Senior business executives' continued haphazard approach to digital communications lends significant credence to the old saying, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." After all, the present time will surely be remembered in the history books of tomorrow as an era defined by monumental change. However, executives are still heard grumbling that the powers that be in their organizations still aggressively resist...well, changing their ways to keep up. Especially in the realm of emerging digital platforms--a major driver of the current business transformation--communications professionals are among those most willing and able to adapt their approaches to be more dexterous. But obstacles remain, and often within these executives' own organizations--namely, sometimes the biggest challenge is actually getting senior management to buy in to the staying power of Web platforms, and to subsequently support digital integration throughout their companies. In fact, a 2008 survey conducted by PR News and Peppercom confirmed that the No. 1 barrier to implementing digital plans is a lack of commitment among senior management. "With talk of a recession and growing competition in the digital space, companies are increasingly concerned with building a stronger digital presence. However, they are unwilling to allocate the resources necessary to have a stronger online presence," Steve Cody, managing partner of Peppercom, says in regard to the survey findings. "Bosses, companies and the C-suite either aren't investing in digital or do not see digital as an important enough competitive advantage, despite growing awareness of the importance of digital for [stakeholder] relations." For those communications executives still struggling to get senior buy-in for digital integration initiatives, consider the following strategies. *Start internally. "Workplaces are ultimately social communities with the common purpose of business," says from Saurabh Wahi, senior vice president for DialogueMedia at MWW Group. "Integrating social and digital platforms internally can significantly boost the efficiency of communications and help create a more cohesive organization." In terms of getting senior management on board, be very up front about the benefits of internal digital integration, including: Increased innovation: "Integrating digital platforms within an organization will increase the sharing of knowledge among employees across all levels, departments and office locations," Wahi says. "As a result, companies can tap into crowd intelligence and diverse ideas." Increased productivity: "Using digital channels helps boost overall productivity by enabling employees to discover different strengths and specialties among their peers and pull together strong, balanced teams for projects," according to Wahi. "Rather than limiting the sharing of ideas to individual departments, digital channels open up the dialogue between employees with a wide range of experiences and specialty areas." Better retention: "Digital platforms assist in the retention of employees by encouraging dialogue around the positive initiatives of an organization," Wahi says. *Think objectively. You've heard it time and time again, but it is crucial that you identify the objectives of integrating digital platforms into the overall strategy before approaching senior management with the idea. "The most important step is to identify the key objectives of the company and align a digital strategy to support these objectives as closely as possible," Wahi says. "It's also essential to incorporate some metrics to gauge success." These are the considerations that will help answer the C-suite's questions about the benefits of digital integration. *Show exactly who will be involved, and how that involvement will unfold. Digital communications channels are all about fostering collaboration among different audiences and stakeholders. Use this to your advantage when approaching senior management with specific digital initiatives by giving a detailed outline of who will develop and implement the online strategies (internal stakeholders), who will participate (internal and external stakeholders) and how that participation will benefit the company. Specifically with regard to internal stakeholders' roles, Wahi says, "It's important to the enlist the collaboration of divisional heads, senior management and employee representatives in developing a digital strategy. By ensuring their involvement in the planning stages of a digital platform, you'll lay the groundwork for greater participation from their divisions once you're ready to launch." *Demonstrate the hypothetical process of digital integration one step at a time. Based on senior management's tendency to be risk-averse, achieving their support for Web 2.0 initiatives is easier if you do their job for them--that is, if you show how each phase of the digital integration process will unfold, along with potential challenges and your solution to overcoming them. *Show the cost of not going digital. It may sound like a last resort, but few arguments are more compelling than one based on survival. There is no shortage of examples of companies that stuck their proverbial heads in the sand regarding digital matters, only to be devastated as a result, either in terms of reputational damages or bottom-line losses. Plus, remind executives that approaches they once thought were unnecessary have since been adopted, and to good effect. "Years ago, businesses felt the pain of rapidly changing technology," according to Cody. "They have adapted to this thanks to best practices and IT teams that more actively support the needs of the business. The new challenge digital media presents can be solved in a similar way. Learn from the mistakes--and capitalize on the success--of others in the space." PRN CONTACTS: Saurabh Wahi, firstname.lastname@example.org; Steve Cody, email@example.com Raising The Red Flag Digital integration is a necessary approach to all business communications, but the best place to begin incorporating Web strategies is inside the organization. But just because it's the right (and only) thing to do to remain competitive, challenges still abound. Saurabh Wahi, senior vice president for DialogueMedia at MWW Group, offers these caveats to consider before beginning the process of digital integration: Manage your expectations. "Don't expect overwhelming participation from day one. Instead, plan on proactively merchandising the benefits and successes of an internal platform consistently for several weeks before employees truly embrace the value of the system." Protect your assets. "Anytime information is aggregated in one central space, it is important to identify the security risks associated with the platform," Wahi says. "Also be sure to develop a clear and concise set of guidelines regarding what employees can and cannot do with shared information. Employees must be made aware of these guidelines so that they are comfortable participating in a digital channel and feel secure about sharing their information." Don't apply pressure. "Lead by example and incentivize participation instead of forcing it," Wahi advises. "When beginning the process of digital integration, companies should encourage internal use rather than requiring it. If vice presidents and managers are actively using digital channels to communicate, others at the organization will feel more encouraged to participate. On the contrary, if no one at the senior level is embracing digital platforms, employees may see them as useless and not aligned to the organization's goals."
Selling Idea of Digital Integration to Risk-Averse Senior Execs
You might also be interested in: