Monday, February 22, 2016

The ultimate driving experience is behind the wheel

I am now the proud owner of a brand new and increasingly obsolete horseless carriage. At least that’s what I fear as technology marches on.

While my car has the latest “innovative control concept,” with “intuitive and interactive” functions, it has me at the steering wheel. And, apparently, I am soon-to-be outdated technology. At least that’s the plan in a future that aspires to autonomous cars, also known as driverless or self-driving cars.

I already had one step in antiquity, with my preference for manual-drive transmissions in a world of automatics. Recently, a parking-lot attendant told me he was impressed I drove a manual. I was impressed with the poor timing of his remark, having just parked at a funeral home to bid farewell to a beloved aunt.

No matter. He may someday be as obsolete as me, once autonomous cars hit the road. And it may happen sooner than later, considering all those investing and developing the technology. Among the short list of players are Google, General Motors, Tesla, Apple, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi.

Just this month, driverless cars gained the same legal status as a human driver. No, I didn’t make that up. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration responded to a letter from Google asking for clarification on the word “driver.” The answer included, "If no human occupant of the vehicle can actually drive the vehicle, it is more reasonable to identify the ‘driver’ as whatever (as opposed to whoever) is doing the driving."

I don’t know what’s scarier. Sharing the road with human drivers prone to texting, applying makeup, shaving, and reading while driving, or relying on technology to never fail while barreling down the highway.

Maybe I’ll be more eager to give up the driving reins when I’m too old to navigate safely on my own. But that’s down the road a ways.

Until then, you can find me in my sport sedan, stick shift in hand, enjoying the ultimate driving experience.

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March 1 UPDATE: "Google says self-driving car hits municipal bus in minor crash"

Monday, February 8, 2016

CEOs as Social Media

Social media is the answer. What was the question? It doesn’t seem to matter.

The ubiquitous nature of social media has left corporate staffs scrambling. As they work to create a distinctive social strategy, they can find it’s like lacing up sneakers while running.  

Too often, they latch onto the idea of making the CEO the company’s chief social sage. While that may work in some industries, few CEOs will ever become top influencers on LinkedIn, trend on Twitter, or go viral on YouTube.

But every CEO makes an impact in person. From plant tours to Rotary Club speeches, employee meetings to business dinners, every face-to-face meeting presents an opportunity to engage and persuade. It is here, in front of stakeholders of all kinds, where CEOs can be their most social – and effective.

People want to see, hear, and talk with the chief executive. They want to be in the presence of the leader to get a sense of who this person really is. The company’s business may be conducted in the cloud, but its CEO needs to keep feet on the street.

It’s not a hard thing to do, considering all the opportunities to meet with different groups. Speeches can easily become the vehicle for CEOs to amplify their social impact. In minutes, they can influence a roomful of people using just words. This in-person, socially delivered communication can then become the springboard for engaging broader social media channels, as staff leverages the effort by linking, tweeting, posting, and blogging clips or transcripts to gain a broader reach.

For some CEOs, especially those in technology industries, it makes sense to have a higher profile in online social media. And marketing agencies often advocate for CEO involvement to establish thought leadership, strengthen brand credibility, and shape their company’s reputation, no matter what business they’re in.

While CEOs may feel pressured to jump into tweeting or blogging, it’s worth remembering social media is just one arrow in the communications quiver. Companies might well need to beef up their presence in online forums, but that doesn’t mean the CEO always has to be front and center.

The key for CEOs is to focus first on being social in the true sense of the word. In person. One on one, or one to many. Speaking from the heart. Sharing insights and intentions. Shaking hands. Creating community. The “media” part of being social can always follow.