Before executives will consider the adoption of any new technology, they must be convinced that enough value exists to make the change. Asking business folks to move to social media technologies is no exception. The problem is translating that value into terms that senior management can relate with. And therein lies the rub. The benefits that new media bring to an organization run contrary to the collective communication experiences of senior execs.
Take a look at the accompanying chart, which illustrates the circulation of US Newspapers between 1940 and 2009 (Source Newspaper Association of America). Notice how closely it aligns with the professional careers of the Baby Boomer Generation, those born between the years 1946 and 1964. College educated Boomers cut their professional communications teeth during the Golden Age of mass media, when they entered the workforce between 1968 and 1986. Put another way, business leaders between the ages of 47 and 65 have built their entire careers on the principle that corporate communications requires large, centralized audiences whose access is controlled by a few players. Their belief systems, forged during their early-career years, establish that the best way to boost revenues through communications is to get quoted in the Wall Street Journal, buy enough media, or be interviewed by Oprah.
Compare and contrast those assumptions in lieu of audience fragmentation that is occurring due to the massive content-choices presented before potential audiences. Powerful set-top boxes allow them to watch previously-recorded shows or actually pause live programming. Their desktop computers, laptops, smart phones, iPods and iPads offer them even more choices, such as listening to music, checking email, reading blogs, “Facebooking” with their friends, playing games, or watching YouTube videos. And if consuming content didn’t offer enough choices, these same devices can also be used for the creation of content.
The choices available to modern audiences in this age of decentralized media run contrary to everything that Boomers were taught in their formative professional years. No wonder why they continuously look gift horses in the mouth.
The good news is that the Boomers are very smart. They understand change and are willing to make it if necessary. Our goal–those who understand the age of a decentralized media–is to explain the value in terms that Boomers understand. Therefore, instead of blathering on about “community,” “transparency,” and “engagement,” let’s just tell it the way it is…Communications technologies have finally advanced to the point where businesses can speak directly with their prospects and customers. Period.