Intake Blog

Facing the Unknown: Leadership Communications and Enterprise 2.0

posted July 12, 2012 by

Social business and enterprise social networks are one of the most popular topics of conversation across multiple industries; knowledge management, communications, information technology and organizational learning, just to name a few.  Thanks to the work of authors like Andrew McAffee and Rawn Shah, the rise of social business theories has slowly but surely taken hold over the past ten years.  Combined with the recent explosion in public social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and countless others, companies are now turning their attention to social communities as vehicles that are capable of driving tangible business results. 

As these technologies take root in the modern institution, the modern leader is forced to contend with new communication techniques that depart from the familiar face-to-face or unidirectional methods of communication (i.e., memo’s, presentations and mass email). Organizational leaders and organizational communicators are now grappling with a new environment that features real-time, two-way communication with employees.  To evolve with this changing landscape, more and more organizational leaders are being asked to engage with these technologies through their regular internal communications practices.  In addition, they are being asked to develop a point of view on this space and create a formal presence in their internal online communities. 

However, because this is a relatively new world, leaders are faced with many unknowns.  Best practices are hard to come by and those that do exist are shrouded in mystery.  This is especially true from an enterprise perspective because many organizations are not able, or not willing, to share details about their technology or processes for fear of competitors.  Yet despite these challenges, the fact remains that engaging with others in computer-mediated environments is now considered to be a requisite facet of leadership.

The cry for help is growing louder.  Therefore, in an effort to answer the communication needs of organizational leaders entering the world of ESN’s, I am conducting a study through my graduate program at Northwestern University that will attempt to answer the following question: 

What leadership communication characteristics are related to community member participation and interest in Enterprise Social Networks?

It is my hope that the research I conduct will illuminate some effective practices regarding leadership communications in enterprise social networks, to help these leaders (and the internal communicators that support them) to best understand how to effectively engage in these environments. 

The next phase of my research begins in August and entails survey design and deployment. Therefore, I am eagerly looking for companies that use ESN’s and have active leadership participation that would be willing to take my survey.  If your company or a company that you know might be interested in participating, or if you are just interested in talking more, feel free to send me a tweet (@jwcatz) or send me an email directly to

As I continue my whirlwind journey through my research I plan to share my musings and insights with anyone who will listen.  Follow me on twitter, or this blog, to see what I discover about this exciting unknown!