From symbols to smoke signs, people have unearthed better ways to communicate. I’m convinced that the motivation for this was either love or perhaps a very capitalistic-minded soul looking to make a quick buck on some new innovation…most likely the wheel. From petroglyphs to Pinterest how much have we really evolved?

McKinsey & Company recently released a report entitled, “Building the social enterprise.” Its authors steadfastly believe that leaders can realize the vast potential of social technologies to engage employees and transform organizations. In 2012, the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that $900 billion to $1.3 trillion in annual value could be unlocked in just four sectors (consumer packaged goods, consumer financial services, professional services, and advanced manufacturing) by products and services that enable social interactions in the digital realm.

We don’t have to look back that far to see early signs of the adoption of social technologies in public relations, perhaps as a precursor to the enterprise business discussion. When LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook arrived on the scene the bandwagons’ name was SEO and everyone—well, almost everyone jumped in, on and some hurdled themselves toward it like Detroit Lion’s Ndamukong Suh at Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers. Now the name of the game is content marketing. But really, at the end of the game, isn’t it all about interesting storytelling, shifting light upon something and offering a new perspective?

The McKinsey report outlined its advice to encourage the enterprise to embrace social networking. Their advice mirrors the same counsel we give Airfoil’s valued clients and—amazingly the concepts that enable us to understand communications from thousands of years ago.


Add value, not complexity

When you think of the first cave drawings, the one in your head is likely that of a human killing a herd of animals. You get it. It’s remarkably simple. You understand the bow is used to kill the animals. Easy. The same is true with good PR and great communications across the enterprise. Working with a trusted team of advisors to create clear messages with the right delivery and timing on the most appropriate channels creates clarity and removes the barriers of complexity.

Provide essential organizational support
Kim K Selfie

When sending smoke signals, you need someone to help make the fire, watch the flames, wave the cloth and make sure the signal was as clear as possible. With a good PR strategy you need a team that can offer you an outside perspective beyond your organization and perhaps even beyond your business area to identify trends and new opportunities. Likewise, within the enterprise, it only makes sense to have organizational policies, standards and norms in place, lest some well-intentioned intern post an overly revealing selfie.

Experiment and learn

As with any field that creates a new relationship, you have to figure out what works. This principle holds true for engineering, chemistry, public relations and yes—as it turns out enterprise business. As in PR, we took risks with social media, scraped a few knees, but recovered, dominated and claimed our stake in the game. Business enterprise can learn from PR’s experience—embrace risk; trust that social technology has risks coupled with tremendous benefits.

Track impact and evolve metrics

Metrics matter. How else do you really know your communication is effective?  PR has learned this lesson and it’s still evolving. Simple advice, but amazingly more tricky than it sounds. Which metrics most matter to your business or endeavor? Do you measure by profits, by interest, by clicks?

As with any communication effort you need trusted team members who are willing and eager to partner with you to tell your story in a truthful, meaningful and resonating way that sparks interest, intrigues minds and engages.


JT2Janet Tyler is the Co-CEO of Airfoil, an integrated marketing communications firm with offices in Silicon Valley, Detroit, London and Hong Kong. Follow Janet on Twitter: @Janet_Tyler