Engaging with the groundswell: Transforming your Company

Shifting your organization to one that is led by the groundswell sounds like a simple enough plan. However, this is usually not the case. A company needs to undergo a mental shift that requires a well designed plan to make this transformation a reality. Chapter 12 focuses on how companies can work with their customers in terms of groundswell thinking. There are three steps for the transformation (Li & Bernoff, 2011):

  1. Take it step by step – A mental shift will require time and practice
  2. Each step leads in a natural progression to the next step – A plan and vision is needed. Communicating within the organization will create talk and the embrace of new ideas. 
  3. Executive support – In order to get your ideas to flourish, communicating your plan to upper management effectively is crucial.

One example of a company that is described in the text is Unilever. They are the parent of well known brands such as Axe, Lipton, and Vaseline. They have demonstrated themselves as leaders in brand marketing by taking big risks and executing them at the right time. Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty in 2004 aimed at going against industry beauty standards and it caused a radical outreach. Unilever had “measurable success metrics that were tied to key marketing goals” (Li & Bernoff, 2011).This example stood out to me as a I can recall watching this ad when I was in elementary. During this time, it was not common to see viral ads come out exposing what media defined as “beautiful”. Watching this at a young age changed my perception of the media and I can still remember the ad vividly. They utilized the three steps by proving to upper management that lower cost alternatives can make an impact and changed their marketing focus.



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There are five steps to ensure a company has the best chance of succeeding:

  1. Start small
  2. Educate executives
  3. Get the right people to run your strategy
  4. Get your agency and technology partners in sync
  5. Plan for the next step and for the long term

To align this method to the HR industry, these concepts need to be understood and how it relates the success of the organization. The human resource department needs to closely align themselves with the marketing department and decide what exactly they want to change. The vision and plan needs to be considered and approved by all departments in the organization. By doing this, communication is used effectively as there is constant feedback as to what plans can be finalized by upper management. Once the approval by executives is accomplished, this philosophy can be spread throughout the organization to utilize a groundswell mindset.

References: Li, C., & Bernoff, J., (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press



Listening to the Groundswell

“To begin with, you won’t hear from everybody; you’ll only hear from people willing to talk. So listening to the groundswell comes with a huge caveat-you’ll gain new insights, but don’t assume that the people you hear from are representative” (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

The focus of chapter 5 is centralized around the idea of listening to customers and the potential advantages and disadvantages.The importance of brand is also emphasized, showcasing how this concept is ultimately up to your customers and how they define it. The whole concept of listening is labeled as market research. This is a strategic way of mapping trends to find out what is most appealing to your audience. Although costly, methods such as surveys, allows you to hear thousands of consumers for different amounts of time. Finally, focus groups allow natural responses to come about as a group of individuals are given whatever is thrown at them. This serves useful to give honest opinions and to listen to negative and positive responses. 

 Two listening strategies that prove to be vital include:

  • Setting up your own private community 
    • Similar to a continuously running focus group, openly available for listening
  • Begin brand monitoring
    • Summary reports from companies that listen to blogs, discussions forums, Twitter, etc.



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Whether choosing a private company or brand monitoring, there are six reasons the Groundswell gives proving why listening is seen as the most essential neglected skill:

  1. Find out what your brand stands for
  2. Understand how buzz is shifting
  3. Save research money;increase research responsivenss
  4. Find the sources of influence in your market
  5. Manage PR crisis
  6. Generate new product and marketing ideas

Given all the tools and resources available, noticeable changes are likely to begin in a given organization. It will impact how decisions are made, create instant availability of information, and creates a two way conversation of listening to the groundswell and then reiterating this through traditional media. “Your job becomes to communicate what you’ve learn – to turned insight into change” (Li & Bernoff, 2011). In the context of the Human Resource Management, this quote heavily aligns with the industry as a whole. The ideology of listening and communicating back to team members serves as a tactic to reach organizational goals. As the HR team works closely with management, listening to consumers feedback (negative and feedback) in a variety of methods can fully engage an organization to a successful platform.

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA, United States of America: Harvard Business Review Press.