Papa’s Got A Brand New BHAG

A few weeks back (which just goes to show how much these blogs are part of the modern responsive, up-to-the-minute zeitgeist), a friend emailed (more proof of the aforementioned) me in response to something I had said in one of my personal tweets (that’s better). She works for a public utility here in New Zealand, and had just been through a corporate exercise in which a number of people at her exalted level in the enterprise had been invited to think about the creation of a BHAG.

Let’s get a caveat out of the way here – I am a firm nihilist when it comes to corporate exercises, especially those in which middle-ranking employees are invited to come up with idea or concepts that are (a) utterly pointless and (b) wholly delineated by people at much higher pay grades. If coming up with a slogan that defines the company ethos is really that important, let’s not waste Bob in Accounting’s time pretending his input is going to play a role, OK?

Anyway, for anyone who hasn’t heard of it, a BHAG is a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, and it comes from a book from some management guru about the ways visionary companies become successful. It turns out being visionary is a big part of that. Who knew?

Now, the immediate goal of the book was and is, of course, to make the author some cash, and I’m not sure how Big, Hairy or Audacious that is, but we’ll measure its success by the fact that someone in Upper Management bought a copy, roped in Middle Management for some kind of seminar, and started an email chain, or something along those lines. Now, it happens my friend is in an industry where there is considerable scope to blue-sky (oh, now I hate myself) ideas about what that industry might look like in 30 years, but this stuff isn’t for everyone. And even if it was, it shouldn’t be.

The 30-second explanation of BHAG is that you come up with brave, long-long-term goals, that are compelling and innovative and ‘mazin’… and look for ways to enact them. I watched a video on Youtube recently talking about potential developments in air travel, and that seemed to be BHAG-esque, except that it was focussed on the next 10 years, and that doesn’t seem out-there enough to be the real deal.

So, it struck me: what might be put forward as a Big Hairy Audacious Plan for social media? You’re a Brand or Social Media Manager, and most days are spent trying to think about tomorrow’s tweet, or which image to use to illustrate the company’s next marketing campaign - is there scope to Think Big?

Probably not, eh? First of all, who knows where social media is going to go in the next year, never mind 30. Step back to the you of 1988 and ask them if they could conceive of a Facebook or a Twitter; heck, ask them if they think brands engaging with their customers would even be a desirable thing, and I suspect you wouldn’t get much in the way of visionary ideas. Visionary ideas are the province of visionaries, otherwise they’d just be ideas. You and I have ideas. Visionaries put out You Know What We Could Do?s so radical, most people just shrug and miss the point. This is why these corporate sessions are utterly antithetical to the whole concept, and the whole BHAG thing is just book-selling vapour. You want vision? Hire more visionaries.

That’s not to say we can’t do better. In fact, my soon-to-be-remaindered management book, Do What You Do Only Better, which introduced DWYDOB as the management ethos de nos jours, is all about the kinds of incremental improvements that actually improve your business, the kinds of improvements that middle-ranking management who still use email can contribute too. In social media, I’d argue, that means better tools, better integration of social media into the rest of your brand’s communication and marketing, better words and better pictures. Use better people.

When I asked the visionary leader of StrawberrySocial if she had a BHAG, she thumped me over the head with something from D&G, and asked me if I had seen that trend coming. And that gave me the last paragraph with which to conclude this blog, more-or-less on time. A win all round.

And that’s what you, esteemed reader, want from an agency like StrawberrySocial, clear expertise and a willingness to DWYDOB. So, coming up in a Blog Near You, we’re going to be introducing a new social media tool with which we are partnering. At least that’s my Small, Clean-Shaven and Just-Get-It-Done plan.

Oh and shake your thang - Papa’s Got A...

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