Arthur W. Page Society

New book by Paul Argenti and Courtney Barnes provides a digital compass for the Web 2.0 world

Paul Argenti and Courtney Barnes' new book, Digital Strategies for Powerful Corporate Communications, is an insightful and practical compass for communicators and brand stewards, navigating the new ocean of globally distributed information, expertise and relationships.

In fact, their book is a how-to for one of the major recommendations of the Arthur W. Page Society's Authentic Enterprise paper – that the Chief Communications Officer must "enable the enterprise with 'new media' skills and tools."

As the Page Society paper argues – and as Argenti and Barnes explore in depth – this is not just about playing defense in a Web 2.0 world. It's about playing offense. That way, when a digital crisis emerges, you will be in a much better position to shape the conversation and turn crises into an "authentic" moment for your company.

Of course, this may not be easy for some organizations – and some professions – to accept. I recently had the privilege of presenting to a roomful of about 70 lawyers from companies in just about every industry. The topic was the new opportunities and threats posed by the rise of social media sites like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and the hundreds of others popping up on the Web on a monthly basis.

The group immediately jumped to all the things that can go awry when employees start stirring it up in the global conversation we sometimes call Web 2.0. From misrepresenting the company and the brand, to divulging confidential information or IP, to simple bad behavior: It is a world familiar to communicators who have to deal with these issues in the physical world, but one which is magnified by the rapid spread and permanent record of the digital world.

Without question, these concerns are serious. As I was preparing for the session, I read about dozens of examples of companies getting burned by everything from embarrassing actions of employees, to a CEO posing under a pseudonym - simultaneously talking down his competitors while even complimenting his own haircut – to the digital equivalent of “foot-in-mouth" caused by Twitter posts that can't be taken back, sometimes damaging relationships with clients or ruining job offers. As one blogger put it: "Destroying your brand in 140 words or less."

But for all these threats, we cannot escape from what is a fundamental new reality for all businesses. We are not going back to the old world; this genie is not going back in the bottle. And it is challenging long-held beliefs about marketing and communications. The threats and exposures certainly have to be managed. But for enlightened businesses, they will see it as opportunity that can both strengthen the brand and provide business value.

Paul and Courtney put it very succinctly in their book:

"Essential to massaging danger into opportunity is the willingness of corporate leaders to hold -- and not bite - the hand that feeds them. Stakeholders are already online, and they are starting -- and extinguishing - fires for organizations across every industry. Executives fail to accept the power of digital communications at their own risk, and those who do accept it prosper. Fortune favors the bold."

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