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Insights 2011: Knowing your company’s ‘Truth Gap’ may well be a key to its success in 2011

In reflecting on 2010 and what may be in store for business in 2011, I have been struck by a couple of “aha moments” in regard to things I think will help determine which endeavors are most likely to succeed in the coming months.

First, social media optimization (SMO) is going to be redefined. Already a must in every marketing department, it will now extend way beyond typical Facebook, Huffington Post and YouTube venues to include networks of specialty bloggers, “vloggers” and “gamers” (my name for them). It will, in fact, spread a net of its own around the world, balancing the subject/product or initiative between various subcategories. These will include, but not be limited to, community impact, involving the ability to localize everything and everybody; environmental impact, including all aspects of sustainability; social impact, and now more important than ever, “gaming impact,” or “what can be done to make it fun.”

Regarding that last point, it might be asked: “How do you incorporate your old school “unique selling point” into gaming mechanics? The answer is: SMO will be redefined in ways we haven’t even imagined, and the smart consumer packaged-goods companies are the ones that will be endeavoring to get ahead of this trend now and seed the tone and structure of their messaging to accommodate this New World Order of Marketing.

Secondly, in this newly refashioned business climate, truth will prevail.  This is probably the most significant outcome of this new SMO on steroids: that there is nowhere to hide. Whether it is Wiki Leaks, whistle-blower laws or the incredible access to information on the Web, whatever you say or do as a company (or even a government) had better be the truth. The days of marketing and selling illusions are over, and anyone who continues to do so will risk retiring the company or product involved forever. Because the effectiveness of the Web in disseminating information quickly is something that has never been experienced before, there are experts in every category that will flush you out in ways you never dreamed of.

All of which is why I’ll be ringing in 2011 by introducing my new “Truth Gap” analysis, which is an evaluation of the gap between what you are telling and selling your consumers, employees, constituents and stakeholders and the honest-to-goodness truth about what your company is offering them. Getting a true “Truth Gap” reading will involve assessing your company via a normal corporate social responsibility scoring model of how well it is actually doing in the areas of:

1. environmental responsibility;
2. consumer satisfaction;
3. employee relations;
4. community relations, and
5. accountability to stakeholders.

Then, as you look at each of the results, you can appraise the difference between what you are saying and actually doing. Is there a “Truth Gap” in your performance, and if so, should you endeavor to get ahead of it now?

Every year I look ahead and ask if I was CEO of a multi-billion dollar business what concern would be most apt to wake me up at 3 a.m.?

In 2011, that concern should be, “What is my company’s Truth Gap”?

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