Social Business

Social Business – where do you sit?

“Hi. My name is Keith Lewis. I look after social business at Zurich Insurance in the UK. I’m in the XXXX team.”

How do you, or perhaps should you, fill in the Xs in that sentence? This is my second spell at Zurich and in my latest stint I’ve been in three different teams – Marketing (Brand team), HR (Employee Communications) and in the next few weeks will be moving into our Corporate Affairs team. In each team, I’ve had similar responsibilities, but with a slightly different focus.

Now, for me personally, I often say that it doesn’t matter where I sit, as long as I sit somewhere! My mindset is company-wide and my remit is company-wide, so to me, it just doesn’t matter. Someone’s got to ‘manage’ me so I, therefore, have to sit in someone’s structure. When I thought about where I should sit to best effect, I made a reasonable case to be in one of five different places and teams in our UK business!

It’s a key question I ask anyone from this area that I meet  – “Where do you sit in your structure”?

I asked around my LinkedIn network to see where others sat and got a variety of great answers.

Sarah Goodall, from Tribal Impact pointed to Communications and Marketing “leading the charge when it comes to Social Business transformation” but went on to express surprise that “Sales aren’t leading the holistic approach given the strongest impact a Social Business approach makes on the organisation is sales related….if you measure correctly that is!”

Damian Corbet, founder of The Social C-Suite played the more obvious “Boardroom” card, although I’m not aware of any examples of anywhere this actually happens. Isabel De Clercq, author of Social Technologies in Business pointed to a cross-business approach needed with Internal Communications, External Communications, HR and IT joining forces.  Annette Sell from American Express Business Travel explained how she is in Learning & Development, “a perfect place for social business types. Particularly these days because we talk a lot about social learning and I‘m a strong believer it’s all about sharing (knowledge at least) in today’s workplace.”


In so many large organisations, it’s evident that all these areas have important parts to play.  Marketing and external comms/PR in creating the business content and the brand strength; HR/L&D for the D&I employee resource groups, recruitment initiatives and training; Communications for the informing and recruiting employees to a programme; Legal (and/or Risk in my case as I’m in a financial services company); and, of course, IT/CIO in helping to onboard any new platform, and support the technologies (and data security!) that are needed to allow employees to curate, collaborate and create content.

But as one of my LinkedIn scribes, Catherine Ossemerct said, so perfectly “none of the departments feels responsible for the whole of the social business.” And therein lies the biggest concern, and perhaps points back to Damian’s remark! Ultimately, social business needs high-level support and sponsorship. When I look back at Philip Sheldrake’s Attenzi – a social business story, the story has social business at the heart of the company, lead by the CEO, Eli Appel.

bull-landscape-nature-mammal-139399.jpegWithout someone grabbing the bull by the horns and driving through a social business agenda, you can easily see where it might fall down. Without someone working across any organisation, not inside its own silo, maybe social business is doomed to fail. If we’re to get c-suite sponsorship, it probably relies on all of us in the Social Business space to educate upwards as well as across and downwards.  In all my structural manoeuvring over the years, I’m fortunate to have been in teams with a wide remit, and with the brief (and cultural mindset) to work across the business areas and shared service groups. Maybe we’re not that far behind the curve after all!

Where do you sit in your organisation? Does it help or hinder you in your social business drive? Does it matter?

Please do let me know in the comments below, or join me @KeithLewisComms over on Twitter. It’s an ongoing debate!

*Full transparency: Some links in this post may be affiliate links


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