TRIAL NOT ERROR: Why every organisation should have Trojan Mice

Okay, confession time: I try my absolute hardest to avoid books on social media.

Books on climbing? Yes. Books from self-styled social media ninjas? no thank you.

One of a few that stands like a shining beacon is the excellent ‘Organisations Don’t Tweet, People Do’ by Euan Semple.

I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve recommended this hardback work to. Even if you don’t go out and buy it you can take something from the title.

One of the reasons why I’m rather keen on it is that it strikes a chord with some of the work we’ve done.

One example that Semple comes up with is ‘Trojan mice.’

In other words, in an organisation do lots of little things to see where they end up and if they work without shouting about them to the world. Or senior management. He writes:

“Conventional initiatives are like the more familiar Trojan Horse. Big, lumbering, slow moving. It takes a lot of people to move it and it is very hard to get it to change direction without a lot of effort.

“As we deployed low cost small tools and kicked off little initiatives at the BBC we began to describe our approach as deploying Trojan Mice, a metaphor borrowed from British consultant Peter Fryer.

“Set up small, unobtrusive inexpensive and autonomous tools and practices set them running and cajole and nudge them until they begin to work out where to go and why.”

It’s an approach that in spirit chimes with Dave Briggs’ line about JFDI – Just Flipping Do It.

Thinking back, some of the things I’ve done have worked well. Others haven’t. None of them we’ve made a big noise about from the word go.

Of course, there is the argument from some PR people that everything – Trojan Mice and otherwise – has to be linked up to a campaign with objectives, key messages and things to measure. I’m just not so sure about this. This feels like trad comms sellotaping itself to the new stuff and forgets that fact that to make this new stuff work you have to embrace the fact it’s a conversation.

With Trojan mice you can make some mistakes. Do five things. If two work, tell your bosses’ boss about them and see how you can nurture them elsewhere. Even the quiet failures you can learn things from.

Creative commons credits:

Trojan horsey


SOCIAL PLAN: 11 Golden Rules for Social Media in an Organisation

Holding the door open for bright people should be the aim of every organisation’s social media plan.

Because managing the message is dead.  And because the corporate voice doesn’t work.

The social web includes places like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and every platform that allows for two way debate and discussion.  The social web is about conversations, the human voice and a completely fresh approach.

One person once said the best way to approach this new landscape was to put aside everything that you’ve learned so far about how traditional communications works. That’s not all that far from the truth.  First amongst these is to recognise that social media is deep down not that different to the telephone, the PC, email and the internet.

When every one of these was first introduced those in the workplace feared what it would do in the hands of staff. Gradually people realised that the more people had access the more positive they became.  You’re unlikely – I hope – put all email activity into the hands of comms people. So why think about doing it for social media?

The best answer is for comms people to have responsibility for social media but to try and allow as many people as possible to use it. Preferably on the frontline as that’s where most of the stories are.

Here are ELEVEN golden rules for comms people:

  1. As a comms person be a supportive gatekeeper. Be keen on the idea of people in service areas having the keys for social media. Sanity check and support.
  2. Use the language of the platform. Dear Sir works as a letter. It doesn’t over the phone. Get to know which ever platform you are looking to use and follow it. Be relaxed. Be conversational.
  3. Gently remind people that there’s a code of conduct. Shout and swear in a public email, on the phone or in a letter and there’s procedures. The same goes for online too. Gently remind but don’t labour it.
  4. Be a human being. People respond better to a human being than they do to an institution. Let staff use social media in their own name if they are keen to.
  5. Be transparent. Make it clear you are working for the organisation.
  6. Be polite. Be respectful and be professional at all times.
  7. Be connected. Let your social media be linked to offline communications but don’t let it restrain it. Have a comms plan and have social media within it, by all means.
  8. It’s about conversation. Recognise you can’t control the conversation. You’ll feel better straight away.
  9. Don’t let comms hog the sweetie jar. Let people in service areas use web tools. Let their enthusiasm and knowledge shine through. They’ll be more genuine than you’ll ever be.
  10. Be a digital native. Learn how things work as yourself.
  11. Don’t be afraid to experiment and innovate. It’s how the best ideas come about.

First posted in Comms2point0.

Picture credit: