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SXSurrogates – “Open Communication” at its best #icsx

Today I went to a great panel with Charlene Li about open leadership. Li is the author of “Groundswell” which premise says (lifted directly from her site), “Right now, your customers are writing about your products on blogs and re-cutting your commercials on YouTube. They’re defining you on Wikipedia and ganging up on you in social networking sites like Facebook. These are all elements of a social phenomenon — the groundswell — that has created a permanent, long-lasting shift in the way the world works.”


Being on the Communications team at GSD&M, and managing our internal communications, I had some really great insights from this session applicable to my gig. The key takeaway: there is a reputation online about your company being defined each minute – whether you are selling a product, lifestyle or are providing a service. You can engage and be part of that story, or you can let others write it for you. And from that takeaway, I want to talk about why the SXSurrogates program is a great testament to open communications.

Li mentioned the spectrum of being open and closed:

– Explaining

– Updating

– Conversing

– Open Mic

– Crowd Sourcing

– Platform

The SXSurrogates program represents a new, big step in open communication for the agency. GSD&M has moved beyond just the internal communications “person” – aggregating where emails come from, or working with IT to add various helpful tools to CityNet. (That’s explaining, updating and conversing in Li’s spectrum.) We’ve even moved beyond the agency having a social media presence where we talk to potential candidates and share information about what goes on behind the scenes of our company. (That’s along Li’s lines of open mic and crowdsourcing.)

Through the SXSurrogates program, 35 people have become a voice for our agency during SXSW. We created a platform and let our greatest asset – our people – do the work. 35 people running around the conference center experiencing SXSWi on your behalf? That is open communications in action and at its best.

For me, as I head back to my desk on Wednesday the 17th, I want to figure out how to continue to harness the excitement and participation our people have had during SXSW and the SXSurrogates initiative. It has been for me, in my career, a really great learning experience. I can only hope that we can keep the “platform” going in new and interesting ways beyond SXSW and reach beyond the 35 to everyone that makes the agency so great.

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