Category: Digital Strategy

Managing a New Type of Crisis

The year 2011 was a year filled with news about cyber attacks. In August of that year, one cyber hacking group released a video announcing an imminent attack against an organization I was working for at the time. The video had shown up in my media clips four days after it was posted to YouTube.

Now we had a comprehensive crisis communications plan, we drilled our senior leadership at least once a year and considered ourselves very ready for any crisis situations. We had also survived several over the years. But this was different and we were not ready.

This crisis was a new form of crisis – a very fast-moving one that targeted our databases, IT systems and online brand – from our social media accounts to our website. The reality was that these systems had potentially already been breached by the time we learned of the video on YouTube.

So how did we handle it?

Engaging a crisis communications team immediately. Within 24 hours of discovering the video, a crisis communications team was formed and consisted of senior leaders within the organization. They represented the critical functions of the organization and were nimble enough to make instant decisions. The CEO had assigned a Chair for the team giving the team full range to explore and act on options.

Researching other attacks and how other organizations responded. Research was conducted on the hacking group as well as how other organizations responded. This helped us understand the scenario we were in and gave us context for developing a crisis communications plan that would effectively navigate us through the situation.

Tailoring the crisis communications plan to a new type of crisis. We had no way of knowing whether our social media and website had been breached; therefore, we had to find other channels to communicate out from if our standard channels were no longer under our control. The plan was quickly refocused towards how we would handle the take over of our social media accounts and our website – creating new accounts and securing a new temporary url.

Enlisting the assistance of cyber security experts. Conversations were held with cyber security experts to understand the type of threat we were facing and what level of concern and the amount of resources we should dedicate to shoring up our systems. Their expertise and advice was invaluable to us in understanding the tactics used and how we could overcome those tactics.

Keeping staff informed and in the loop. Staff was consistently kept in the loop on a daily basis through emails from the Chair. This is extremely important as the stress of the situation and “not knowing” can slow operations and seep out to stakeholders, impacting trust in the organization, and ultimately, the brand.

“Wait, I have a great idea for a video!”

On Location

As a communications professional, I am fairly confident you are asked at least once or twice a week for your thoughts about a great video concept from a fellow colleague – their eyes widening as they go into great detail, with great excitement, on the next Oscar-winning short they envision. It’s often framed as the solution to all of the communications problems facing that division, your company or your division.

Whether it’s the unrelenting access to the medium or that childhood desire to be an actor or actress that creates so many unknown directors with video concepts dancing in their heads, it can be quite a challenge to direct this enthusiasm and passion into a workable product for them and for you so that all involved feel like they’ve achieved success.

Added to that challenge is the standard follow-up comment as you leave the discussion “make it viral”.

Before you start assembling that flash mob, here a few tips for creating effective videos that engage your audience and fit in with your overall communications strategy:

Ask why. Before you begin concepting your video, you need to know two things: the ultimate goal of the video and who your audience is. It sounds basic, but most skip this step in the rush to be creative.

Is this the right medium? Is a corporate-generated video the right medium to meet your goal and reach your audience? Consider user-generated content through Instagram and Vine contests or “man on the street” interviews at conferences by audience members. Think of where your audience interacts and target that medium.

Does it support your communications strategy? Revisit your objectives for the year and whether this video lines up with those objectives. If not, make a course correction or rethink the goal and audience reach so that it does meet those objectives.

Select your team. This is the most important part of the process. When seeking out a videographer, be sure to ask for a portfolio to ensure their style and technical ability match the style you are seeking. Also ask for references.

Start with a pen and pad of paper. Write down the story you want to tell. It does not have to be a full script but a story outline with a beginning, middle and end.

Create your storyboard. Have an idea of your shots, and sequence of shots before shooting. A storyboard is an online, artistic rendition of each shot, in sequence. Adjustments will be made on location but storyboarding is a necessary planning step to ensure your vision is understood and actualized by the production team.

Include a call to action. A call to action is the ultimate action you want your target audience to take as a result of engaging with your video. For example, do you want them to share the video and/or visit your website? Make that explicit at the end of the video.

Remember SEO. Include a transcript of your video where you embed it. Search engines will pick it up and it will improve your overall SEO. And don’t forget a title, description and keywords.

Last but not least, think long and hard about your distribution strategy. How are you going to release the video to your target audience? Via press release, opening an event/conference, an online launch on web and social media platforms? Have this planned out before you begin to ensure your video has a chance of being seen and being shared, giving it the opportunity to go viral.

Global Perspectives: Building an Online Community

Welcome to the fifth edition of Global Perspectives featuring Elenice Tamashiro.

Elenice TamashiroBased in São Paulo, Brazil, Elenice Tamashiro has worked in the social entrepreneurship and innovation fields over the last 13 years. A Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy graduate, she is currently working as a consultant for international businesses, organizations, and foundations focusing on technology and innovation initiatives. Follow her at @elenicett_cm.

Six years ago, I embarked on a new journey named the online global community. Everything I knew when I said, “yes, I accept the challenge”, was something related to technology that could boost the roles of individuals, foundations and businesses as social change agents. It could not have been more compelling for me . . . help build an online community to engage innovators around the globe to tackle the world’s most pressing social issues.

There are four foundational components that are essential to build an online community: purpose, people, content, and structure.

Purpose: The organization must have a purpose as well as clear internal goals – what does the organization want to achieve with the established purpose? It has to resonate with people, nurture their sense of belonging, and touch their heart! Without a purpose, it will be hard to reach out to the constituency that matters to the organization.

People: Who are you primary targets? Do you want to increase the audience or community members? Other than common interests, community members are enthusiastic about offering contributions, exchanging ideas and experiences. People are the driving force of a community and empowering them will inspire others, multiplying their actions to an expanded group of people both online and offline. The important point is to identify and attract the group of people who are most important to you.

Content: Community members-focused content – either inspirational or calls to action – usually reverberate better to the constituency while also strengthening your organization/company brand. Consistent and continuous content fosters community members’ engagement and accelerates change on the ground.

Structure: The technological structure must be as friendly as possible. Reducing “pain points” for the user is crucial to an online community. Do not be afraid of making mistakes but listening to the users (community members) and addressing glitches in a fast manner will ensure a good online experience and an enjoyable journey to them.

Certainly there are many other elements to take into account but the lack of any of the above four will prevent the online community from pursuing its goals.

Despite named as global, the majority of online communities have language constraints. It is just fine if the platform features one language. But the decision of taking the initiative to other geographies must be as planned as possible. Becoming multilingual unfolds into a myriad of concurrent and customized processes, strategies and tactics. The purpose, rules and technological structure can be one but the initiative expansion cannot be a mere replication of the original language setting. Therefore, giving a regional flair to an online global community requires redoubled energy.

Here are my lessons learned from developing multilingual platforms:

Be empathetic to local context: Be humble, listen to locals, and adapt the strategy and tactics as much as possible. Leveraging other geographies’ participation in an online community is not an easy task. Getting the buy-in from the local constituency is a good start to create a solid initiative for the long run.

Pay attention to content customization: It goes way beyond translation. Each region requires special attention to content and terminologies. Hard content (e.g. institutional texts) can be adapted but local content development is key.

Understand the local community members’ needs: Do not think about babysitting or micromanaging! This means stepping back. Just make sure you can provide an enjoyable experience to your constituency so all of them can walk on their on feet.

Keep the plates spinning: Once you decide to embrace new locations and languages, you cannot run away from matrix management. Additional human resource capacity may be added to handle all demands yielded by localization. Never underestimate the volume of work because it is an online thing and always remember to keep your sense of humor in difficult times, be witty ☺.

Lastly, here are a couple of inspiring examples of online community building: love.fútbol (football for social change online and offline community) and patagonia (check out their customer-focused content, it attracts the group of people they want without mentioning the brand).

Leading the Conversation

Last night I had dinner with a director of an organization who asked me to explain how Twitter could work for him. This was somewhat of a loaded question. He had a Twitter account for about three years with zero tweets. I opted to phrase it in simple terms: Twitter is very much a vehicle for ideas, similar to when you are thinking of creating a concept, a piece of research, a design – and then taking the gist of that idea and communicating it in real-time.

Why did I use this concept? The director is a figurehead in his field – a very well-known expert in his line of work – and I am sure many out there would love to hear what he is thinking, or his latest idea, or even his latest research or project. I explained to him that to share these snippets as they happen will create anticipation for what will come and create more interest and excitement around his next steps. He did cringe a bit about revealing his ideas before they were officially ready, which I translated as when it is printed, peer-reviewed and in a journal or magazine.

He warned me that this could be dangerous as not “everyone is there” and too much focus on Twitter (and social media in general) would mean missing out on the more important conversations. He is right, partially, but he is also partially wrong.

I think all of you can relate to this comment and may have even heard it before from other leaders in your organizations. I explained to him though, to the contrary, that social media is great place to create and lead these conversations.

In our editorial calendars and lists and day-to-day management of our channels through HootSuite, we often forget that to lead the conversation and curate important discussions from others is a sure-fire way to gain attention and to build brand awareness. As in the offline world, content is king. It is essential that this be identified in your social media strategy early on along with examples of conversations that lead discussions with flexibility and real-time reactions and conversations that happen as external events take shape.

It is not easy, but creating a new post or tweet that may add new insight or angles to an existing dialogue, will help gain more attention to your channels as well as enhance your image as a doer rather than a follower. It will also make your organization an organization to watch. This also extends outside your organization to like-minded organizations. Many of you are probably engaging in joint campaign promotions in the non-profit world and many of you in corporate may be doing the same as well with partners.

I also like to encourage my social media team to reach out to their counterparts in these organizations and to organize and lead monthly Google+ Hangouts to talk about opportunities to co-brand and co-promote and to share editorial calendars – taking the online curation concept offline to further extend your brand.

Quick Tips:

Content is still king. Curating content and leading the conversation on topics will help you build brand awareness online, which will extend offline.

Any press is good press. Do not be afraid to raise topics of discussion that others are afraid to touch. But do it in a way that fits with your organization’s culture.

Sway reluctant leaders. Social media should be part of your overall approach to reach your audience, to not “be there” is no longer an option for most. Show them their peers’ activity and why their lack of voice is ultimately minimizing their brand impact.

Your CEO on Twitter

Social media is a powerful tool to increase brand awareness and to lead conversations in your industry. The executive voice – the voice of your chairperson or CEO – can be a powerful component of your strategy. But, as JP Morgan experienced last week, there are some pitfalls to be wary of.

Most of us have had that phone call or conversation. Others may be dreading it. The day when your CEO asks, “How come I don’t have a Twitter account or how come ‘so and so’ has 10,000 more followers than me?” What follows are some tips to help you effectively set up your executive voice strategy to enhance your social media strategy, not overwhelm or undermine it.

The hard work, the research and persona definition should be done first as we outlined in the previous blog on creating your social media strategy. Not only for the brand but also for your CEO.

Using the same steps as you did with your brand, you will need to define the persona in consultation with the CEO and their staff. Is your CEO “bold” – leading the conversation and being a bit controversial? Are they “pro-active” and curating research, news and developments from across the industry? Determine what the goals are, what you intend to achieve and how it will support brand awareness and visibility. Match these goals to audience perceptions to ensure there is no disconnect.

With the goals and intent established, the online persona should be an honest reflection of the individual and where the individual is comfortable going. For example, if you set up a Twitter account for your CEO that is “bold”, whereas by nature she or he is “cautious”, it will have a dissonance that your audience will pick up on that will lead to a lack of trust. It sounds simple, but in the rush of conversation that is social media, the persona can get lost in the rush to stay in the game.

In these early development stages, determine and set a policy on who will have access to and who will manage the account. Ensure that this is outlined in the appendix of your strategy.

Think as logistically as possible as this choice can impact the account’s overall effectiveness. Is your CEO comfortable and available to run their account and keep track of the conversation? If not, then a member of your staff may need to be trained to do it and work closely with the CEO to accurately reflect their thoughts.

Quick Tips:

Directly involve your CEO in the development of their social media persona to support your brand’s social media goals.

The persona should reflect the true nature of your CEO – stay where they are comfortable, especially at the beginning.

Determine and set a policy for who will manage the account. It may be joint ownership until the CEO is comfortable and able to manage the account him/herself.