Does your team understand the importance of your mission and vision statements?

Be honest with yourself.   As an entry level employee did you fully understand the difference between your corporate mission and vision statements?  Did you even know what your organization's mission and vision statements were?

I don't know if a mission or vision statement even existed for the first three companies I worked for after college.  No one in a position of authority ever bothered to share them with me, and I was too green at that point in my young career to think of asking.

How naïve of me.  But how ignorant of them. 

A mission statement illustrates a business' goals and purpose. It has one common function: to guide you and your employees in making critical decisions that effect the direction of your company.  Every employee in an organization from the top down should know the corporate mission. 

Disney has one of the shortest mission statements I've ever read, but also one of the best:  "To make people happy".  This mission statement couldn't be any easier to understand, both internally and externally.

While a mission statement proclaims what you want to achieve as an organization, a vision statement asserts what you need to accomplish in order to achieve it. 

 For example - Coca Cola's mission statement (what they want to achieve):

•To refresh the world...

•To inspire moments of optimism and happiness...

•To create value and make a difference.

Coca Cola's vision statement (what they need to accomplish in order to fulfill the mission):

•People: Be a great place to work where people are inspired to be the best they can be.

•Portfolio: Bring to the world a portfolio of quality beverage brands that anticipate and satisfy people's desires and needs.

•Partners: Nurture a winning network of customers and suppliers, together we create mutual, enduring value.

•Planet: Be a responsible citizen that makes a difference by helping build and support sustainable communities.

•Profit: Maximize long-term return to shareowners while being mindful of our overall responsibilities.

•Productivity: Be a highly effective, lean and fast-moving organization.

Coca Cola's mission and vision statements are very complementary.  They don't believe one can be achieved without the other. 

Having both a vision and a mission statement is of critical importance to an organization.  But if the statements aren't complementary, and aren't shared with internal and external stakeholders, what's the point?  Your employees will begin working in silos and your customers won't understand the value of your company.

Most organizations tend to spend more time focusing on the strategic plan than they do on the mission and vision statements. But while also of obvious critical importance, if the strategic plan isn't designed to serve the mission and vision statements, the plan will become nothing more than a document full of independent "tasks".

A strong business regularly reminds its employees and customers of its vision and mission, or it runs the risk of becoming unfocused and losing its identity.  And nothing will destroy a company faster than one that doesn't know who it is.

tap listen & talk

In chapters 4-6 of Groundswell, the authors discuss three important keys to success and strategies to achieve it. The topics covered include "tapping the groundswell", "listening to the groundswell," and finally "talking to the groundswell". Each is important, yet you will be stronger and more effective having a knowledge of all three skills.
 Once you have tapped the groundswell, considered your strategy and looked at the important objectives, it is time to pursue your success. I fully agree with the authors' view on listening to the groundswell, because your company is only as good as the consumer believes it to be. Listening to consumers by monitoring response to your brand is important not only because it provides feedback but because it allows you to create dialogue with the community and emerge yourself in the groundswell. This is where "talking" comes in.

When I read chapter 6, all I could think of was Facebook and the interaction I have with clients and users of the company I intern for. Every day I connect with them through Facebook and often on Twitter as well. This is has already become common practice for many companies and will only continue to do so with time. If a brand wants to be successful, especially with today's tech-savvy consumers, they must learn the importance of communicating with their audience and potential audience, giving themselves another way to expand and strengthen their business.

"Great Firewall of China" blocks LinkedIn

It's no secret that in recent years the Chinese government has put into place several blocks on social networking sites that would allow citizens to communicate and share information on an online community. The two largest and most internationally used websites that have been blocked throughout the nation for a while now are Facebook and Twitter. However, access to Twitter has been managed by those who have the skills and knowledge to hack in through private networks. According to CNN, the most popular way to access Twitter in China was through a loophole involving the very popular professional business-geared social networking site LinkedIn.
 The Government shutting down access to LinkedIn in order to prevent access to Twitter is yet another jab at the Chinese civilians who are being kept from communicating, sharing, and receiving news and information on the internet. Moreover, search engines such as Google are so heavily censored that it seems practically useless to use them in the first place.

Since the blocking, news of planned revolution protests are sprouting up regarding Chinese political activists eager to change the government. Any thoughts or predictions on the matter?

Why don't banks embrace social media? What are they afraid of?

The other day I went on Facebook to try and find the fan page for a very well known bank, which I won’t identify.

I found it odd that the bank wasn't on Facebook. There were a few community pages dedicated to the bank, though they offered very little information.

I then decided to scour the internet for a blog written on behalf of the bank. I had no luck, other than finding a blog written by an angry customer.  What an opportunity missed here!

I began to scratch my head, as I have become so accustomed to big B2C companies using social media platforms, that I just assumed my bank would be using one as well. My assumption felt as safe as a sunrise.

Just for fun, I decided to search for Facebook pages for several other large financial institutions. Out of the four additional banks I looked up, only ONE had a Facebook page, and it was the smallest bank of the four.  My subsequent search on Twitter was only a little more fruitful, as I located two of the banks I was researching.

According to a recent article in Bank Technology News, "New research from Ovum finds that only six percent of the 150 global banks surveyed use social media to answer customer inquiries, with only one percent planning to do so within the next year."  The article goes on to say, "Twitter and Facebook are only marginally more popular as venues for marketing, with about 14 respondents using the channels for this purpose, and 12 percent planning to make a move in the next 12 months."

I can appreciate why a bank would approach the use of social media very cautiously. It provides a global platform for criticism. And let's be honest, financial institutions aren't on many Christmas card lists these days.  To be fair, as one of the comments below so eloquently points out, there are also several regulatory issues that banks must address if they use social media. Though obviously some banks have overcome those barriers, so I'm willing to bet that concern over negative feedback is at least part of the equation.

The primary strengths of social media from a business’ perspective are consumer engagement and community building. Yes, corporate blogs and Facebook pages may invite negative commentary, but they also give a company the opportunity to address consumer concerns, offer factual data that may change negative perceptions, and improve the quality of customer care. In the banking world, social media can provide a measure of transparency where many consumers believe none exists.

Unfortunately, a myopic view of social media is not limited to the financial services industry.  Many large and small businesses haven't yet figured out the strength of social media and the competitive advantage it can provide in a rapidly expanding global economy.  Some businesses simply don't have the resources to dedicate to social media (which is a discussion for another day), but others have simply made the strategic decision not to adopt it as a communication and customer service platform. 

It's time for businesses to recognize that they can't live in protective bubbles anymore.  The world is watching and talking about them whether they like it or not.  Therefore, they might as well be a part of the conversation.

"new influencers" in the new world

In this ever-evolving world of social media, we are constantly finding new ways to find and share information. Many of us, myself included, get a large portion of their news from online sources, usually through links on Facebook and Twitter.
So how do you find sources of information? For starters, these people who are referred to as the "new influencers" in Brian Solis' article on the subject are not only sharers but listeners. They have a weighted network and a large following - popularity being an obvious marker of an online influencer. He or she must be an expert of sorts on their subject. For example, you wouldn't turn to Paris Hilton's Twitter account for information on interesting political matters just as you wouldn't trust an opinionated status update from John McCane about summer 2011's expected fashion trends.

The influencer may only be considered so when they have established themselves in their online community, doing so by two-way communication and networking with followers and those that they follow back. The ratio of followers-to-following is a good indicator that this is someone who not only shares but listens.

What makes these new influencers so important is the fact that we are in an age of opportunity and information. We are not just being fed the news; we are creating it, finding it, sharing it, and most importantly - discussing it. I myself have been inspired to become more influential in my web presence, though only time will tell if my skills and motivation to do so are up to par.

Reward for @MayorEmanuel

As is often the case these days with large companies or people in the public eye, Rahm Emanuel has a Twitter impostor causing a bit of a stir on the web. Over 31,000 followers read the mysterious tweeter's frequent posts displaying the possibly soon-to-be mayor of Chicago's inner monologue, complete with rampant cursing and political satire.
What sets this story apart from the rest is that Emanuel is taking action - he has offered an award in return for the identity of the impostor. While most politicians would likely be upset over the joke that is being played on him, Emanuel is taking it in stride and using it as a PR tactic to present himself in a positive light. The award won't be in cash - it will be a donation of $2,500 to the charity of the impersonators' choice, should he or she come forward to identify themself. With elections just around the corner this is the perfect time and the perfect scenario for the former White House chief of staff to show his human side and his sense of humor. He even claims to enjoy the impersonators tweets in an interview on the "Roe & Roeper" show.

The account is being run by a person with a knowledge of Emanuel's campaign agenda and schedule, as well as his notoriety for being a bit of a bad-mouth himself.

Facebook Social Inbox - The Email Killer?

Everyday I have to write tons of emails in a similar boring pattern with “Hi Mary”, “Dear Lily”, “Best Regards”, “Cheers”, whatsoever. Is there anyway to make our conversation more simple, connected, time-saving and just “to-the-point”? Suddenly, the Social Inbox idea raised by Facebook few months ago came back my mind. With all the myths, debates and its recent activation. I am so much looking to find out how it could change the ways of communications we have currently by bringing a social world to your inbox. Will it be a revolution or just another Google’s ill-fated Wave? I'm longing to find out...

For those who have no idea about this social inbox, here is a quick wrap-up. Pls be noted that it is just available recently by invitation for limited users.

  • A combination of the most popular forms of communications (e-mail, text messaging, Facebook's own private messaging and instant messaging) into one convenient and flexible feed.

  • This Social Inbox has convenient features such as storing coversation history by contact, dividing inbox into two parts to filter emails from whom you don’t really know.

  • The benefit for Facebook is that it already has 500 million users who are addicted (on some level at least) to the social network’s messaging system, and many of them are probably like the high-school students, and don’t use email. 

A few things for discussion:
  • Email-killer? - On the face of it, having just one place to communicate with everyone from coworkers to family members seems like a good idea. But is Social Inbox considered the future of email or online communications? 

  • Individual identifier? - Now everything we have on Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube, blogs, discussion forums, etc. are linked via email, by default. That is, it comes back to that unique identifier that marks me out as an individual. But will this social inbox really work when it comes to the integration with other channels?

  • Privacy? - Even Mark Zuckerberg told people that Facebook will protect users’ information in this social inbox and not use it for any advertising purposes, people are still always skeptical about the privacy issue on the social environment. Will this be another challenge for Mark on the ongoing privacy debates?

Your opinions?

Walgreens leaps on the "value" bus! Smart or Silly?

With the U.S. economy stuck in neutral, Walgreens Drug Store has taken a leap onto the "value" bus by launching a national campaign to promote its private-label branded health and wellness products according to the New York Times

Walgreens believes that value is defined as "quality and affordability"; a definition most consumers would share.  

However, while private label or "generic" brands have always been synonymous with affordability, they've not typically been associated with quality.  So only time will tell if Walgreens is able to convince consumers that its brands are just as effective at treating health related issues as the bigger brands.

According to the Times article, "Of 1,006 adults in the United States surveyed by Walgreens and the Opinion Research Corporation in January, 84 percent said they purchased store-brand over-the-counter medications when they were available and 36 percent said they had increased their purchases of store-brand products in the last year, according to a statement provided by the company."

While the reliability of an in-house study can be dubious, if Walgreens' research holds true, the drug store stands to reap huge benefits from its new campaign.

Though Walgreens has always advertised its private label, those campaigns have typically been limited to the use of Sunday circulars or in-store signage says the New York Times.  Therefore, it will be interesting to see if a much larger campaign has a negative impact on the co-op dollars Walgreens receives from the very companies it is now going toe-to-toe with. 

Assuming the private label campaign is successful, Walgreens probably won't care.  But if it falls flat or if major suppliers begin moving product through other retail or distribution channels, how will a lack of consumer options impact Walgreens' bottom line?

Walgreens' integrated campaign is web and social media heavy, focusing on 25-54 women and moms; a very cost-conscious crowd.  Look for the Walgreen's ads on your favorite fashion blogs and parenting websites.

Facebook pages: hits & misses

In response to the chapter titled "Strategies for tapping the groundswell" in Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies, I found myself thinking about the sorts of interactions I have with businesses and companies through their Facebook pages.

For many companies, Facebook has been a priceless blessing. For instance, I am constantly intrigued by Facebook posts published by businesses which I am a fan of and often times interact with the posts. This works in their favor by ultimately getting me more involved in their business, i.e. spending money on their products or services. For instance, just yesterday I saw a post about a great happy hour deal at Shangri La and ended up meeting there with friends for the evening.

However, as mentioned in the chapter, Facebook pages can often backfire on a company and result in money lost and poor publicity. As in the case of Walmart, their Facebook page was meant to attract young people and promote their dorm room decor line. Unfortunately for the company, their Facebook page became a soapbox for a disgruntled community unhappy with the Walmart's business practices.

These sorts of hits and misses occur daily in the ever-evolving world of social networks. What is most important for companies is that they choose the appropriate channel and online format to engage in communication with their customers or audience and remember that this sort of communication on the internet is two-way. What the audience says will not always be what the company wants to hear.

Super Bowl of Ads was a Draw

So what did you think of the "Super Bowl of Ads" during last night's big game?

Here are a few thoughts of my own, though I welcome yours.

I was looking forward to the Ozzy Osbourne/Justin Beiber spot for Best Buy, but I didn't find it humorous at all.  I actually found it kind of stupid. 

The Dorito's commercial featuring one guy licking the cheese off the fingers of another guy was just gross.

The Kim Kardashian spot for Skechers only confirmed what everyone already knew:  Kim Kardashian can't act her way out of a paper bag.  Though she did look pretty good!

Audi's, "Release the Hounds" ad was a great little story packed into 30 seconds..

I didn't really get the commercial. There was simply too much going on in that spot to follow it. And as the father of a small child, I didn't find the baby doll splatting against the window at the end of the commercial the least bit humorous. I just found it misplaced.

The big winners of the night:

Teleflora:  The unexpected comment from the kid getting advice from country music icon Faith Hill had me on the floor. 

Bridgestone Tires:  Loved the guy running all over town trying to disconnect computers, because he was mistakenly told he hit "reply all".  Fun and amusing take on one of our biggest workplace fears.

Loved the Volkswagen and the mini-Darth Vader spot featuring the little kid who believes that "the force" actually allowed him to turn on the car with his telekinetic powers, though it was actually his dad using the remote control.  Very cute and memorable commercial. apparel: Cool spot featuring clips from old TV shows that were digitally manipulated to show the characters wearing apparel from their favorite football teams.  That was a pretty incredible use of technology!

The best spot by far: featuring the digital placement of Joan River's head on the sexy body of a bikini model, while claiming she is the new face of  Hysterical and completely unexpected!

There were a few others that were less than memorable, and some I didn't have space or time to mention, but I'd love to know what you thought!

The (new) News

Even though the percentage of the population who even has access to interactive tablets such as iPads is very small, companies are scrambling and spending millions to get their hands on the market of electronic tablet newspapers.

Last week, Rupert Murdoch spent $30 million dollars to launch The Daily, an iPad-only newspaper, says Julianne Pepitone of It will cost an annual $26 million dollars to keep it running. That's a lot of money for a newspaper with a fairly small potential audience, right? Well, according to industry forecasts, the ownership of tablets such as iPads is about to sky rocket. "Apple sold 14.8 million iPads last year, and its nearest rival, Samsung's Galaxy Tab, shipped 2 million devices" says Peptitone. A research firm called eMarketer predicts that in 2012, sales of tablets will reach over 81 million.

That's quite a leap, considering it is just now early 2011. However, with over 100 competitors of the iPad set to release their own tablet models by that time, it's certainly a possibility. With all of this change and flux in the digital age, what is to become of paper news? And for that matter, magazines? I thought Kindle was a silly idea when I first heard of it. Surely, no one would prefer a reading literature from a screen over the feeling of a good old fashioned hardcover book. Man, is my face red.


Facebook and Twitter have done a lot for me in recent years. They've kept me in touch with my friends around the country, reminded me of the names of people I met over the weekend, kept me up-to-date with birthdays, and led me to interesting websites through the help of friends' links. But has a social network site ever persuaded me to partake in a radical social revolution? No, and I doubt it ever could.

I fully agree with Malcom Gladwell's stance on social media's role in social change: while it may help to spread the word, online networks lack the trusting relationships and personal investments required of a social revolution. I can't tell you how many groups I've joined or online petitions I've signed for all sorts of worthwhile causes, from helping Darfur to supporting gay marriage. These are extremely important causes that are fully deserving of our time and energy, and my awareness of them has certainly been impacted by and benefited from social media. However, I cannot say that I would ever take my beliefs to the streets for a potentially dangerous protest or unorganized sit-in just because someone on Twitter who I met last year at a Christmas party invited me to do so.

I realize I may be coming off as abrasive, but the truth is nearly all of us are on the same boat. As Malcom Gladwell discusses in "Small Change," without the strong ties of interpersonal relationships that energize us to make a difference in the world, we are weak and divided in our attempts. We can thank social media for the endless opportunities it provides us with and the voice we are capable of finding on the internet, however, Twitter and Facebook can do little more than help us share our views, beliefs, and ideas. And of course, allow us a place to share links to the breaking news about social change breaking out and taking charge due to the energy of real human contact.

When will companies ever learn that "opt-out" kills!

I got a wonderful email today from Whirlpool.  They were kind enough to inform me that their corporate privacy policy had changed in November of last year.  Specifically, Whirlpool's e-mail communication policy has gone from "opt-in" to "opt-out". 

It was nice of them to notify me of this change three months after it was made. If Whirlpool sent me any notifications prior to making the change, I don't recall them.  But maybe that was the intent.

The timing is amazing, because I have been busy this week trying to unsubscribe from the DAILY emails I get from FTD.  Geez, for a florist, they sure do have a penchant for sending out emails.  I'm guessing that the person responsible for developing FTD's email strategy must be a volunteer, because I can't believe anyone would actually get paid for creating such a horrible email communication plan.

I don't mind receiving offers or gentle reminders when holidays are approaching that might require purchasing flowers, like Valentine's Day or Mother's Day.  But the onslaught of daily emails only resulted in complete frustration!  I got tired of hitting "delete" day after day, and finally went to their website multiple times to try and unsubscribe.  Does FTD think that this type of marketing is going to turn me into a loyal customer?  If so, then they truly don't understand permission marketing or brand loyalty.  I will probably never purchase from them again because I don't want to fall victim to another tsunami of emails.

Whirlpool will likely run into the same problem if they begin force-feeding unwanted messages to anyone who has the audacity to contact them.  Nothing will turn off a consumer faster than an in-box filled with unsolicited emails from the same company.  Perhaps they think that because they are FTD and/or Whirlpool, that we want to bury ourselves in their branded communications.  However, if they don't rethink their opt out strategy, the only thing they'll be burying is their profits.

Please marketers, do yourself a favor...don't adopt an opt-out strategy for your email communications.  It just seems illogical to require consumers to choose "not to communicate with you".