Fear leads to suffering. So why suffer?

Today, two podcasts: Tech PR War Stories, and FIR. They both offer insights into why companies are slow to take up social media, particularly blogging, and while they differ slightly, they’re broadly the same. It’s all about fear, you see.

Tech PR War Stories is a good, useful, credible podcast and I always learn something from it. The latest edition is entitled ‘All About Corporate Blogging‘ and features a great interview with Debbie Weill, author of The Corporate Blogging Book and an expert on business blogging. In it, Paul Gillin lays out the context: Jupiter predicted last year that 35% of corporations would be blogging by the end of 2006. Why hasn’t this happened? Why are companies reluctant to embrace social media strategies? Her response is: fear. “Fear of losing control, and fear of being criticised.”

Could it really be that corporations are so stymied by fear that they’re unable to act?

On to the next podcast, the heavweight and imho yardstick PR podcast, For Immediate Release. OK, so there’s quite a lot of prologue and epilogue but that’s mostly voiced by a lady with a sexy voice so that’s ok. Once you get to the meat of the podcast, you’re onto a winner. In the latest edition Shel Holtz brings our attention to a study conducted by TWI Surveys, Inc. on behalf of the Society for New Communications Research and thought leader, Joseph Jaffe. A key finding in the survey is that:

Respondents noted that the primary obstacles currently preventing them from investing more in conversational marketing include:

  • “Manpower restraints” — 51.1%
  • “Fear of loss of control” — 46.9%
  • “Inadequate metrics” — 45.4%
  • “Culture of their organizations” — 43.5%
  • “Difficulty with internal sell-through” — 35.8%

Can you see what I see? Yes, fear is not top this time. The major primary obstacle is simply having someone in place actually to concentrate on this activity. Everyone else is too busy!

But fear is still there. Allow me to geek a little here: wasn’t it Yoda who said “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” So why suffer? Let’s just get it all out in the open. Because companies that want to avoid suffering now, will only suffer more in the future. I quote again from the SNCR release:

The findings indicate that while social media adoption is still very much in its infancy, communications professionals foresee significant growth in adoption and spending over the next five years, and predict that conversational marketing will outpace traditional marketing by 2012. Of the 260 respondents:

  • 70% are currently spending 2.5% or less of their communications budgets on conversational marketing
  • Two-thirds plan to increase their investment in conversation within the next twelve months
  • 57% project that in five years they will be spending more on conversational marketing than traditional marketing
  • 23.8% believe that spending on conversational marketing will be the same as traditional marketing in five years
  • In total, 81% of all respondents project that by 2012 they will spend at least as much on conversational marketing as traditional marketing

OK, so Jupiter got it wrong, and SNCR may yet do so. Maybe we really are passing around the Kool-aid until we get skunk-drunk. But perhaps this is the tyranny of knowledge: now we know this stuff, we probably should do something about it. It’ll hurt now, but even more so in the future if we don’t. We just need to get a grip and stop collectively burying our heads, sand-like, into an ostrich.

The way to stop people being afraid is, of course, to prove to them the business value – that is, the reward for the risk. So, back to the Tech PR War stories podcast. Debbie Weill presents the case for South West Airlines which announced plans to stop its open seating policy via its blog, to an overwhelmingly negative response. The result was a company which changed its mind and kept its customers happy, entirely because it engaged with them. You can see the upshot here.

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