Trisha: I used to work for Best Buy many years ago (big surprise, in the Computers department), and as an employee I felt they had a lot of personality – but it’s hard to tell from the outside.
How does internal culture weigh up against external personality in terms of importance?
Rohit: You bring up a great point in your example of Best Buy of companies that focus on the internal culture but don’t necessarily translate that to what their customers see.
The unfortunate truth is that most companies are in one category or another.
They either focus on internal training and retention – and do a great job there, but don’t do enough to transfer that voice to external communications … or the opposite situation. Ultimately, I don’t think you can pick one as more important – but try to work towards becoming more evenly balanced.
Trisha: How can a company encourage their culture to “leak” out?
Rohit: Seems like you anticipated my answer to the first question!
One easy thing companies could start to do is make some of the methods that they use to collaborate or communicate internally visible to their customers. This could involve something as simple as migrating an internal blog to an external one … or a more concentrated effort to encourage employees to share the facts about what their jobs and company is like.
It is amazing what you can get employees to do if you just help them have a story to tell, and ask them to share it.
Trisha: You tend to use “my book” instead of “this book” (I’m an ENFJ, sorry). What is your reasoning for that?
Rohit: You’re right – and it is something I thought about. The traditional way would be to have it all in the third person, but as you already uncovered, I prefer to have a more individual voice.
This is something I struggled with on my blog, but decided that it was more authentic if I used the word “I” and wrote from my point of view. That was a decision I decided to carry through to the book.
Trisha: What are some of the most disastrous personality campaigns you have come across?
Rohit: Interesting question, but I’m not sure that I could point to a whole lot of efforts as a “personality campaign.”
The one thing that does come to mind was the whole video series that Agency.com did for the Subway Pitch. That was a lame attempt to demonstrate the personality of their agency that failed miserably and led to employees leaving and public ridicule. In the end, it comes down to authenticity as a part of personality.
The video failed because it was pretending to be authentic and came across as anything but.
Trisha: Are there any rules of thumb for avoiding big personality mistakes?
Rohit: I think I started to answer this at the end of the last question. Authenticity is key … the other big thing to avoid is falling into the trap of giving up control.
One counterintuitive piece of advice I share in the book is that giving up control is the type of advice overpaid marketing consultants provide because it’s popular, but it’s not right.
The real trick is to learn how to share control with your customers. This is about engagement and conversation. It is not about throwing up your hands and letting consumers say what they say without engaging them.
Perhaps the better description is to get away from the idea of control altogether.
Trisha: You’re widely regarded as the man who coined “Social Media.” How did you get into doing this – was your career wholly methodical, or a series of open doors when opportunity knocked?
Rohit: Wow, I think you might be giving me too much credit with this one! I think you are probably referring to “social media optimization” – which was a term I introduced on my blog which has rocketed through the search marketing industry …
Either way, your question about whether my career has been methodical … I think it definitely hasn’t.
In fact, anyone who tells you that they have had a five or ten year plan and are sticking to it perfectly is either a complete liar or someone without much motivation or ambition.
The best careers are the ones where you do take the chances when opportunity knocks. I moved to Australia when I was in my late 20s because I wanted to have an adventure and found a job afterwards. It turned out to be one of my best career moves.
I think if you keep an open mind and be flexible, you will have far greater success in your career than if you seek that one perfect role and avoid taking risks along the way.