In any consulting project, there needs to be a discovery phase. This is basically a time to gather as much intelligence about the organization as possible i.e. structure, historical insights, marketing and business objectives, etc. This will also involve interviews with key stakeholders, customers and partners in order to best understand the organizational culture, communication workflows, collaboration platforms and other relevant information that will help gather clarity about the business.
In the above example, there are two core issues at hand – the absence of a social media policy and internal teams not communicating. This could potentially result in two parallel work streams happening simultaneously.
This phase is by far the most important of the five. There will be push back and conflict is unavoidable, because change is difficult. It is uncomfortable. It is during this phase that that the consultant must earn the trust and respect of each stakeholder within the organization. This involves listening with empathy, and not making any judgments about the organization, its culture and/or processes.
The ability to tell stories and selling in ideas is just as critical. This requires a consultant to have people skills necessary to quickly establish rapport, develop a connection, listen without prejudice and quickly develop trust. Quite simply, people skills like this encompass the ability to interact with others in a manner that makes them feel comfortable and secure, where they know their opinions matter.
2. Situation Analysis
A situation analysis is a method used to analyze both the internal and external business climate of any organization in order to better understand the firm’s organizational and functional capabilities, customers and the general business landscape. According to the American Marketing Association, a situation analysis is “the systematic collection and study of past and present data to identify trends, forces, and conditions with the potential to influence the performance of the business and the choice of appropriate strategies.” This could very well include the 5Cs Analysis, the traditional SWOT analysis, Porter five forces analysis or a combination of all three.
In this example, an in depth analysis of the firm’s social media channels will be required. This if often referred to as a conversation audit (or social audit) and will include a close examination of each channel to determine:
type of content shared
frequency of content shared
size and growth rate of community
community activity (are they engaged?)
Also, it will be extremely important to find out “who” within the organization owns each of these external communities. Not always that easy in large, global firms. A solid understanding of how these teams communicate is also important to better understand the culture i.e. frequency of meetings, agenda items, technology used, etc.
In parallel, an analysis of employees’ social media accounts will be in order. This will determine a) what needs to be addressed in the social media policy and b) the training curriculum and certification for employees before they are unleashed on the intrawebs.
The planning phase is where the real work will start. In some cases, this will include a set of recommendations, for example, shutting down certain social channels where the concept of “community” is non-existent, no internal community manager (owner), duplicated community or an unclear content strategy.
In the above example, much of the planning could involve the following:
Working with internal teams such as marketing, support, legal, human resources (and in some cases employees that are already active in social channels) to co-create a social media policy
Social Media Training curriculum development, delivery method, technology platform recommendations and implementation plan
Content strategy (type of content, frequency, day parting, moderation): this may also include how content is created, curated, aggregated, managed and stored internally between cross functional and global teams
Escalation workflow, specifically for customer support issues and crisis management
The establishment of a collaboration architecture: identification of key stakeholders with clearly defined roles, collaboration method, technology recommendation
Creative development of a global Facebook architecture, if applicable
Planning deliverables will usually be in the form of a PowerPoint presentation, unfortunately.
Much of the implementation phase will be dependent on the outcomes of the planning. For instance, once the social media policy is finalized it will be important to evangelize and share the policy internally. This would have to be done with sensitivity and empathy, ensuring that the establishment of a social media policy is not perceived as a “big brother” type of initiative.
Additionally, once the training curriculum has been approved by the clients, a roll out implementation plan would be the next step. This could be done by job function, region or department. Technology deployment will also play a critical role assuming there is an online learning component to the training.
Implementing and executing a more cohesive, meaningful and relevant content strategy would be an integral part of this phase. Depending on the agreement, execution could be done either by the consulting agency (if they have the capability) or through internal marketing and community management teams. In either case, much of this phase will rest upon the development of a consistent measurement framework across the entire organization.
The most difficult and often neglected step in the consulting process is measurement. Many times, when a project is successful, stakeholders in the organization are inclined to celebrate their successes and exaggerate its accomplishments. If it fails, the same stakeholders often run for cover and assign the blame to someone else, including the consultant.
It’s undoubtedly difficult to measure some projects, especially the ones that involve behavior change. In the above example, however, measurement can be attributed to whether a project was completed (i.e. social media policy documented, published and shared) or quantifying the number of employees in the organization that completed the training. A parallel measurement framework must be established to measure the effectiveness of the content strategy. This may or may not be the responsibility of the consultant, depending on the terms of the contract.
The other difficulty with measurement is accountability. True organizational and behavior change cannot be held over a consultant’s head. Company leadership is ultimately responsible for driving this change. It’s the consultant’s job t0 facilitate the change.
That being said, most measurement questions will revolve around the following:
How has this project impacted the organization? Are behaviors beginning to change? Are employees following process?
What has changed externally as a result of this project?
What have we learned from this project?
The most important element of this phase is coming to a mutual agreement very early on with the client about what will be measured and what success will look like. And that conversation should happen on day one.