Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Leadership 2.0 Memo: More Food and Grocery Industry Leaders Need to Adopt Digital, Interactive Communications Strategies in This Digital Age

Over the last few days we've written about Whole Foods Market, Inc. CEO John Mackey's return to blogging, with his "The CEO's Blog," on the supernatural food retailer's corporate website.

We also wrote a piece about Mark Price, the Managing Director (CEO) of United Kingdom supermarket chain Waitrose, and his "The Grocer's Blog," along with a companion piece about how Waitrose is using a blog called "The Hog Blogger," written by a real pig farmer who supplies bacon to the grocery chain, as a way of communicating its local foods' procurement and merchandising efforts--especially the upscale grocer's "Save our Bacon" local British pork campaign--to consumers, the media and other stakeholders.

We call these forms of corporate communication--corporate blogging by CEO's and others using interactive digital media and other "new wave" communications technologies--Leadership 2.0. In other words, it's using interactive digital means rather than analogue-only ways to communicate with consumers, shoppers, employees, the media and other stakeholders.

Leadership 2.0 strategy also is interactive rather than one-way, which analogue communications generally is. Blogs and other digital and online technology like message boards and video sites like YouTube allow for instant, real time communications between leaders, CEO's and their various stakeholders.

Since we live in a digital rather than analogue world, this technology and interactive means of communications not only makes sense, it rapidly becoming the norm.

What we call Leadership 2.0 is something food and grocery industry executives need to consider doing more. For example, we haven't been able to find another food retailing industry CEO--other than John Mackey in the U.S. and Mark Price in the UK--who currently is communicating directly with stakeholders via a blog, where comments are welcomed. (If you know of another industry CEO doing so, please let us know.)

The May 21 Harvard Business Review Online has an interesting post by Gill Corkindale in which he says he heard a report Monday morning on the BBC about British Prime Minister Gordon Brown going YouTube. Prime Minister Brown (PM) has launched a website called 10 Dowing street on the popular video sharing site where British citizens (and others we imagine) can directly ask him questions in the "Ask The PM" section, offer comments, and make suggestions, all of which he says he will answer.

This is an example of what we call Leadership 2.0 applied to running a nation.

YouTube also is playing a huge roll in the current Presidential election in the United States. Democratic front-runner Barack Obama was the first to make very successful use of the video sharing website in his campaign. Hillary Clinton soon followed, and Republican presumptive nominee John McCain also is now using YouTube to promote his campaign for President.

This is an example of Leadership 2.0 as a marketing campaign in the political arena.

Numerous companies big and small also are using YouTube for marketing campaigns. However this differs from what we call Leadership 2.0 in that it's more of a digital and online extension of traditional marketing than a "new wave" interactive communications effort like CEO-blogging, Prime Minister Gordon Brown's use of YouTube, and the efforts being made primarily by Obama and Senator Clinton to use the video sharing website to communicate with potential voters as well as to market to them.

Most corporate CEO's have yet to do anything similar to what Gordon Brown is attempting for example with YouTube. However, we expect to see more companies--and CEO's--follow the Gordon Brown YouTube and Mackey and Price CEO-as-blogger examples, as the realization communicating--especially with younger people--in the digital age requires the use of online written and video tools.

We suggest you read Gil Corkindale's post here in the May 21 Harvard Business Review online, along with the reader comments, as we think it's a good, illustrative example of what we call Leadership 2.0 in the digital age.

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