Control is Yesterday’s News

Scott Robertson: Posted on Thursday, March 29, 2012 9:59 AM

Control.  It’s the central issue that drives the fear, uncertainty and doubt in all communications these days. And with good reason. You see, not long ago, many professional communicators like me believed that you could control all of the “touch points” of your brand and deliver a clear and consistent message to the marketplace which would inspire the desired behavioral response on the part of the target audience.

Man, that sounds good. I feel good just writing it.  But, the real truth is messier and well, much more real than this lovely little statement.  So much of the discussion about social media centers on a single issue expressed a multitude of ways. That issue is control.  I’ll give a few recent examples:

Employers want employees Facebook passwords, Facebook goes to court for them — control.

Experts say pinning content to Pinterest boards violates copyright laws — control.

No live tweeting from the Health Care Law case in front of the Supreme Court this week — control (masked by official policy created for the need of control).

Since I’m a bit of a disciple of Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff when it comes to social media, here’s our message to the business world: Let it go. You will get so much more in return just for letting go of your illusion of control of your brand.

Employers want employees FB passwords — you don’t need them if you a) know how to correctly set up your corporate FB presence and b) trust your employees.

Experts say pinning content to Pinterest violates copyright laws — Really?  So, then you don’t want thousands of people talking and sharing about your business. Good luck staying in business.

No live tweeting from HC Law Case from Supreme Court this week — That doesn’t seem to be stopping people from speculating about what is really going on in there.  Look at a trending feed.  The only difference is that by allowing people to tweet from inside the room, you could circulate more accurate information to the people.  I know, call me crazy.

Let me spoil the ending of the movie for you. The companies who let go of control of their brands survive and the others die. It’s not easy and it’s taken me many hours of therapy and deep breathing exercises to get out of my “control the brand” mode when it comes to social media. But it’s the only way to get what companies are truly after in the social spaces — a real two-way, honest dialogue with their audiences.

Preach it from every mountaintop to every lawyer, PR person, HR manager and old-school CEO you know. It’s a new world…and control is yesterday’s news.