Chuck Gose: I’m going to let you in on a little secret. When I do Chuck Chats, I always start with the same song in the background to get my creative juices flowing. Care to guess which song?
Carrie Basham Young: Hmmmm.
Don’t Stop Believin’? The Rocky Theme Song? Chariots of Fire?
Just kidding. I have no idea!
CG: I’m not hating the Rocky theme song idea but it’s Let’s Go Crazy by Prince. RIP.
CG: You speak at a lot of events, create a lot of content… what do you do to inspire creativity?
CY: Whenever I’m putting together a presentation - whether it’s in a document or speaking without visuals, I remind myself to be authentic and not worry about what others think.
Being creative is so easily stifled when you worry about the perception of others. Saying whatever is in my head, or putting whatever creative image on paper that speaks to me - that helps me deliver the best message possible.
CG: Communicators seem especially worried about what others think - looking to appease the masses, rather than excite or delight the few.
What would you say to a communicator who is risk averse?
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"One small idea, one tiny change, replicated and built upon over and over, is the right way to bring comfort to an organization (or individual communicator) who is worried about rocking the boat."
CY: Small steps toward more exciting, open, people-focused communication are ok. You don’t have to make massive changes overnight. I think that one small idea, one tiny change, replicated and built upon over and over, is the right way to bring comfort to an organization (or individual communicator) who is worried about rocking the boat.
CG: Can you think of an example of where one small idea started a ripple inside an organization?
CY: Several years ago, a really large organization that I was supporting in their enterprise social networking program had a new C-level executive who refused to participate.
He thought it was unnecessary and a place for “others” to communicate. It took months to convince him to just log in occasionally over a 3-month period, “like” a few items, and comment to provide recognition for employees.
He did this for a few weeks, he was hooked, and he quickly became a significant influencer in the network.
CG: Why do you think leaders are apprehensive about being active in an ESN?
CY: I think the most typical concern is that they don’t have time. I think they see the value, but they don’t realize that their own participation has such wide-reaching effects. They need to make the time, even if it’s just to browse.
CG: Are you up for my “I don’t have time” rant?
CY: Sure! As long as you play the Rocky theme song in the background.
CG: Okay, here we go: I have a love/hate relationship with the “I don’t have time” rant.
Everybody has time. In fact, they have the exact same amount of time. It’s just what you choose to do with your time.
When people say “I don’t have time,” what they’re saying is, “I’d rather do something else with my time” or “I don’t think this isn’t as important as other things I’m doing.” It’s tiring.
CY: I hear you. The time is there. Granted, executives do have a lot of things on their plate, but when I hear that they’re spending too much of their time sending emails or sitting in meetings, I can’t help but think that just a few minutes taken from those activities and spent in the community instead would have such an impact.
It’s not a time thing.
If my math is correct, you started Talk Social To Me four years ago. What was the motivation behind going out on your own?
CY: The tech startup in the ESN space that I helped build, Socialcast, was acquired in 2011 by VMware. A few years after acquisition, when I was working on flex time while taking care of my young son, they laid me off.
Out of the blue.
It was an incredible shock - this was a company that I had poured my life into for years. I didn’t have much time to make a decision about what to do next, and I loved working with communities. I started Talk Social to Me a few months after that and haven’t looked back.
"They laid me off. Out of the blue. It was an incredible shock - this was a company that I had poured my life into for years...It's taken nearly 4 years to be able to share that peice of my story openly."
CG: Earlier you mentioned the importance of being authentic. I think being open and honest is even more important. Most of us have been laid off or fired, justly or unjustly, at some point in our careers and sharing that helps others.
CY: It’s taken nearly 4 years to be able to share that piece of my story openly. There’s a lot of shame around being let go. I don’t want to romanticize it and make a blanket statement that “it’s always going to be ok!” to people who lose their jobs.
But I do think that opportunity comes from moments of hardship.
CG: And out of this came Talk Social to Me. What’s some of the work you do?
CY: We focus on two key areas.
The first is providing community management and community coaching to clients who are deploying their enterprise social networks. We have a pretty good process for both launching and supporting groups, teams, and leaders as they learn to bring their work into the community.
The second is our channel strategy work. This is where we help companies figure out the cultural and technological areas of improvement based on employee interviews and business needs.
CG: I don’t think a lot of internal communicators really know what community management is. Define that for us.
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"Community management is the art and science of making your enterprise social networking valuable for all users, and for the company as a whole."
CY: Community management is the art and science of making your enterprise social networking valuable for all users, and for the company as a whole. It’s the day to day tactical work that drives engagement, coupled with the strategic work of ensuring the organization uses the ESN to its maximum potential.
CG: When you interview employees, what are some common sentiments you hear from them?
CY: Every company is different, but some of the most common across-the-board themes are:
- Executives don’t understand what it’s like to be me; and
- My local/site/team leader is my most trusted source of information - NOT HQ/Corporate.
CG: And then what do you do with that feedback?
CY: We ask for examples, and we aggregate direct quotes (anonymized, of course) into thematic areas that are then presented to the executive team. We tie these into industry trends and examples of other organizations who have experienced similar challenges.
The quotes are really the most impactful piece of data for the executives. Their eyes are usually wide open at this point. :)
CG: You write a lot about collaboration. In your opinion, is this something that should be “owned” by communicators?
CY: IT should “own” the technology. And communicators should “own” the responsibility of highlighting information, successes, ideas, and other content that is posted into these toolsets. Both IT and Comms need to own the education aspect of how to be collaborative in the workplace.
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"We are constantly putting together what we affectionately call “Kumbaya sessions” between IT and Comms. They really are better together, like peanut butter and chocolate."
CG: So you’re saying IT and comms should collaborate on collaboration?
CY: YES! And they often don’t, because I guess some people like fiefdoms?
CG: I’ve never understood why comms likes to blame IT as a scapegoat for things going wrong. It seems like the two groups are perfect for working together.
CY: At Talk Social to Me, we are constantly putting together what we affectionately call “Kumbaya sessions” between IT and Comms. They really are better together, like peanut butter and chocolate.
CG: Now I’m imagining a great IT/Comms video showing the departments doing trust falls and stuff like that.
CY: That would be amazing.
CG: What would you recommend communicators do if they don’t “own” collaboration but if they want to encourage or structure more of it inside their company?
CY: This goes back to the “small changes” discussion we had earlier. Start by supporting teams and groups who want to collaborate better. Coach them on how to bring their work into an open, social realm. As you help pockets of people do this, over time, you can help build out a more broad program. But you have to start somewhere.
CG: Sounds like some “work out loud” stuff is going on here, too.
"Narrating your own work is a fantastic way to model the right kind of behavior."
CY: Exactly. Narrating your own work is a fantastic way to model the right kind of behavior.
CG: “Narrating your own work.” I like that. My go-to is “Communicators don’t have a content problem - they have a context problem.” What do you think about that?
CY: I both agree and disagree at the same time. Sometimes they DO have a content problem - usually when a C-level wants Comms to be a mouthpiece for whatever the exec wants to say. It puts the communicator in a bad position.
CG: First smiley faces. And now disagreeing with me. You’re really stretching the rules of Chuck Chats.
CY: What can I say? I’m a rebel.
CG: Let’s bring it all back in now.
Talk Social to Me isn’t just you. How many people are part of the company?
CY: Right now we have 5 main folks who are doing day-to-day community management, plus another 3-4 doing marketing, PR, and other associated work.
CG: That’s amazing. When you started did you have any idea you’d grow beyond you? Was that the plan?
CY: The plan was really nebulous until a year ago. I brought on one other person last year to support a strategic account, and then realized that there was a really big opportunity in the market to bring community management to a wider audience. So we went on a hiring frenzy and grew to our current size early this year. We’re still growing (shameless plug: we’re hiring community managers right now).
CG: Nothing shameless about letting people know about opportunities. What does the future of Talk Social to Me look like?
CY: Eventually it’s world domination, but that’s a ways out in the future. I anticipate rapid growth over the next 24 months. The employee community space is HOT right now.
CG: Anything short of world domination and you’re just wasting everybody’s time, so that makes sense.
We’re going to wrap up the way we always do. Describe your thoughts about internal communication via emoji.
CG: Thanks for being on Chuck Chats!
CY: Thanks for having me!