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Today is a special day for all of us at Bridging Two Worlds (B2W). While the QUAY and AHA teams have been working together for quite some time now, today is the “official” launch day for B2W. My blog posting for today is a bit longer than usual, but since it is Launch Day, I thought it might be ok.

The online world is busy. While the whole team is online regularly and are always checking things out, I think it is safe to say that I am probably the most obsessed with it all. (Although I do have to tell you that Della Smith from QUAY is a close second!) I think that B2W brings something unique to the marketplace, and that is strategy. The online world is pretty young (someone said that the Internet that we, as the public know it, is only about 5000 days old…) and I think one of the key components that has been missing is a strategic approach to communication online. B2W does that. We understand both the online and “real” world and we know that without a strategy that bridges the two, then it’s just a series of tactics. There is both great opportunity and great risk online. It’s an exciting time to be a communicator and I know that our clients will benefit from our expertise. We’re not new to strategic communication or to the online world. That’s a powerful and valuable combination.

I have been online for more than a decade. As a matter of fact, I can remember as a senior associate at QUAY (I worked with Della and Patsy for a little over two years in the mid-90s), being the instigator of email and a website for the organization. At that time, not everyone was buying into the whole website thing, but they did. I don’t think any of us knew how or when, but we knew things were changing. They “got it” then and they “get it” now.

I was also fortunate enough to work as Communications Director at Vancouver Film School (VFS). I helped to launch their new media program (it has since been split up into several programs including digital design, sound design and I think most of their programs include some element of online media) and through VFS, I got to meet – and have stayed connected – with some of the Web’s best and brightest.

With all of the influence of smart, forward-thinking people, I couldn’t help but be interested in what the online world would become and how it would impact how the world communicates, professionally and personally. I have been online checking things out, seeing what works and what doesn’t, searching out best practices and watching as organizations wade through online media with some successes and some failures.

Years ago, we made a strategic decision NOT to become active online, but to be observers, listeners, researchers – lurkers (that’s the online term for someone like me who hangs around checking things out, but doesn’t participate). Don’t get me wrong, as soon as something new comes along, I am an early adopter, I sign up, I log in, I beta test. We should all take the time to check things out, to try new things, but my role is to see how others use new technology and opportunities. Through all of the new tools and the bells and whistles and the rapid pace of change in technology…one thing remains constant. People want to have a conversation. They want to participate and engage and connect. Organizations have a huge opportunity to reach out and extend their communities right now. They are also facing a huge threat – no longer does the organization control the message or their own brand. That’s now in the hands of the people that are online.

With the click of a mouse, you can reach out to the world with good news or bad. Individuals and groups now have a voice and they are making it clear that they are ready to talk. Our role is to help our clients to understand the online world and how it can fit into their overall strategy, to help them strategically bridge the two worlds.

It will be interesting to see what the next 5000 days will bring.

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The airlines are in trouble – we all know that. Well, maybe not Southwest – who have a great blog and seem to keep their passengers if not insanely happy, at least not screaming in the aisles like most other airlines. Now, United Airlines pilots are using social media tools to air their issues and demand the removal of UAL Chairman, President and CEO Glen Tilton.

They got the right url glentilton.com  and on this site, there is media coverage, reports and the opinions of the pilots themselves. They want Glen Tilton out and they are telling the public why.

From what I can see, no one from United Airlines is responding to this website or acknowledging the issues that the pilots are putting forward, at least not publicly. This is one of the challenges of social media, when something like this happens – what do you do?

I have to be clear that I do not know the entire story from both sides. I only know what I have read and seen in the media and what this website tells me. Which, I think is a perspective that United Airlines might be missing. They may have done a great deal to work things out with the pilots, but I don’t know that, as they aren’t telling us anything.

They may be in talks with the pilots right now. For all I know, the board of directors may be asking for Glen Tilton’s resignation as I write this. That’s the problem — no one from inside the organization is letting us know what is going on.

What if they did? What if they publicly announced that they were going to hold town hall meetings and that they were going to tape them and put them up on their intranet for employees who could not be there in person? What if they reached out to some of the pilots and and set up live panel discussions that were webcast so anyone in the company could watch the senior executive and the pilots have open, respectful and authentic discussions on what can be done to bring the two sides together? None of this would be available to anyone but employees, but what if they told the public that they were doing this … I know I would have a better perception of the people running the company.

From my perspective, United Airlines needs to wake up and smell the coffee (which is one of the few items you are not yet charged for on an airplane). The pilots have gone social media on them, they have opened their problems to the whole world. Shutting their C-Suite doors and pretending it isn’t happening, won’t do them any good.

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The New Rules of Marketing & PR is a book worth reading. It’s by David Meerman Scott…you can check out his blog here.

I was reminded of David’s work in a blog post by my friends at Beaupre. As communicators, we have this great opportunity to speak with people … news releases aren’t read just by the media anymore. On a global level, people are using search engines like Google to find the information they want and need. And – when they are searching online, it’s our job to give them what they need. Visuals – images, video, links to other information and — no more industry jargon. It’s a great time to be in this job — we get to have open, real, authentic conversations with real people. It’s exciting. And I can see how it can be scary, too. Change usually is. Do yourself a favour, buy the New Rules of Marketing & PR and read it … it will open your mind to a whole new way of doing business.

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