would be the downside or better yet, what is the UPSIDE? Why should the writer go through another person to talk to you? Why? Don’t be an idiot! We still live in the same world our ancestors did when there were only farms and no buildings, no paper work, no computers, no mammoth corporations etc…the same common sense rules still apply. Strip away the idiocy and think about what you’re doing and what you’re trying to accomplish. Those “once in a lifetime opportunities” come a lot more than you may think, just open your eyes. They may be right under your checkbook.
individual. This blog contains my personal views.”
He says “personal views” — In other words, he’s saying look, I’m going to be myself. But notice how he still FITS the role of a Ford personality and the image for the most part. He fits the current messaging and perception that Ford is trying to convey. Weather he knows it or not, he is a “spokesperson”. He’s a spokesperson that directly interacts with the audience. To me, the role of the social media person will become more of a “spokesperson” role, especially with larger companies. He basically get’s paid to hangout on the web and talk to people.
The message of the company MUST remain consistent throughout the organization no matter WHO is sending the message. But, it’s perfectly OK to be yourself. Look, the right person must naturally fit that particular role, just like Brett Favre naturally fit in Green Bay. Ford is not going to bring in some 19 year old blond or some Grandma for that role…It wouldn’t make any sense with the image they are trying to portray.
The evolution of this role is already changing. Why? Well, a 140 character twitter message has become more credible than a 30 second commercial. It came for one source, unfiltered, unedited. Think about it. If that twitter message came from one person not a “corporation”, it can be trusted if that person built credibility with the audience. The audience knows that person can be held accountable by what he/she says. Not held accountable by the company they work for, but by the actual audience! If that person isn’t truthful, they may as well quit! With a commercial, the audience knows the company can always just buy another commercial. If the social media person builds up credibility with the audience, that only helps the brand and the organization build a positive image of transparency. I’m not saying you don’t buy ads, I’m stating the importance if consistency and perception. It’s important that that person have DIRECT contact with the crisis department and the PR people. The social media “spokesperson” could have more of an impact on the perception than anyone. Think about it. That’s the person the audience trusts now.
The other day I came across a job offer ad on the internet from a HUGE car dealership place here in Dallas. They had the name of the company, then the ad read, “Lookin for college kid to twitter, do our emails and facebook.” “You can do this from your dorm-room or wherever.” This was a “high-end” dealership mind you. NOT cheap cars! I thought, OMG! This is your brand you dumbass!
This KID would have front line interaction with the buyers and potential buyers!! Not just that, you have to do a number of things to make social media work, not just twitter and facebook! LOOK! It’s no longer college kids hooking up and finding parties online!! This is REAL! This is marketing, business development, crisis communication and PR ALL wrapped up in one platform! Until people realize that, companies will continue to struggle to find the right approach and truly get ROI from social media. This is why I state the importance of finding the right spokesperson for the role. It’s not a “short term” ad buy…it’s an investment into the position of your company. If it hasn’t already, social media will very soon become a college course or even a degree!
At the end of the day you want to make sure the social media “spokesperson” you have doing your social media fits the chemistry, the image and the perception of the “team” or company. They are a direct reflection of your organization and it’s image. Always keep them in the loop on what’s going on and never lie or tell partial truths. As the evolution of this role changes, the important thing to remember is authenticity. So, don’t hire some inexperienced college kid for your social media needs, hire a spokesperson that represents the personality of the company and its image.
Richard Harmer, Brand Strategist — Brady Media Group