winning over executives to social media marketing

Image by Macwegen

Image by Macwagen

Chelpixie at Vibemetrix just linked on Twitter to a great post about how to talk to your CEO about “21st Century Marketing.”

(She’s been linking to some great articles and resources lately, even more so than usual. If you don’t follow her on Twitter, and you like this sort of thing, consider giving her a follow.)

There’s some very insightful stuff here, but what really got my attention was this last bit:

Extra tip: I have found that having executives read the book “The New Rules of Marketing and PR” can be helpful.  Sometimes CEOs just need an established author to tell them something, rather than an employee.

This is something that resonates strongly with me, and with many of my friends that I have spoken with over the last few years.  We have all had similar struggles to win over our respective nonprofit senior executives and boards to using the tools of the new marketing as part of an organization’s communications strategy.

It’s a common lament: I proposed we (insert social media initiative here) months ago, and got shot down. Now I hear that they read a book/read an article/heard from an executive-level peer about (insert identical social media initiative here) and now they wonder why we aren’t doing that.

It’s frustrating.

It can be hard to be heard when you’re an employee, especially when you are an employee recommending something new and untested (from their point of view).

That’s why it’s so important to arm yourself with as much quantifiable data as possible — to be able to speak the language of business, understand how they expect to see things planned, measured, tracked, and reflected in the bottom line.

And, once you have gathered all this information and presented it in the most persuasive, compelling way you possibly can, accept the fact that people need to hear things like this from an authoritative source.  A source that they consider to be authoritative.  And that isn’t necessarily you.

So arm yourself with a bibliography of articles from the newspapers and magazines they read, if you can.  Find out what kinds of books they read, and see if you can find a slim volume to recommend like the one above.

But when choosing your references, remember that the credibility of the authors is in the eye of the beholder.  Choose authors with credentials that your target (the person you are trying to convince) will find compelling and authoritative.  Know your audience.  Do they prize Ivy League credentials? Journalistic chops? Forbes 500 leadership experience? Best-seller status?

And don’t forget the power of peer recommendation.  Is a similar organization doing something like what you’re proposing? Is your executive friends with their executive? Find out who they have lunch with, whose opinion they value, and maybe plant a seed or two (“Why don’t you ask so-and-so about how their blog is coming?”).

If they hear about it from somebody they trust, it only increases your own validity, and strengthens your argument.

Tailor your chosen authoritative source to the needs of the audience.  And understand that it probably isn’t you.

No offense.

What authoritative sources have you found to be helpful in winning over executives and decision makers?

(ed. Here’s a list of new marketing books from Mitch Joel’s blog, Six Pixels of Separation, from a few months back. What are your picks?)

5 Thoughts.

  1. Thanks Beth! I’m really glad to hear that my recent tweets have been helpful to others and inspiring.

    It would be great if our bosses had the same belief in us as employees as they do in best selling authors and journalists. I wonder how many CEOs saw Rick from CNN using Twitter and *then* decided it’s something they should be into. I’d love to hear that story.

    The tactic you recommend here makes sense. Arm yourself with data that goes beyond appealing to YOU and choosing for appealing to the man in charge. Which depending on how well you know your boss can be difficult to do but making sure you have something to back up your excitement is important. Also having something other to say than “but it’s so cool/shiny!” (hat tip @lgoulding) will give you a better chance of being convincing.

    Find out what the end game is for your company and show how using social media can make that happen in business terms. It may not cinch the deal until they hear the respected voice but at least you can plant the idea now.

  2. Terrific advice Beth, and thanks for mentioning my book. Others have told me that having executives read it helps.

    Another thing I do is ask them how they research products and services and solve problems. Direct mail? (no) Tradeshows? )no) Google? (yes). Turns out executives are no different – they go to Google first. So that is helpful to point out and then say “well, we need to be doing these things so we are found by Google.”

    Take care, David

  3. David’s book is great and I’m finding that Groundswell is also really helpful in getting people take a second look (or perhaps a more serious first look) at social media. I’ve had several meetings in just the last two months that were direct results of people reading Groundswell and then emailing me saying, “ok, it’s time to meet again.”

  4. Thanks for mentioning the WeAreMedia ROI/metrics resources for nonprofits. In addition, here’s a whole other wiki on social media metrics with additional references.

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