A Creed to Believe In

By  Paul Reuter, Chairman emeritus and contributing editor

Article Preview: 

If you were not at our Outlook Lead­ership conference in Salt Lake City in August, the next best way to experi­ence the entire three days of education, networking and once-in-a-lifetime moments is to turn to p. 53 and dive into our coverage.

We all measure our learnings by how many “action items” we walk away with, and it was clear from so many attendees that those lists were long and plentiful. As I studied my post-conference notes, two comments in particu­lar caught my attention.

I asked President Bill Clin­ton, “In doing your day-to-day job, what did you find most sur­prising?” His reply was: “How hard it was to convey to the public what the real story was, what was actually going on.”

And when I watched the video of Taco Bell CEO Greg Creed’s “connection to the consumer,” I thought of how today’s communication plat­forms have changed so much and so rapidly in scope and effect.

Greg provided the audience with much firsthand insight into at least two major paradigm shifts taking place.

First, he discussed the importance of the game-changing world of social media. “The most important decision I made as CEO was to invest in social media,” he said. “Become engaged or be prepared to become irrelevant.”

Today, Taco Bell has 150,000 employ­ees and 6,000 restaurants, and serves 35 million customers weekly. Taco Bell has 9 million Facebook users, second behind McDonald’s, which has 34,000 outlets and 11 million Facebook users. Why on a per-site basis does Taco Bell have so many more users than the industry’s leading brand? Well, read on.

Greg told us that 47% of the millen­nial generation is using social media while they are eating. They share their ideas and experiences with others.

As he put it, if Taco Bell can influ­ence its 9 million Facebook fans, and on average those fans each have 347 Face­book friends, Taco Bell gets to cover the entire U.S. population. The key to the successes of this medium: Understand its power, get engaged and control the message vs. reacting to it.

I’m sure you’ve heard and read recom­mendations about social media before, but for me listening to the real-life action and results Greg offered was the clincher.

The other paradigm shift: Move from being a leader who has practiced the traditional ways of doing the what, why and how, and put it in the hands of the generation using it. Know what they are saying and what’s important to them, and then give it back to them in a way they can relate to.

He was asked, “Is it risky?” No, he said. It’s rewarding. And it’s the only way to move forward in this rapidly evolv­ing, mobile world we are in.

So I suspect if President Clin­ton and his administration had access to social media, his answer might have been different.

I also asked President George W. Bush if the days of negative campaigning will ever come to an end or significantly change. His answer was a flat “No.”

A recent national poll reported that 69% of respondents would like the negative noise to be turned down or off. Another poll reported on people’s frustra­tion with the gridlock in Washington.

I suspect that the use of social media and its real influence will only grow and play a larger role in the political world.

As Greg put it: Either get engaged or be prepared to go away.

If you’re interested in watching Greg’s presentation from the conference, email me at [email protected].

Click here to download full article