How to Be Social

Every communicator – and every leader – has to be social.

It’s not a matter of IF you’re going to engage with social media, but of HOW.

To be effective, to be relevant and to have influence, you need a personal social strategy. Just as organizations need a social strategy.

And while your personal strategy is just that, by linking it with your company’s efforts you’ll maximize the impacts.

“Learn by doing” is a great guiding philosophy.

One of my superstar team members, Tyler Jacobson, shared this with me when my family made a college visit to his alma mater, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Students were involved in hands-on learning in whatever department we went to on campus, from agriculture to engineering and from business to communications.

It’s the same with social media. What you learn by doing in your own social involvement you can apply at your company. And you can teach others from your experience. Learning is the main reason I started this blog.

Begin with your company’s social media policy to learn the rules of the road. My comms team is responsible for company policies. So with leadership from Michael Ambrozewicz on my team, we created the company’s first social media policy a few years ago, collaborating with key stakeholders.

And we made sure to comply with the National Labor Relations Act‘s protection of the rights of employees to act together to address conditions at work.

It’s important to disclose your affiliation with your company, make it clear you aren’t an official spokesperson (unless of course, you are), and state that your opinions are your own.

Being “light, bright and polite” is a good idea. I realized I was following this mantra myself when Josh Ochs spoke to parents at our local high school this week about helping students engage appropriately with social media.

As a side note, this is an example of how I try to integrate my work life and my personal life, rather than attempt the impossible feat of balancing them. I think about how I can apply something I learned at work at home, and vice versa.

Another great speaker at my daughter’s high school this month was Tyler Durman. Although he spoke about parenting teens, his advice applied to any relationship.

He reminded me that when you want to build rapport, negotiate or solve a problem with someone, sit next to them rather than across from them. This validated a great research-based Harvard Business Review blog on presenting effectively to a small audience.

Everything interconnects. And it’s the same with social media.

In our community we’re blessed with great public and private schools. A few years ago I served as a trustee on the Peninsula Education Foundation, where we raise money for our public schools.

When our president asked me to spearhead the creation of a new strategic plan, I learned by doing. I put into practice my grad school study of Michael Porter and what I was learning in a McKinsey-led “Strategy 101” course at DIRECTV.

A key question from the course was, “what problem are you trying to solve?”

This can be the guiding principle to create and evolve a social strategy.

Some of the “problems” I’ve been solving through social media involvement are:

How do I . . .

  • Advise our CEO on launching a blog?
  • Find great speakers for leadership gatherings?
  • Help tell our corporate social responsibility story?
  • Improve my photo and video skills in our visual world?
  • Build a network of interesting and diverse people?
  • Pursue lifelong learning in my career?

Last year my colleague Michelle Locke asked me to succeed her as president of one of DIRECTV’s employee resource groups, the Women’s Leadership Exchange.

Its 1,000 members focus on building a culture that enhances the experiences of female employees. The group provides learning, networking and mentoring for both women and men.

One of my first tasks was to work with the steering committee on our speaker series. Our research yielded a wish list of people.

One of them was Gwynne Shotwell. She’s the COO of SpaceX, the innovative company that manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft. SpaceX is shooting to enable people to live on other planets, such as Mars.

DIRECTV is also in the satellite business with the delivery of a premium video experience, and we’re a corporate neighbor of SpaceX in the South Bay of Los Angeles.

Both companies are encouraging more students to pursue STEM careers (see Gwynne’s TEDx talk, Engineering America, and the corporate citizenship work of Tina Morefield on my team). It seemed like a perfect fit.

The only problem?

I didn’t know Gwynne. And I didn’t know anyone who did.

Until I turned to LinkedIn. I searched for Gwynne’s profile. And saw we had 9 connections in common. One of them was a DIRECTV colleague, Phil Goswitz, our SVP of Video, Space & Communications, and Design Thinking.

An email I sent to Phil led to an email invite from Phil to Gywnne. Based on their connection, we heard a yes within hours. The only detail was to find a date.

That date was this week. That’s us with Gwynne in the photo – from left, Heesoon Kim, me, Phil, Gwynne, Katie Jenks, Lisa Pue Chinery and Laurie Lopez.

We had to bring in extra chairs for the unusually large group. Gwynne inspired us with her fearless approach to pursuing her passions – engineering and space.

Coworkers I see in our cafe, courtyard and conference rooms are telling me how inspired and energized they were by Gwynne’s talk. Even people who didn’t attend are buzzing about it.

And it happened in part thanks to social media. A topic I’ll explore in upcoming posts.

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Caroline Leach

Hi, I'm Caroline Leach. I help people and organizations tell their stories. I'm a Marketing VP at AT&T, a former Communications VP at DIRECTV and an alum of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. This blog, How to Build Your Career through Social Media, shows you how to build your personal brand, advance your career and embrace your future. It helps you promote your employer and your network too. Opinions expressed in this blog are my own. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged. I'd love to hear from you!

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