Strategic Communication is an elegant combination of art and science. It’s making sure that the ways you communicate are aligned with your overall business objectives. At Step In … Learn More...
Part 2 in a Series
No one ever expects the kind of crisis that is pervasive to every community and industry like this health care epidemic is right now. So if you’re struggling with how to cope, you are not alone. A lot of organizations are using their social media channels as their first, or maybe their only, method of communication right now.
If you are pursuing a schedule on your social channels during this crisis, MAKE IT COUNT.
Say Less, Share More
Stop promoting yourself and start helping your community. What can you do to be part of the solution? Here are some examples you may have seen in your community.
Restaurants who cannot fully operate have moved to online ordering, contactless delivery and even “make at home” meal kits with key add-ons, like eggs and toilet paper.
Arts organizations are sharing live concerts, behind the scenes tours and developing curriculum to be consumed from home.
Sports teams, who were among the first to take action, have propped up their service workers with pay checks; many sports celebrities are doing public service announcements and other work to help their communities.
Nonprofits have pursued a variety of options – some are fundraising to assist in the health care space or keep vital services going while others are being creative to fulfill new challenges.
Large scale manufacturers have rapidly re-tooled their plants to make key goods and services available to frontline health care workers. Smaller cottage industries have redirected machinery to sew masks and create face shields, which are in severe shortage.
Someone in your online community is doing these things. Instead of talking about yourself, talk about them. And what they’re doing to help us get through this crisis. Because sharing their work can help them.
Say Less, Do More
Be a link in the chain of helpers around the world. Everyone can do their part. Can your organization support one of these community helpers?
If you’ve already shared good works happening in your community on your social channels, what else can you do?
Can you match these organizations with the resources they need to continue?
Can you donate money or help them raise money for what they are doing?
That is what real community is about. This is what the social networks were built to do. Connect each other and help each other. Forget selling, and start helping.
We’d love to hear your creative ideas for helping your community.
Next time: Will Your Get Your Audience Back?
To read more about social strategy from Step In Communication, check out our social strategy posts.
Part 1 in a Series
As the public health crisis of 2020 began to unfold, many communicators struggled with how to manage communications in an ever-changing environment. By the time you had something drafted and in the approval pipeline, the recommendations or guidelines changed.
It’s really hard to pivot so quickly. And in case you were wondering, crisis communications is not usually that fluid. Even skilled crisis communicators have been challenged to stay on top of a virus which we seem to know nothing about.
Your social channels might be idle already, so this piece might help you reinforce why to your leadership.
But if you’re struggling with how to remind your audiences that you’re still alive, here are some suggestions and ideas to make that happen.
At this point, you should be evaluating three things:
Should I be posting at all?
Do we have something helpful to add?
Do we need help right now?
Are You Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution?
This is a tough question to answer. If you’re a school district, health care system, public information office of a local or state government, then you are no doubt churning out information, resources and links at a more rapid rate than ever before. As well, there are numerous nonprofits who have vital services that need to continue. Recommendation: you should be posting, frequently, humbly and honestly.
But if you’re not, what are you doing? What should you talk about?
If you’re a local-based brand, you can point people to those local resources and reiterate the current “stay at home” guidelines. You can also express a degree of emotion at how much you miss “seeing” your audience, especially if you’re a business that is closed or altered because of the guidelines.
But before you do that, ask yourself another question.
Will your customer cringe if they hear from you now?
It’s really easy to get your messaging wrong right now. Like everyone else, I’ve seen countless businesses that are using the public health scare as a value proposition. This is risky, especially for high ticket consumer goods and services. Many consumers are limiting their spending to draw out their paychecks or manage savings amid uncertain income. Some have already lost their income, so tread carefully on any overt marketing messages.
When Communicating is the Right Thing
Depending on your industry and brand, it might be the right thing to continue communicating with your audiences. Examine what you were doing before and compare that to today’s environment. That comparison should help you decide.
If you can be helpful and offer something of value to your audience while they are staying home, what is that? We’ve already seen numerous museums and zoos doing virtual tours with surprising elements that would certainly keep people entertained. We’ve also seen entertainers of all types doing mini concerts, musical challenges, puzzles and amazing creative content to keep us distracted. Some of those creative challenges have also raised money for causes too.
If you can find a creative way to connect with your audience, you may find a receptive audience. Recommendation: always check your tone before posting. Your audience’s needs and capacity to absorb information is changing so rapidly that what might seem humble and service-oriented one day could be considered tone deaf the next.
Beware of Overscheduling
This is not business as usual, so set aside the usual pace and pulse of your channels. Create mental space and distance around your channels, by looking critically at your schedule and determining what people really want to see right now. Recommendation: use a thick red Sharpie marker (virtual or real!) to edit your schedule, providing your audience with quality content.
Later This Week: What Can You Do when your Social Schedule Is Altered by a Global Crisis?
Communicators are struggling to keep up the pace of a crisis that seems never ending. Here are 5 ways to help you go the distance during this public health crisis.
Communicators need advisors too. Find a colleague in another industry or state to Share Ideas and Test Messages
This is NOT your daily press briefing. Do daily “mental health” check-Ins with your internal and external teams and your fellow communicators
Distance Yourself from Extraneous Noise and bad information and focus on trusted outlets and sources.
Take a Break
Give you and your spokesperson and your team small but frequent breaks and listen to or participate in something that is unrelated to the crisis.
Course Corrections Prevent Whiplash
Taking small steps and little course corrections every day can prevent the exhaustion of major changes.
Download this Infographic and Save it to your computer or SHARE it with a colleague for your future gut checks!
For more crisis resources, check out more helpful posts here: bit.ly/crisispro
New to working from home? We’re not! Our team is virtual and geographically dispersed across three time zones! And we have spouses, kids and fur babies in the mix too! Earlier this week, we shared our top tips on Working from Home on our Facebook page . We got a lot of positive feedback on them, so we have combined them here into a brief bulleted list. Questions? Ask away and we’ll do our best to help.
Fran Stephenson, Texas
10 years in a Home Office
- Use the time chunking method
- Minimize distractions like answering the door, picking up mail, etc.
- Be aware of how much you are sitting and change position/location frequently
- Don’t forget to eat lunch.
Jennifer Hatton, Colorado
9 Years in a Home Office
- Prep family lunches and snacks the night before
- Use an app like boomerang for reminders
- Be realistic about “to do” lists
- Use a planner for “All the Things”
- Set time blocks for working and schedule things for my kids.
- Be flexible to change up kids activities as needed
- Your pets will tell you when it’s time to take breaks!
- Set up a place to work, even if it’s small. Make it pretty!
Brittany Perry, Texas
5 Years in a Home Office
- Shower and get dressed every morning, even if you’re not going anywhere
- Make your work station personal – candles and an awesome playlist are my faves.
- Take breaks and spend intentional time with your family.
- Family communication is important too. Check in with everyone.
Claire Larson, Maine
6 Years in a Home Office
- Doors are your friends. Everyone needs some space.
- If you can, get your kids outside in the yard or driveway, in a space where you can still see them. Set rules for when yard time is up.
- Be creative with phone meeting locations – I’ve used the shower and a closet in a pinch.
- Use an online calendar to help structure your day and schedule your tasks into time blocks.
- Give yourself a start and end time to your work – you now live in your office and have to create boundaries for yourself (and others)
Most Valuable Takeaways
- A space with a door, but improvising works too
- Routines but with flexibility
- Organize, organize, organize
Our virtual team is amazingly productive and so flexible. We cover for each other when someone has a sick child, a family emergency or just needs down time. When your team is this fabulous, it’s easy to take them for granted. I try to find unique ways to connect with these three valuable women. We’ve sent care packages with themes like “it’s time for Fiesta” and “Summer Survival Kits” and check in via text and call. Memes keep us laughing too.
Are these coworkers amazing or what?
Here’s a checklist for crisis communicators to assist them in being truthful, succinct, accurate and understandable as they gear up for prolonged crisis communications in anticipating the spread of Covid-19.
Lead with the Headline News
- Start with the items that will reassure and calm the general public. The first broadly communicated information from the CDC unfortunately led with the possibility of widespread closures and then, midway through their communications, stated that the risk to the general public was still low.
- Say it and say it again!
- Many news outlets are live-streaming these events and people come and go throughout the webcast and can miss the important news. If possible, have someone from your team re-stating the key message on the live feed, so they appear as your audience appears.
Create an Information Hub
- It shouldn’t be too hard to create an online information hub. Update as often as possible. In short form communications, always link to the hub for the full story.
- Make the hub easy to read and visual.
Point to Authority Sources
- Who is leading or from whom are you getting instructions? Point to the local, regional or statewide authority. Audiences often believe trusted officials at the local level as they are known faces.
- Here’s one local hub, but it hasn’t been updated for two weeks:
- Here’s the CDC hub with a date stamp right under the headline:
Check All Outgoing Communications
- It may seem like a carnival game of Whac-A-Mole, but as communicators we have to try to correct the most egregious misinformation when it is on our owned or social media sites. You can’t be everywhere, but you can enhance monitoring on your own properties in a professional manner and move people to your information hub.
- Scrutinize your communication pieces more thoroughly – read everything out loud to eliminate jargon and tongue twisters.
- Date and time stamp everything so the newest info is first.
- Prepare to keep repeating your key messages or latest information
- Assign someone to screen all incoming communication
- Take a deep breath.
- Clear your head and clear your desk.
- Wash your hands. You’ll be at this for awhile.
What would you add to this checklist? Drop a comment below to help everyone with their latest crisis challenges. Or share a resource that will help others with better communication.
***Updated with new resources on March 5, 2020***
From Doug Levy, author of Communications Golden Hour, a tip sheet for prolonged crisis:
From Seth Godin, some interesting thoughts on the spread of viruses in general. Good read to center your thinking:
An example of an organization being proactive, without being scary or alarmist:
Associated Press communications guidelines:
Resources about COVID-19
A continuously updated document on meeting cancellations:
A Seattle high school student has build a real time website tracking the virus here: https://ncov2019.live/data
I recently assisted two small business owners with crisis response. While I’m still processing everything that happened for one of them, we could actually see it coming and were able to do several things on social media to prepare for critics bombarding their Facebook page (which they did for 7 straight days!)
This owner posted a response to a tragedy that happened at her place of business. We all thought this would give a bit of closure to everyone involved. Nope.
Within the hour, a very long, inflamed and inaccurate post was shared by someone who was a third party to the tragedy. We starting watching the page very closely. Soon, the mob appeared and started a cycle of heated words, accusations and (wait for it) more inaccurate information.
While the response was complicated and involved, here are the four things we did to mitigate the public outcry.
- Enhanced monitoring on the channel for 48 hours and aggressively remove anything that was clearly profane, spam or plagiarized.
- Used the “three strikes” rule. Any person who posts the same message three times on the page, is banned. This is a common protest tactic and is meant to spike the Facebook algorithm.
- Turned off the Reviews function because they cannot be removed and in crisis, people leaving a rating have rarely used the business. They are merely expressing their discontent.
- Changed the page settings to moderated. So no one could make a post to the wall, only comment on existing posts.
So how can this help you during your next crisis? Now is a great time to check your settings and make sure you know how to turn on and off all these features if and when you need them.
Want To Rock Social Media for Your Brand? Here’s How:
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Twitter lists should be an important part of your 2020 marketing strategy.
What is a Twitter List?
A Twitter list is a curated list of Twitter handles within Twitter that allows you to view the tweets of those within that list only. You can create your own lists or subscribe to one created by someone else.
Public vs. Private Lists
Public lists are just that – public! They are searchable and those you include on the list will receive a notice they have been added. Public lists can be followed, and you can share the URL as a resource for others.
Private lists cannot be seen by anyone but you. The accounts included within the list will not receive a notice they have been added to your list and if someone has the list URL they will not still not be able to view it.
Follow vs. Add
You can add Twitter accounts to your list that you follow already, but you do not have to be following an account to add it to your list. This is a great way to keep your follower list down but still be able to keep up with all the accounts that interest you.
For more specifics on how to create, add, edit Twitter lists.
Ways to Utilize Twitter Lists
There are a variety of ways you can utilize Twitter lists and I find they are all helpful to the diverse group of clients we work with.
Twitter lists are a great way to monitor trends in your industry, media, a crisis and more. I always recommend a local media list (or multiple if you have locations or interests in different cities), national media list if you work nationwide, supporters/partners/sponsors and thought
leaders in your industry.
Scanning those lists weekly will help you catch up on what is going on or in the case of a crisis you have one place on Twitter to monitor sentiment.
This is one is my favorite. Creating lists takes time, but if you put in the effort to build great lists it will be a big time saver going forward. Creating lists for the different topics or industries you are interested in or focused on will allow you to scan and find great content to read and share across your social channels. I will share more ideas on different types of helpful lists to have in addition to the media lists mentioned above, below in the examples.
If you have created a list that you think would be helpful to others – share! While you can follow and subscribe to other people’s lists it is always great to create lists that others will follow as well. It helps to show your expertise as an expert and/or industry leader as well.
Examples of Twitter Lists
Medical Client – created lists of all locations, local partners, national health organizations
Sports Client – created lists of local teams both professional and amateur, national sports and coaching organizations, US professional and Olympic sports (during an Olympic year), local hotels and sports facilities
Final Thoughts on Twitter Lists
Twitter lists take time to build, so go slow and don’t try to do it all in a day. In my experience the time commitment is worth it!
How do you plan to use Twitter Lists for your business in 2020?
It’s nearly the end of the year and many organizations are taking stock of how they did this year and making plans for next year. If you’re a social media manager for an organization, you should be doing the same. But what questions should you ask? What should you look at to gain insight into what’s working and what’s not working?
Social networks make changes all the time, so you need to continually look at your channels, evaluate results and make changes to stay ahead of the game.
Here are 10 questions you should be asking as you evaluate 2019 and begin to prepare for next year.
- How is my engagement on Facebook? Is it better or worse than it was at the beginning of the year? Should I trim the output on this channel?
- How are my posts doing on Instagram? Are they getting seen in the feed and getting lots of comments and likes? Am I overposting on this channel?>
- How are my Instagram stories doing? Are they getting seen more frequently or less frequently than my Instagram feed posts?
- How am I doing on Twitter? Can I see a difference now on RTs and likes compared to where I started earlier this year?
- Is LinkedIn a viable channel for my organization? How is it different? Did my content stick this year and what kinds of views, likes and comments did I get on my posts?
- If you’re on Pinterest, what is the standout pin of the year? Which boards are getting more traction? Can you see improvement over time?
- What types of content are the best performing content on each channel? Why?
- Are all my channels performing to set objectives? If not, what changes are indicated for next year?
- Should I launch a new channel or a new group in the coming year?
- How will I report on these successes and challenges? What metrics will help me explain success to my leadership?
Answering these ten questions will help you start evaluating your social channel performance this year. What other questions are you asking about your social media ecosystem this year?
Disclosure is the hottest topic in social and digital media and is the least understood by brands AND by influencers.
Full Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and am not offering legal advice. Anyone who has questions about disclosure and how the law applies to them, should consult a licensed attorney.
Now that’s out of the way. (See what I did there!)
So, what is disclosure? By definition, it’s identifying or exposing an act or instance of something. In today’s social media environment, its theoretical underpinning is this: to help social media users identify and separate organic posts, stories or videos from posts, stories or videos for which compensation has been given. But it’s not just about compensation. The law covers material relationships which include gift cards and discounts. It also covers family and business relationships too.
In practice, the term “Wild West” doesn’t even begin to describe how it’s really being used.
What is the Law?
The “law” comes from the Federal Trade Communication and has been revised several times, as social media has grown and changed. The most recent update was September, 2017. Their website features a set of Endorsement Guides which give examples for a wide range of situations including payments, contests and soliciting product reviews.
You should bookmark this link FOREVER.
In case that feels like a bit too much to digest, the Truth In Advertising organization has distilled it to a set of bulleted lists that explain what they call the “material connection” and offers suggestions on how to comply with the law.
Disclosure for Agencies and Brand Representatives
Full Disclosure-AGAIN: I am not a lawyer and am not offering legal advice. Anyone who has questions about disclosure should consult a licensed attorney.
As a communicator, I am extremely motivated to follow the law. So I counsel my clients to do the same. But every day, my team and I see examples that are clearly paid engagements that lack the necessary disclosure.
- Facebook and Twitter posts that feature a company that the poster clearly represents with no disclosure.
- Agency comments on an Instagram post where there is clearly a client relationship and no disclosure.
- Sending products or services to influencers to use/share/discuss and telling them – don’t bother to thank us or mention we gifted this to you.
Disclosure for Influencers
If you accepted something, you need to disclose it. It’s that simple. Familiarize yourself with the guidelines and start to implement them on your next brand activation.
And you need to make sure that the contracts you sign with brands contain disclosure requirements. We use disclosure language with a link to the FTC Guidelines in every influencer contract we manage.
Our team is hyper-aware about this topic. One of our team members participated in a course by a major Instagram influencer who is making significant income from paid engagements there. She was horrified to see a thread in the accompanying private group in which the group advised in a q/a that there is no need for disclosure when a brand “gifts” something to you. Others in the chat advised “it’s up to you if you share that it’s a gift or not.” And they even suggested that you should post something about the gift, then show the post results and pitch further business to the brand. Every single piece of advice in that thread violates the disclosure laws.
My team member was horrified.
Besides the complete ignorance about the law, the additional issue is that this group is selling their “expertise” to others who are following their advice, perpetuating bad habits and encouraging others to do the same.
Here are some examples of disclosure featuring influencers I know and have worked with regularly.
It’s not that hard.
“I see a lot of influencers use brand partner, hosted, or my personal favorite, “spon” to disclose the relationship with the brand, says Jill Robbins of Ripped Jeans and Bifocals. “My interpretation is that only “ad” or “sponsored” meet the FTC’s disclosure requirements.”
What if You Are Not Sure?
It’s anyone’s guess who the FTC might fine when disclosure isn’t obvious. The agency has been criticized for the guidelines being confusing and open to interpretation. Government agencies are often very measured in the actions they take to enforce laws and this law is no exception. Since the September 2017 guidelines have been released, they’ve sent 22 “educational” letters (which is the step prior to a warning letter) to celebrities, according to this story in the Morning Consult.
Just because you’re not a celebrity doesn’t mean you should ignore the law. Overcommunicating your relationships in social and digital posts is better than no disclosure at all.
I’m a community manager for Texas Travel Talk, a community of travel influencers. We work with brands to bring bloggers to Texas destinations and tell the destination story through blog posts and social media blitzes. These are paid relationships. We’re not perfect but we constantly review and revise our disclosure guidelines. For example, we used to put the disclosure about our financial arrangement with a destination at the bottom of each post, but because the requirement is for a disclosure to be up front and clearly noticeable, we’ve moved those on all blog posts to be right after the first paragraph and in bold font.
We also struggle as to the appropriate disclosure that we, as community managers, need to pursue. Since I’m not the actual influencer, I often use a more narrative disclosure like “So thrilled to be working with #client [insert name] or something like the tweet below.
If you’re not working with influencers or find disclosure necessary, I am willing to bet that you’re following someone on Instagram or Twitter who talks about products, restaurants and experiences. Are THEY getting paid to promote those things? Maybe it’s worth asking.
Just last week, The Truth in Advertisiing group (the same one we linked to earlier in this story) filed a complaint with the FTC against Ryan ToysReview You Tube channel managed by the parents of 8-year-old Ryan who is often cited as You Tube’s highest performer with 21 million followers. They argued that children under age 5, the primary target of this channel, could not possibly know the difference between paid and organic content there. Read the full story here on the Today show website.
If there’s one thing you can take away from this discussion on disclosure, there’s a lot at stake. So, let’s go out there and be law abiding social media users.
How have you struggled with disclosure?
Social media is a big part of getting the word out about your organization. You’ve spend considerable time and effort creating content and selecting the right images to get your message across. That makes it all the more important to know who your audience is, so you will know if your messages are getting to the right people.
Identify Your Desired Audience (if you haven’t already)
First you should identify your audience or target market. Who do you want to talk to, market to, educate, etc.? Write it down and keep it for reference!
Identify your Current Audience
Social media platforms have made it much easier to figure out who your fans and followers are. Let’s talk about Facebook and Instagram specifically. There are 3rd party tools that can help you understand your audience better, but using Facebook and Instagram directly is a quick and easy way to identify your audience.
If you have a business page, the “Insights” tab should be your best friend.
Go to “Insights” across the top of your home page, then click “People” on the left-hand side of your screen.
From here you can see information on your fans including gender, age, country and city.
If you have a business profile, you can find out everything from demographics to viewing habits of your current audience.
Go to your bio page, click the three lines in the upper right-hand corner and select “Insights”.
From here you can see insights on your content, activity and audience. Find out your top locations, age range and gender, plus when your fans are online by day and hour!
Speaking to your Current Audience
If your insights show your followers are your target – congratulations!!
If your insights show that your audience is not quite who you thought they were, you can make adjustments to include them.
Adjust Your Content to Reach your Desired Audience
If your current audience is not exactly who you thought it was that is ok, but you may need to adjust your content to make sure you are speaking to the fans you have in the best way possible.
Example: You are a health care provider targeting women 30-55 and mainly post content for women 40+. After reviewing your audience, you realize the majority of your followers are 25-35. Adjusting content to appeal to the audience you have is a good plan in this case. Most likely they are mothers with younger children – content that includes information on how to treat ear aches, healthy snack recipes and promoting services such as preschool TB tests or back to school physicals would help reach your audience more effectively.
There are some instances where despite who is currently on your channels you want to continue to talk to your intended audience to prevent confusion or a large change in tone or purpose. You don’t want to abandon your current audience completely, but make slow, incremental changes to start bringing in the demographic you desire.
Example: You are a hotel and your existing social media audience is mainly locals. In this instance you would want to continue to talk to visitors (your target) and possibly add in some messages on staycations or local events for your current audience. Switching to talk to the audience you have (locals) would be confusing and off-brand but adding in specific content to include the current audience of locals would be worthwhile as you continue to build your out of town fans and followers.
If you don’t currently have the audience you want, use targeted advertising to help you reach them!
Do you have your target audience clearly defined? What metrics do you use to know that you are effectively reaching them?