Give and You Will Receive: Finding Solutions Through Collaboration.

by Dan Blank on February 13, 2009

New media and the internet have made it essential to break down barriers between your brand and your audience. Today I want to talk about breaking down barriers between employees within the same company, and how this can help your business and career. First, a story about The Clash, who are not quoted nearly enough in business books:

“About 200 people showed up at the Paramount in Seattle to see this gig and it was, simply put, mind-blowing. During the show, a big yellow-shirted security guy up front punched a fan and broke his nose. Blood was everywhere. The Clash stopped the show.”

“Bassist Paul Simonen appeared from the wings of stage right wielding a firefighter’s axe that he must have plucked from the wall. He jumped down in the pit and proceeded to chop down the wooden barrier separating the fans from the band while guitarist Joe Strummer dressed down the security gorilla and went on further to say that there was no difference between the fans and the bands…”

“We are all in this together! There is no such thing as a Rock Star, just musicians and listeners!”

Publishers are all looking for solutions. They are working harder and harder, with fewer and fewer resources to find growth in a challenging economy. And yet, in many cases, the clues to these puzzles are all around them – in the cubes and offices in their building, or their email and phone directories. You are surrounded by experts trying to solve the same problems you are.

We need to break down that cube wall between co-workers from other brands, other departments, other roles, and other places.

We are indeed, all in this together.

So here are some ideas to help you connect with those ideas, those solutions, those experts, with those folks stuffed into little gray cubes waiting for a friendly face to brighten their day.

  • Create User Groups

    Peter Welander and I were chatting about how to truly help others within RBI with their efforts to create high quality video for their websites.

    We batted around ideas like sharing links to articles and that type of thing, but came to the conclusion that links are not the answer. People need help, and the only way to do that is to sit down with them, understand their problem, share ideas, and focus on real-world, real-time solutions – not theory or debates So we came up with the idea of creating a user group – simply asking all the folks who work on creating video within RBI to meet, chat, and solve.

    Peter brought the idea to an Oak Brook editorial meeting (in itself, a great concept), and the group thought the idea had merit. 20 people have signed up so far!

    You might be surprised at how others in the company are approaching the same tasks that you are. Don’t suffer alone as you try to create a webcast strategy, work on lead generation, use web publishing tools, get started on social networking, learn SEO, or try to figure out the coffee maker in the kitchen.

    The goal is not to fill your day with company meetings – but to find immediate and measurable changes in business.

  • Connect & Follow

    Follow co-workers on Twitter. Connect with them on LinkedIn and perhaps even on Facebook. Read their websites – look deeply at their products. If they have webcasts, why not sign up for one. Get a newsletter or two. Go on vacation with them. Okay, that might be a bit too far. The point is: you are surrounded by interesting people who have a stake in your success, and you in theirs.

    Reach across the aisle. Show them you care.

    I am constantly amazed at what you can learn by doing this. That people in finance care about IT; and people in IT care about social networks; and lawyers care about blog strategy; and editors care about graphic design. These are all connections waiting to happen.

    In the past two weeks, a ton of other RBI brands and editors have started Twittering. Here’s a piece of my RBI Twitter directory, which is growing every day:

    Kids Today
    Playthings
    BuyerZone
    Furniture Today
    Publishers Weekly
    Foodservice Equipment & Supplies
    Home Accents Today
    HOTELS

    And plenty of your coworkers are joining Twitter:
    Jeff Weinstein from HOTELS
    Susan Dickenson from Home Accents Today
    Jenny Heinzen York from Home Accents Today

    Ray Allegrezza from Furniture Today
    Dana French from FT and HAT
    Cinde Ingram from Casual Living

    My Twitter article from Jan 30 has a list of more Twittering RBI brands and staffers too.

  • Share Information and Data

    Look at your web metrics. Set goals and measure results. Do this often. The next step is the tricky part – share this data. This helps to understand if your expectations are warranted, and will help create benchmarking data, which can be hard to come by.

    Let’s say three brands – let’s pick School Library Journal, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly – begin sharing a few key web performance metrics that are aligned to strategies they are testing out – think about how much more powerful that information is when you see it across three brands, three audiences, and perhaps three ways of implementing the same strategy.

    Or, if something surprises you as you comb through your own performance data, why not share that. Did you notice that you received a huge amount of traffic when you wrote an article on a particular topic – why not share that information with a sister publication?

    Likewise, if you do something else to market your content, or improve SEO, use images or videos, etc – if something works, share it. If something doesn’t work, share that too. Our failures can be our biggest lessons. Don’t fail in isolation. Prevent others from going down those dead end paths.

  • Invest $30 in Your Career

    You are surrounded by passionate experts who are trying to solve the same problems that you are. Sure, their industry might be different, their role might be different, or perhaps they part their hair on the opposite side of the head as you do. But you should be talking to these people. You should be helping these people. And you should be learning from these people. My advice:

    Take your co-workers out to lunch.

    People you don’t normally talk to. People you see just once a day in the kitchen. People above you on the food chain and people below you on the food chain. They are full of ideas, full of wisdom, and thanks to you, they could be full of food.

    There is so much talk about spending money to stimulate the economy. This is a sure-fire way to not just support local restaurants, but also invest in your goal and your future. Learn something new, help someone, and who knows, maybe they will be able to help you one day.

2009 will not be an easy year. For your brand to thrive, you need to get even closer to your customers and audience. And for you to thrive with fewer resources than you would like, you need to break down that cube wall between you and co-workers.

I’ll bookend this post with another photo of The Clash. Heather McCormack calls this shot their “classic three-pronged attack.” This is indeed a band firing on all cylinders. Businesses should strive to achieve such a moment:

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