OK, so “hate” might be a little over dramatic, but we’re just back after the summer refurbish and we needed a catchy headline to get your eyeballs back. And while we’re fessing up, it isn’t just Facebook that marketers in eLearning typically shun. LinkedIn, Twitter and the rest rarely seem to get so much as a bi-line on the average marcomms plan either according to the snapshot study we conducted earlier this week.

Don’t believe us? Consider the scenario we used for our study (It’s a true story based on real and current events).

Once upon a time 20 eLearning companies were nominated for the industry’s most prestigious award.

An annual Awards Ceremony is planned to celebrate the most significant achievements in the eLearning industry over the past 12 months: for the sake of argument, let’s call this the ELearning Awards 2010 (other awards ceremonies are available). Over 20 of the industry’s leading players are short-listed for recognition, many of them are teamed with big name customers for nomination. All are in the bidding for some pretty prestigious awards with winners to be decided about four weeks from now.

Big or small, new or established, achieving nominee status ensures that each of the companies in our study have at least one story to tell. (Let’s assume that the event’s organisers claim “More than 200 entries were received for the 16 awards so just making the shortlists is a major achievement”, which it would be). How then, would you imagine each of the short-listed companies might choose to communicate their new found status out to key customers and prospects?

Perhaps understandably, for the largest and most established players making the shortlist (again) this year, another nomination might not merit that much attention. But the fact that this accolade so often receives absolutely no attention from more than half of the companies nominated for ELearning Awards this year suggests that even our Gold Standard eLearning companies need leaner, faster, simpler communications processes that can cope with more than just company headlines and highlights.

In a business trading environment that’s driven by SEO as much as headlines, having the publishing dexterity to manage good, positive messages, big and small, is critical to long term success. Good communications means being able to match the message to the medium without the wheels coming off the marketing machine. If accommodating anything but the cream of good content becomes too cumbersome to contemplate then something is amiss. It’s like BBC Sport saying that they don’t have the bandwidth to report results in the football conference because there’s too much going on at the top of the Premiership. If this happened, the BBC’s credibility in sports reporting would be seriously compromised and hoards of AFC Wimbledon fans would desert the broadcaster en masse.

What’s your organization’s “Outward Facing” social media strategy?

Corporate communications machines can’t function in today’s micro news agenda if they’re clunky and complex, which, according to the findings of our study this week, is exactly what many of them in the eLearning industry still are. For more than half of the companies on this year’s short-list, making any reference at all to the ELearning Awards seems to be more effort than they can muster. So far, about 40 percent have opted to place the official ELearning Awards logo on their company home page. In all the cases we found, this logo hyperlinks the surfer away from the company home site and over to the ELearning Awards site’s shortlist page (this traffic boosting gesture from those nominated is not reciprocated, which is a shame perhaps). Linkedin is the most established social networking platform in our study group, used by nearly 40 percent, although examples of real interaction via discussion topics, polls or other options offered by LinkedIn are noticeable in their absence. Twitter is used by about 25 percent and Facebook by no more than 10 percent.

With some solid strategic thinking, all of these platforms can work together to deliver the lean, dexterous communications infrastructure that modern companies need to operate effectively in today’s rolling news agenda, but while leaders in eLearning seem well acquainted with the contribution that rapid publishing and social networks can make to inward focused communications, only a handful really maximise these tools in outbound marcomms. (Skillsoft’s Learning Re-imagined blog is worth a read on this topic).

Don’t get us wrong here: we’re not saying that every eLearning company nominated for an award this month should put all communications projects on hold while they devise a strategy to communicate the good news. We’re saying that too many of them still have too.

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— Fiona Tully, Sift Media