Brian Solis is now on Katie Couric’s radar. Or I should say Katie is on his. Solis took the time this week to talk to us about what it was like to interview Katie Couric, the language of the c-suite and why user privacy issues are one of the most important topics of 2011.



Recently Couric, the most famous interviewer in media today, sat down with Brian Solis, the most famous name in social media today, for her own interview. Solis recently released (R)evolution, a 14 part video interview series with journalists, industry experts, lawyers and other important thinkers today.

Solis somehow has managed to be omnipresent in the last ten years giving him some kind of micro-celebrity. Solis is the co-Founder and Principal of FutureWorks -- he’s also an author, keynote speaker, start-up adviser, writer and now video journalist.

With the video series (R)evolution, and his new book Engage!, Solis is continuing to push the envelope with how we as a society think about communication, information sharing and corporate structures.

One of three videos wherein Brian Solis sits down with Katie Couric in her office for a three part interview.

Blake Landau: What was it like interviewing Katie Couric?

Brian Solis: This is Katie Couric. The Katie who interviews anyone who’s anyone. Now I’m in her office as…me. So as you can imagine at the beginning it was a little intimidating. If you watch part one, two and three the answer is hidden in my body language. I was really nervous. How I’m sitting grabbing my clipboard. But by the third interview my body language changes. I’m fully turned towards her. Katie Couric has a personality that’s inviting and warm.

BL: In your interview with Forrester Analyst Josh Bernoff he talks about Barry Judge, CEO of Best Buy. He talks about Best Buy’s culture of empowering employees and “half baked ideas”-- including the popular Best Buy Twelpforce program. Bernoff adds that empowering your employees doesn’t work unless you’ve created a management framework.

BS: In my book Engage, I have included Blueprints for new workflow and business dynamics. Best Buy aside, you can look at companies like AT&T or Comcast. You have two organizations with well-known problems. Both companies took to Facebook & blogging with what appeared to be the intention of solving problems.

In reality what they had done was they created steering groups. For example, Blake say you complain about AT&T on twitter. The company apologizes and then finds out the part of San Francisco in which you are located. They say “Blake here’s the number you can call so they can make it a priority area.”

In reality the magic of social media is what’s behind the scenes. What is the person who is engaging you really doing with your customer data. Do they take it to the organization and work on it? Push the information right back out? Instead they are using this as PR.

The company is listening and engaging but the infrastructure has to do something with the information. Think about the idea of “social CRM.” You hear about social CRM from people like Jacob Morgan -- this is where social CRM becomes important. They need to socialize business processes internally to improve experience and become a more social experience. Some companies are doing great things in this regard. Think of Dell, Best Buy or Virgin America.

I have published numerous diagrams for businesses I’ve redesigned. I started with Ciscon -- to redesign parts of their infrastructure. I’m doing it with a whole bunch of other companies. It’s not about social media per say -- but rather about showing them how this change going on today will impact everything else in their business. I have to show them how this will impact everything -- a facet of a bigger discussion of about losing revenue

I could do research right now with time and energy that would show you based on what’s happening on Twitter & Facebook -- how much will AT&T lose when the iPhone goes to Verizon. I could take that to AT&T and they would freak out.

BL: If the value prop of investing in social is so clear, why aren’t more companies looking into it now?

BS: Because social media is supposed to be the playground for Millennials. Some companies get it, like Starbucks or Zappos. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos understands how to create a company culture that respects the higher power of purpose and people.

The tools don’t matter. The people matter. You have to recognize that you are not as in control as you’d like to think. Leaders like Tony get it. Champions like you and me have to fight the good fight but we smack our heads against the c suite ceiling. You have to translate it into the language of the c-suite.

Change management is a long hard road.

BL: What is the language that the c-suite speaks?

BS: They speak data, markets, money, shares -- all of the things that exist today. It’s a matter of adapting. When I talk to a company I am using all of the same tools that you and I now know how to use.

I know where to look for these tools -- and I can tell you how sentiment will affect the company over time. This includes projections and prediction algorithms. I can tell companies how not paying attention to social will hurt overall business five years from now by showing them bonified data and math. Executives need to ask themselves am I in the right organization right now? How much longer until I am ousted?