Chief Conversation Officer and the marketing function

An interesting discussion about the Chief Conversation Officer concept at minute 13:50 of Across the Sound Podcast #10.

My colleague David Jones weighed into the discussion about whether the Chief Conversation Officer should be separated from the marketing function. David suggests that the Chief Marketing Officer should be the Chief Conversation Officer if he’s on his game.

David argues that the goal of corporations should be to create conversations with every tool they have at their disposal. However, they have not yet let go of an old marketing model that needlessly promotes a functional barrier between marketing departments and PR departments.

David believes that this reluctance to adopt a new model is grounded in a fear of losing control. The new media – blogs, wikis and, to a lesser extent podcasts – give control of brands to consumers. Smart companies are embracing this. David points to the example of the iPod as a consumer-owned brand. And he praises Apple for interacting with consumers to evolve the product.

Steve Rubel reflects on his own experience of senior marketers in large corporations. He finds that they all want to push for dialogue with consumers. However, their companies cannot adapt to the dialogue. He sees them as being “trapped in a monologue world.” He likens them to the leaders of the Soviet Union before it fell – dominated by the truths of earlier great leaders and unable to embrace to the realities of the world around them.

An interesting exchange worth listening to.

The Wiki Learning Curve

Shel Holtz points to a Business Week article, E-Mail Is So Five Minutes Ago. Business Week says that

“…it’s easy-to-use and practically free wikis that proponents say offer the promise of collaboration beyond e-mail, even though big editing kinks remain and other quirks and security flaws are sure to surface. Internet research firm Gartner Group predicts that wikis will become mainstream collaboration tools in at least 50% of companies by 2009.”

My company shares the belief that Wikis are the way of the future. In fact, we’ve been experimenting with a Wiki to replace our traditional Intranet site with a fully multi-authored, collaborative space.

What we are finding is that authoring on the Wiki requires users to adopt a new mindset that does not come naturally to a generation raised on MS Word. At this time, the Wiki Learning Curve is limiting adoption of the Wiki by many of our users. They are telling us that they require Help files geared to the nontechnical user and a more intuitive editing interface.

We’ll keep working on this. But I think that we are like most organizations in only having started up the learning curve.

IABC intervenes with the Canadian Government re selection of PR suppliers

The most recent issue of the IABC Ottawa chapter Headlines newsletter carried the following item:

Government of Canada?s New Procurement Policy

A joint delegation from IABC Ottawa and CPRS Ottawa met with the federal government’s new director general for small and medium business, Marshall Moffat, on Nov. 9 to discuss how changes to procurement policy will affect communications consultants.

The delegation, which included IABC President Gord McIntosh and Stephen Goban, IABC vice-president of government relations, expressed concern that recent policy changes requiring departments to rely exclusively on standing officers will adversely affect many IABC and CPRS members.

Mr. Moffat, who started his job in July, agreed with the delegation’s concerns and said he was looking for more flexibility in the procurement system. In addition, he said his office was working to ensure public servants understood there was a place for small contractors in the procurement system.

A detailed report will be made to the IABC board when it meets Dec. 6.

Mr. Moffat also said he was looking for ongoing dialogue with IABC and CPRS on professional issues, including workshops on how communicators can sell their services to government

While I understand the desire of sole practitioners to share in the Government of Canada’s communications work, I fear that the IABC Ottawa Chapter is advocating a position that will undermine the competitive contracting process. The IABC has lost sight of the fundamental issue: that some departments, having invited firms to make a considerable investment in qualifying for standing offers, subsequently choose to place the work that should be covered by these standing offers to other contractors. And the accepted wisdom is that these contractors are often former public servants who continue to harvest business from their erstwhile colleagues.

Strict enforcement of the standing offer policy is the only way to stamp out this practice. “Greater flexibility” is a sure route to abuse of the process. A government that is digesting the judgment of Justice Gomery on the Sponsorship scandal should be wary of following this path yet again.

The competitive standing offer system may not be perfect. But it is preferable to the alternatives in its pursuit of the objective of selecting contractors based on qualfications and merit.

Why I am Blogging

Through this blog, I hope to have a voice in the discussion surrounding new developments in public relations, communications and marketing.

At my firm, we encourage people to develop to their maximum potential.

Thought leadership is an important goal for all professionals. With this blog, I hope to stimulate others to think about these issues and advance their own thinking.

Comments are an important means of contributing to the discussion. I encourage any who read this blog to offer their comments on my entries.