Along with 6 other tech industry bloggers from around the region, I was invited to the office of John Roach, just outside Madison, Wisconsin for the first ever TDS Blogger Event sponsored by TDS Metrocom. Generous pours of diet cokes, copious amounts of WIFI, black leather couches and a LOT of discussion was the order of the day. We were flanked by PR, HR, and TDS Marketing types… hold on a minute, let’s rewind a bit for some of the back story…
The first week of March I received this email from TDS Social Media Rep and Gossip Genie Head Honcho Jacqui:
After careful research and consideration of bloggers within the Midwest, TDS Telecommunications is extending an invitation to you. Please join us by attending, “The Future of the Digital Workplace,” a special event for bloggers being held in Madison, WI, on May 3, 2012.
Well I didn’t make it past the first paragraph. Sadly I had another speaking gig already on the books for that day. Bummer I was going to have to miss this… So I replied:
I have a speaking gig that day already set up at Blue Harbor in Sheboygan… I’m sorry I’m not available to come….
THANK YOU, thank you for thinking of me… wow what an honor.
I’d love to meet and chat more and continue the chat….
I’m so sorry
Which was quickly replied with this:
Thank you so much for getting back to me. Your response is exactly why we want you at this event, you have such a great personality and it comes through in your writing and social media. Not to mention your tech knowledge is hard to beat. It would be great to connect further and hopefully, you will be available for the next event.
That was pretty amazing; alas, easy come easy go and I had no idea what I was really missing. A few days later, I received a DM from Jacqui that totally blew my mind. They rescheduled the event so I could participate. So here I was- invited to some tech event that I had no prior knowledge about and clearly they wanted me bad enough to change the date to make sure I could attend. What was this all about? I could not wait to find out!
OK, back to our regularly scheduled post. When was the last time you had a deep technology focused conversation in a corporate setting with the CEO of a 3.2 billion dollar company? “What’s going on here, and what message does it send that the CEO wants to chat with unknown bloggers?” I asked myself.
As I tossed and twisted on what to write for this blog posting, believe me, I started and stopped more than a few times. I’m trying to capture the essence of the day, without doing another triptik. I’m sure if you google #TDSBloggerEvent you’ll get you’ll fill of that kind of stuff. What was this day all about? Was this day just another example of a billion dollar company inviting regional tech influencers to have a “ME, ME, ME” session? Well… No, not really. While the event did showcase some tools from TDS like their managedIP hosted offering and premiere vendor Polycom, the focus on this day was not horn tooting. The day was filled with thought provoking discussions on the tech industry as a whole. How we all work and how the employees of the future would like to work was the topic of the day. The event was chock full of listening…real listening. In between each presentation was an opportunity for feedback- honest feedback where the CEO, Director of HR, PR types, as well as top marketing brass and product managers listened to what we had to say. Did you hear me? The entire day was really about listening.
Not every company is really concerned with how their employees work today, let alone in the future? How many multi-billion dollar companies actually have social media policies and care what people are saying? With over 2700 employees and potential brand advocates and cheerleaders, TDS knows how to harness this power and put it to work. I know the trend is for Fortune 500 companies to get into social media, but how many outsiders get to see it in action, up close and personal? And of these huge corporations, how many of their CEO’s are willing participate in the discussion? Oh, believe me, I used to work for a billion dollar operation that was scared of social media. Scared to the point of threatening me with my job over items they had no idea about, nor cared to understand. It was easier to say “no” and “not on company time” and not even on vacation due to the “perception”.
My participation in the events of this day was really awesome! And to top it off, all the discussions were tweeted, instagram’d, twitpic’d, and blogged by the Gossip Genie gals.
What did I take away from this amazing event? Well, first of all I’m just so impressed that TDS actually gets it. Not many companies truly do. I’m stunned at the support, top down, that the social media team gets at TDS. Secondly, I’m blown away by how open TDS is with people who may or may not even be a customer. I’m not a customer, but they invited me anyway! Their success is directly tied to the amount of listening they do. Happy customers, internal and external, are the only way to go and this day showed it in spades. Thank you TDS for including me in this historic day for the company. THANK YOU both Polycom and TDS for the tech filled goodie bag. My new Kindle Fire will get loads of love! But mostly, thank you for listening.