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The Pentathlon of Engagement … and why Wikibranding is so tough

[ 0 ] June 14, 2011 |

Not many people in the world can pistol shoot, fence, show jump, run 3km cross country or swim 200M at elite levels.

Now combine all of those skills into one event and that group of people in the world narrows to hundreds, if not tens of very skilled people. I give you the Modern Pentahlon - a Renaissance athletic contest that demands its participants to be well-rounded in a variety of disciplines.

The metaphor of  “pentathlon” participation is apt for the world of social, collaborative and community building – our world of Wikibrands.  Whereas we have commodified social media to the oceans of sharp thinking interns, the precociously digital experts, motivational charlatans, pop-up consultants and personal brand players, in actuality – there are way too many disciplines in this world for specialists to be fully effective (occasionally lucky, but never organizational-shakingly successful).

We’ve split the atom of participation and the nucleus of effective customer participation and here are what we believe are the key 5 skills in our pentathlon of engagement  to allow Wikibrands to work in your company (and the varrious participants these skills play best and worst to); make sure you have this marriage skills on your team:

I) Business Savvy (strategy, innovation, governance) – strategy development and implementation is the #1 thing CEOs care about and get rewarded on, yet social or new media initiatives rarely make it into the top 5 strategies of most companies. Why is that?

One big reason is that the top participants and biggest pushers of social media have spent very little time in the hallways of the corporation. By their very nature, they are freelancers, entrepreneurs and fiercely individualistic  (oftentimes in a cloak of let’s do this together… as long as it benefits me).

Scan the top 10 marketing blogs and you get a portrait: they’ve all been independent for the last 5 years, they have mainly buried what their more humble roots were, and they are a hodgepodge of 2 former career entrepreneurs, 1 PR guy, 2 account directors , 1 app developer, 1 creative director, 1 journalist. In fact, only two have had much senior level business experience as a practitioner and both were in service firms, not clients. Are we surprised how angry they are at what they perceive to be slow moving organizations? And how resistant corporations are to their advice? That independent streak, may be neither good or bad (heck they push out great content and provocation), but hardly a base of knowledge and experience for what the boardroom and mid to large-sized companies actually need.

Those who know this world:  executives, business managers, consultants, operations, measurement

Those blind to this world : digital geeks, social media experts, creatives, communication agencies

2) Customer Savvy (experience/community/social) – I will lump the triumvirate of skills – mastery of a good customer experience, affinity for building a community of interest and knowledge of the social tools and technologies into the black art of the “customer” bag.  After all, social media is only a tool and not the end game of a happy referring and fiercely loyal customer. Our research says that 80% of executives believe the customer experience is the key battleground of the future; unfortunately 90% of them currently think they are delivering a great one, whereas only 8% of their customers agree. This oversight is glaringly obvious when bad operational skills translate into online and social environments.

Those who know this world:  customer service people, user experience experts, social media people, community managers

Those blind to this world : the executive boardroom, business managers, ad and media agencies

3) Digital-savvy (web/tech/SEO/mobile) – a chasm of knowledge rests between the people who make the big decisions and carry the purse strings and the people that actually manage and implement both the edgy innovation and the less glamorous plumbing of information technology in an organization. One can find no bigger rift on an executive team than the distance between CMO and CIO. They are rewarded by diametrically opposite things, influenced by polar opposites and are steeped in very different skills. It makes nearly every digital exercise a siloed one. Rare is the world of an IT-savvy CMO or a market-savvy CIO. Perhaps this resistance has caused them to be the two shortest serving functions on an executive team.

Those who know this world:  web specialists, programmers, IT – digital departments, digital agencies

Those blind to this world : marketing, consultant/thoughtleaders, mass agencies, researchers

4) Change-Savvy (HR/organizational) – it’s fine to understand the top and bottom parts of the sandwich (Wikibrand strategy and implementation) but the meat in between that makes it all work is quite cultural in nature. Companies who succeed at wikibranding are able to “buy in” and integrate what they do online, and with their customers, inside the company too. These soft skills are frequently overlooked as companies and people people try to “do the social” algorithm as opposed to “live the social” environment.

Those who know this world:  HR, progressive executives, digital sponsors, change managers, anthropologists

Those blind to this world: digital agencies, SEO practitioners, media people, Finance/CFOs

5) Communications-Savvy (PR, marketing, branding) – one of the biggest gaps in an open, networked world, is the role of the brand. It was one of the most compelling drivers for writing Wikibrands. Fact: Brands have never been more important. Social media artistes that smugly suggest “the brand is owned by the people” and dismiss its significance, miss two important elements of the equation: 1) people infrequently rally around vanilla ice cream and 2) even the most dedicated people don’t have the time, attention or energy to want full control and moderate the entire direction of an open movement.

Although more conversational and porous to outside influence, the best social players in 2011 are also the best marketeers. They evangelize a resonating, simple promise and point of view to the world about their company or product that people want to talk about. And now these favourable message recipients pass it along with more vigour, to more people, more quickly, across greater networks thanks to technology.

Those who know this world:  Marketers, Strategists, Agencies, Journalists, Branding consultants

Those blind to this world: Technologists, Social ninjas/gurus, Operations, Platform owners

How many people in your world possess this combination of left and right brain skills, soft/fuzzy and hard edged, people-focused and technology-proofed. My suspicion is your answer is “rare” despite those vendors and service providers that make it sound so easy.

So get your organization to become pentahletes and go for the gold.

Supplemental – an engaging trivia question (without looking up Wikipedia), which two countries are tied for the highest medal count for the modern Penthatlon?

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Category: Resources, Wikibrand Guidebook, Wikibrands Insights

About Sean Moffitt: Managing Director, Wikibrands and President/Chief Evangelist, Agent Wildfire View author profile.

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