Communicating in a time of COVID19

As I said in my previous blog, people are online in unheard of numbers. Sometimes it seems like the whole world is online!

But there are also more businesses and would-be influencers online than ever before. So how can you reach your audiences and actually be heard?

Here are 5 tips on reaching audiences in the COVID19 era!

You need to go where they are

Naturally, you need to first find your audiences. When it comes to online audiences, the options are nearly endless. However, social media is a good starting point.

Facebook remains the world’s most popular social media platform, although others are not far behind (and growing!).

Selected social media networks, relative popularity by millions of users. 2020.

Source: Statistica

However, there are massive variations across countries and age groups that will determine which social media is the most useful for your situation. For example, there is no point using Facebook if you are aiming for an older audience, given just 5% of users are over 55 years old.

Timing and placement matters

There are also some interesting outcomes from global lockdowns – in the US for example, 4.5% of people think they will use LinkedIn less than previously, compared to 3.8% of people who think they will increase their use of Twitter. Although it is hard to see this data in action, it does point to an important point for communicators – you need to think about where your audiences traditionally can be found, as well as where they might now be congregating as the world changes.

There are also changes to the times people are online. In a normal world, people tend to be online for social purposes more in the evenings and weekends. However, with people home during the day much more, the timing for reaching them is also changing. People are online during the day, often bored and looking at their online feeds. Whereas in the evenings, at least in some countries, bandwidth limitations as more people go online might mean people are less able to see high quality videos or willing to stay for longer load times.          

This means really thinking about the timing of releasing your content (or paid promotions) to make sure you actually reach the people you are aiming at.

So first, work out where your audiences are actually hanging out in these changed times. But that is not all that has changed about audience behaviour…

Don’t forget websites!

Until this year, apps seemed to be the way of the future. If you didn’t have an app, you didn’t have an audience.

But that is not the case at the moment – whether for the long term or just right now.

Websites are back in fashion!

Although use of services like Facebook, Netflix and Youtube has increased exponentially over the last few months, this growth has been for websites rather than apps.

This is consistent with other research that found web browsing has grown by a massive 70%!

As people have more time at home with their computers, the appeal of a tiny screen (and the RSI of tapping away on it) may be less appealing!

So this has two major impacts for communications.

The first is that it means you need to go back and make sure your website looks great on a computer display. Many old school websites worked on desktops and not on mobile, but it is often the opposite way around now. So make sure you fix that! Having a beautiful app may not matter if people are browsing websites and are deterred by clunky or outdated design.

The second is that you can explore different ways of sharing your message, that might not have worked so well on the smaller screen of a phone. You can also get a bit more creative in your content… which leads to the next point!

Need to adapt

With everything changing, how we reach audiences needs to change as well. Some of the basics of good communication will remain the same regardless, such as maintaining emotional connection and being clear on why your point matters to a reader.

However, how you share that point might have to change dramatically.

For example, tourism providers have been hit particularly hard, but the most creative have leapt onto online options with gusto. This is especially in Australia which was already suffering from a downfall in tourism thanks to the January bushfires. The Sydney Opera House and Melbourne Digital Concert Hall have put performances online. There are live cameras on the Great Barrier Reef so you can at least feel like you are leaving the house.

Musicians and celebrities are livestreaming concerts, gigs and festivals all over the world. The options are nearly endless.

Around 44% of people globally are spending more time on social media, which might be expected. But there are also some interesting opportunities off social media – around a third of people are spending more time playing video games or on their computer, reading books or listening to podcasts.

And all of these offer opportunities to promote your message.

Get creative!

You can engage try to engage audiences in a new way. Give new videos or audio content a try, produce a podcast to draw people in. Perhaps take this chance to develop that gaming app you’ve always wanted to create?

When working out what content to put out, you need to ask if the proposed content provides information for your audience that is useful at this time, such as what you are doing to assist the situation for them or others, or what they can do (e.g. washing hands, social distancing). It doesn’t all need to be COVID, in fact sometimes a distraction is welcome! But it needs to be handled carefully.  

People are also naturally growing more interested in their local area. So where you can, make sure you localise and personalise content. Target yourself at smaller and more local audiences so that content feels more adapted for their situation, rather than aiming at bigger groups who may be at a varying stages and conditions. 

But whatever you do…

Acknowledge the situation

The world has changed. Proceeding with normal content, especially marketing, that does not acknowledge this can feel tone deaf at best to audiences and offensive potentially at worst.

Speaking of my own Facebook feed, even as late as early April some posts and sponsored promotions remained the same kind of content as I had previously seen, suggesting they had been scheduled long before the crisis escalated. In all cases, it made me unfollow the account – if they didn’t care enough to change their messaging to meet the new situation and respect what we are all going through, then I don’t want to do business with them.

I’m not alone in this attitude.

However, that doesn’t mean going too far. Not every single piece of content you put out has to talk about the situation or be dominated by it. Many readers want to see something different, be reminded that there is some level of normalcy that we will go back to!

A survey of consumers by Kantar found that it is important for content to talk about the new normal and keep readers informed on the situation, but brands should not exploit the situation for their own promotion.

So you need to walk the line carefully. Look at your content and be confident that you are sufficiently acknowledging what the world is going through, and share your message through that situation in a positive and reassuring way.

Keep an eye on it

Scheduling content is a brilliant way to make the most of limited time to get your message out.

However, even at the best of times, you should always be watching what is going on and make sure that your message is not jarring or inappropriate.

And this applies now too.

The situation is changing rapidly and some audiences may be at a very different point to others. For example, as I write this post, Australian states are talking about easing restrictions, while the US has had its deadliest day yet. Neither of these situations was predictable even a month ago! So scheduling content for these different groups would need to be watched very closely.

A great example is that of Ford, which as the crisis escalated in March, reacted by replacing planned advertisements with content about payment relief and solidarity.

Keeping an eye on content gives you a good insight into what is actually working, and what isn’t, and what might be actually damaging your brand.

Adapting can be hard, especially if you had your heart set on a particular message or vision or if you rely on scheduling just to keep content rolling out. But the risks of not doing so are high, so it is worth it!

So what does it all mean?

Right now, there are more people online than ever before. But there are also more providers trying to be heard. Although you can still break through the crowd, you need to take a few steps to adjust if you want to see dividends.

COVID19 good news story

In keeping with the theme of this post, about adapting and being creative, the celebrity-studded online “One World” concert raised an impressive $128 million for the World Health Organization!

Want to make sure your communications are right for the right-now? Get in touch!

Finding good for communications out of COVID-19

The media on COVID19 has been pretty relentless in recent months. Grim stories of doctors facing impossible choices, unimaginable death tolls and riots in the United States against the one thing that seems to be saving other countries. It has caused incredible changes to the way we work and the way we interact as humans – and naturally, that means it has caused huge impacts on the way we communicate too.

And here, it is not all bad news. COVID19 has shown humans have an innate and undefeatable desire to be part of the bigger human community, to share and bond and maintain connections.

So what is the good news for communication that has come out of the changed world we now live in?

More people can be reached online

Social apps are having a boom. The slightly controversial Houseparty app exploded from 130,000 weekly downloads in February to over 2 million in March! This social platform allowed users to chat to friends in an online ‘party’, with the caveat that these parties are generally not private and anyone can join in. Specific apps aside, the boom for social apps is a great sign for communication in the future. As more people get used to using a wider variety of apps, and more comfortable with apps as a part of their lives, the door is opened for a whole range of new opportunities. People are also increasingly willing to have an online presence when they might never have done so before.

As new audiences come online who previously may not have been accessible, advertising and communication can be more and more targeted. This means a higher chance of hitting the right target.

However, it also means content needs to be handled carefully.

Businesses have an unprecedented opportunity to tap into a bored and ready audience for their message, to show solidarity and compassion in a way that will linger in people’s minds long after this crisis has passed. Sensitivity and tone matter here; get it wrong, as many have, and the consequences can be significant.

But get it right, and not only will you become known for all the right reasons, but you will also potentially be a part of stopping the spread of the epidemic – which by itself is a worthy goal!

The Drum has a great recurring collection of advertising done right if you’re looking for examples of some really clever, and inspiring, marketing.

And it’s not just official accounts that need to be managed carefully. With the rise of people going online, more and more people are posting content that they never would have before – which can pose problems of its own for employers, such as in the case of Lululemon recently with an ill-judged private post by their Art Director.

Work communication is also going online

As working from home has become almost ubiquitous, we’ve had to look for ways to communicate with colleagues that previously felt so natural – walking up to a colleague’s desk has been replaced by the much less personal email. Until Zoom, and other similar apps (Microsoft Teams, Webex etc).

In the United States, Zoom has topped the iPhone app download rankings for weeks.

As with other social apps, there are widespread concerns about privacy and security, including an announcement by the FBI about “Zoom-bombing”, where video meetings, including school conferences and lessons, were being hijacked at an alarming rate, as well as other equally concerning flaws in security. An Australian comedian, Hamish Blake, took aim at this in March by joining an online law tutorial – and while amusing for many, it was met with serious concerns and followed by bans on use of the app by government officials.

However, what the explosion of apps like Zoom demonstrates is an underlying need for communication between colleagues. It isn’t just friends and family feeling the pinch, but workmates as well. And it also highlights the importance of clear, accurate and timely communication to get our work done.

For communication, this is a great sign. It means more flexibility in how we communicate and what we see as important, greater speed and responsiveness to online media and more focus on getting our messages right. It also poses its own challenges, such as how to get people on board with more creative or complex concepts when communicating via email or apps, rather than face to face, but a lot of this will become easier with time as people adjust.

Many businesses will never go back to traditional office-based working, having experienced the cost benefits of a remote workforce. So these changes to how we communicate are here to stay.

More online content = more competition

Netflix created the subscription streaming model and in the process, became a part of our vocabulary (although Netflix and chill might be a bit tougher these days!). And for many people locked down, sitting down to watch some Netflix is the most appealing way to spend long days.

In some countries, Netflix use has gone up by an incredible 50%! Beyond what this means for including Netflix in your share portfolio, it points to something much bigger.

Bored people go online.

The spread of challenges and viral videos globally comes from a population tired of seeing the same 4 walls day in and day out.

This doesn’t come without an impact; some areas are seeing massive slow-down in internet speeds which points to underlying weaknesses in infrastructure that will need to be addressed longer term.

However, what this means for communication is a rapid increase in competition for people’s attention. People may be online more, but their capacity to absorb information may actually be reduced as they are more stressed, distracted and bored rather than engaged.

So for communication, now more than ever before, the need to really get content right and pull in the audience is essential. Mediocre content that may have worked in the past just won’t cut it anymore, as people have so much more competing for their attention.

And what does this mean for communication? It might be tough in the beginning as we adjust old ways of working. But it also poses a major opportunity.

With online becoming the norm, and so integrated into our daily lives, we can explore more creative ways of sharing a message. Things that a few years ago might have seemed unrealistic or impossible are now not just happening, but succeeding!

Be creative!

Now is the time to take risks. Careful, calculated risks.

But try something new.

The entire world as we know it is changing. Whether it will ever go back to what we used to know remains to be seen – but for communications, it has changed for the better.

You can’t put the genie back in the bottle.

COVID19 good news story

With this post starting commenting on the doom and gloom of so much media these days, it’s important to also keep in mind the good news. This entire post is about how humans have found new and interesting ways to stay in touch.

But I will finish with one more piece of good news.

The rather spectacular Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand reassured children in New Zealand that the Easter Bunny was not affected by travel restrictions – but in the kind of welcoming and socially aware gesture for which she has become known during this crisis, she asked people to draw Easter Eggs and leave them in their windows, for those children whose families for whatever reasons were unable to get eggs this year.

Beautiful.

Want to make sure your communications are right for the right-now? Get in touch!

Social media for development communications

Reaching your audiences is more important than ever. COVID19 lockdown is causing an explosion in social media content, so it is even harder than ever before to be heard.

But are your audiences actually on social media, and if so, which platforms reach them? What if you want to reach people in a developing country, to tell them about your NGO’s work or spread awareness on an important campaign issue (like hand washing or other healthy behaviour messages)? How do you find those audiences and are they on social media?

Who is on what social media?

As at January 2019, social media penetration had reached an average of 45% of the population globally, reaching as high as 80-99% penetration in some countries. This is quite impressive and means if you are working in countries like the US, Australia or United Arab Emirates, you would be foolish not to have some form of social media presence!

But what is hidden by this global statistic is that almost all developing countries, outside of Asia, have far less than the global average for social media penetration, mostly under 20% (e.g. Kenya has 16% social media penetration, Nigeria 12%).

There is also variation in what social media is most relevant in each country. Facebook remains the globally dominant social media, far outstripping other platforms with over 2 billion users. The next closest is YouTube, followed by WhatsApp.

In an amazingly comprehensive piece of analysis, Vicenzo Cosenza has reviewed social media access and dominance in countries all over the world. He finds that Facebook is generally the dominating platform in most countries, with Instagram coming second in many developed countries. The research is worth a look if you are contemplating setting up a new account or wondering how best to target an existing one.

So all of that means that in most contexts, some presence on Facebook will be helpful. A presence on Twitter or other social media platforms is potentially not required, unless you find yourself working in a particularly unique enclave or want to reach audiences in another location, such as potential donors in a country with a more prevalent Twitter presence.

But is everyone online?

And anyone who has spent time in a developing country, with expensive and slow internet, if available at all, knows that accessing high bandwidth sites, like YouTube, and even Facebook, can be problematic! And this leads to an important point for social media in developing contexts – your users have to have access to the internet and power for whatever device they use. And in many developing countries, this isn’t so easy (although it is rapidly changing!).

In 2019, data from Statista indicates over there are over 4.5 billion internet users globally. These users are heavily concentrated in China, India and the United States. Across Africa, internet access ranges from 50% in Northern and Southern Africa, down to 32% in Eastern Africa and 12% in Middle Africa, as reported in data from Hootsuite.

What this means is that in many countries, you can’t assume that your audiences have access to social media – or even the internet.

So what does this mean?

Social media is still an important tool for development communications, but in many cases and countries, it will not be effective if used in isolation.

It should instead be a complement alongside other communication methods, such as using traditional media, billboards or other highly visible methods, or direct community communications.

You should also make sure that you are reviewing your social media platform analytics regularly, to ensure you are reaching the right audience – if you are targeting people in Vietnam but most of your audience is in Australia, perhaps you need to review your strategy!

In another post I will delve into these issues in a bit more depth, to help overcome the constant challenge of finding the right audience for the right message.

Not sure how to best reach your audiences? Get in touch!

What is SEO and do I need to care?

If you’ve been working on your web presence for even a little while, you have no doubt heard the term “SEO” (Search Engine Optimisation). But so often, the term is thrown around without any background or explanation, as if everyone knows what it is!

So what is SEO and why should you care about it?

Basically, SEO is about how easy you are to find on the vast internet. When someone types a query into a search engine, the engine then sends out “crawlers” into all the information available to find content that could answer your query. That content is eventually fed into an algorithm, which matches it to your query and feeds it back to you in the form of ranked search results.

Nearly 70% of all clicks on search results go to the top five ranked results, so it is essential to rank high.

Good SEO means you rank higher on search engines like Google or Bing, so your audience will find you. Bad SEO means you don’t. And that’s it.

Given there are over 5 billion searches on Google alone every day, that’s a lot of potential audience time you are missing out on!

How is SEO calculated?

SEO is based on a range of factors – in fact, Google uses over 200 factors to determine your rank (check out a great detailed list here). In general though, factors cover things like content, readability, links and your site’s set up (e.g. tags, meta descriptions). This great infographic from Moz.com explains some of the most important factors and how they rate.

rank-factors-pie-2013-lrg.gif?mtime=20170104131408#asset:2285:url

Source: Moz.com

On-site factors

On-site factors are those you can control yourself within your site. This includes:

  • Your set-up. This covers a range of behind-the-scenes factors. For example, having a keyword in your domain or sub-domain is a factor in SEO results. So if your business is working in a specific niche, considering including this upfront when you are setting up your domain, but definitely include any relevant keywords in your blog posts or sub-domain URLs!
  • Your content. Your content needs to be relevant to the search, but also high quality, different to other content and useful. It should also have appropriately selected keywords, but used carefully and judiciously, with thought about the kind of audience you want to attract and what you want to sell. Be aware of not over-using keywords so your content doesn’t feel awkward or stilted, and be warned that keyword stuffing is now penalised by search engines. A good copywriter can help you achieve all of these objectives, or explain what it is you need to do (link to that post).
  • Connections. Your site needs to be plugged into the rest of the internet. The more links you include and the more connected you are to the rest of the internet, the easier for the “crawlers” to find what they are searching for.You also need to make sure that your site is easy to navigateinternally and has plenty of internal links, again, helping those little crawlers find their target.
  • Frequency of updates. Noone wants their search result page to be full of out-of-date and irrelevant information. So good SEO means frequent updates to your page, to ensure your content remains fresh. You don’t need to come up with new content all the time, going back and editing and updating can achieve the same outcome.
  • Layout out of content. You don’t necessarily need to know HTML in detail, but you need to know some of the basics to achieve good SEO results. This includes using title tags (H1, H2, H3) to lay out content and ensuring you have a good meta description (the 160 character snippet that appears under your link in a Google search). There are paid services which can check all of this for you, or you might want to use the Yoast SEO plugin. This plugin analyses your WordPress posts for maximum SEO results and gives clear guidance on where you need to fix things. It’s a great tool for a beginner, until the little SEO quirks come more naturally.
  • Responsiveness. X% of internet browsing takes place on a mobile device. That means it is essential that your page is optimised for a mobile device. You can check your page here if you’re not sure how you go on this one.

There are a lot of other factors to consider for on-site SEO, such as loading times, the security of your page, ensuring there are no broken links and much more. But if you start with some of the above, you should start to see improvement in your SEO results.

Off-page SEO

You have a lot less control over these factors, and to an extent, it influenced a lot by the quality of the content you are producing. Search engines use factors like the legitimacy of your site (ie. how trusted is it), and how authoritative it is. That means presenting a legitimate, credible page to the world will see you go up in the search rankings. You can check your site’s authoritativeness here.

Rankings also take into account for your bounce rate, which is the measure of how many people only view one page on your site before leaving.

Drawing it all together

SEO is not an optional feature of your webpage anymore, if you want to be visible. You can focus on producing high quality, relevant and unique content, but unless it can be found, you won’t get anywhere. So look into the above to see if anything on your page can be improved, or contact us if you think we can help.

A good copywriter can help you to turn moderate SEO results into great, so get in touch if you need a hand!

How can a copywriter help me?

You might have heard the words ‘copywriting’ or ‘content creation’ thrown around, and perhaps just dismissed them as yet more marketing jumbo. Or maybe you think your business is too small to need a copywriter yet, or the budget is too small.

But if you are not using a copywriter yet for your business, then you are definitely not getting the most out of your advertising, marketing and overall online presence.

What is copywriting?

To put it simply, copywriting is the act of writing copy. Copy is a term used to describe any written material used in marketing or advertising. And everything you do online is a form of marketing, from your website and social media presence through to actual ads you might issue. It is also known as content marketing.

The power of copywriting is demonstrated by the number of people using it – 93% of business to business markets use content marketing and 85% attribute better content marketing to their ability to be successful.

Often people think that because copywriting is just about writing content, that they can do it too. And sometimes, they’re right, and they can indeed produce engaging, interesting content that pulls in audiences and draws sales. But they’re not always right. That’s what happens to give you examples like Adidas’ awful post-Boston marathon email saying “congratulations, you survived the Boston marathon”, or Triumph’s outright creepy ad for Fathers’ Day telling buyers the products were “for the ladies who pamper their dads”.

Good copy can make your business, draw in buyers, get you noticed. Bad copy can all but destroy your reputation and future earnings.

What is good copy?

If you want more detail on good copy, you should check out my dedicated blog post on good copy.

Overall though, good copy is engaging, interesting and catches the eye of the reader. Importantly, good copy means you can convert potential buyers into actual buyers!

However, with only 42% of companies self-assessing as ‘good’ at content marketing (ie. copywriting), you are probably seeing an awful lot of bad copy.

What can a copywriter offer me?

So this is where a copywriter comes in. A professional, expert copywriter can help you overcome the problems of bad content writing and experience all of the benefits!

Dedicated skills

Copywriters have spent an entire career honing their writing skills to give you the best quality content possible. This includes incorporating Search Engine Optimisation techniques (SEO – see my blog here for more on this one!), understanding of current marketing trends and best practice, and high quality writing skills. Copywriting is more than putting words into sentences. It is about knowing the best words to use, where to place them and what to say to bring reader interest, and convert that interest into commitment!

A professional copywriter can also make sure your content all reads professionally and naturally. They will avoid the common grammar and spelling mistakes (or the ever-present misuse of the common apostrophe!) that pepper so much writing. They will also be able to write genuine-feeling content that triggers the right emotions in your reader, without feeling awkward or forced.

Save time

An expert copywriter will be able to prepare content for you in a tiny portion of the time that it will take you to do it yourself. That’s because they are doing this work all the time, so they know the tricks to make it quick but also effective. Taking advantage of a copywriter’s skills frees you up to do your own job, making your business grow faster and secure more buyers!

Cost effective

A high quality copywriter is unlikely to come cheap, taking into account for experience and track record. However, when you consider the potential benefits, and the direct potential revenue gain from good copy writing, it is an investment that will pay massive demands. In addition, content marketing can cost 62% less than other marketing options, so it is a great way to allocate your marketing budget!

If you don’t want to outsource everything, then an option might be to outsource only specific content creation creation. This is a relatively common option, for many businesses, as it allows you to retain control, access professional services but also keep costs down. For example, commonly outsourced content marketing includes content writing, design, content distribution, editing and measurement.

So where now?

And if after all of this, you still think you are better off doing your content creation in-house? Maybe you are right. Businesses report that good quality content marketing increases both the quality and quantity of leads, directly leading to more revenue.

So if you want to explore whether you are getting the best possible results you can from your marketing efforts, then it is worth looking into whether a copywriter can help.

Need a nudge for your communications approach? Get in touch!

2020 social media trends

Social media clearly remains King when it comes to reaching audiences and getting your message across. Every article and blog you read on communications or marketing makes that clear – without social media, you might as well not exist. And that seems fair enough, with over 2.45 billion active users monthly on Facebook at the time of writing, growth of over 1 billion people since 2015. That means Facebook alone is accessed on a monthly basis by one third of  Earth’s population… And that doesn’t even account for other increasingly popular social media, like YouTube or Instagram, or platforms that are popular among particular groups, like Weibo or TikTok. If, like me, the data behind this gets you intrigued, Our World In Data has a particularly interesting analysis of social media usage trends. Social media has been through rapid and fascinating changes since its emergence, some harder to predict than others. But what might be coming for 2020?

1. Videos, not static

There is no secret that video and photo posts far outperform their texty cousins. They are now essential for any social media post. A great piece by Social Media Week outlines the trends for videos on social media, and what it means for communications, highlighting that 82% of all online traffic is videos! Nowhere is this seen more obviously than in the emergence of stories. By October 2019, over 500 million people were using Instagram stories on a daily basis. The transition to ‘story’ format over standard posts has been a prediction for a few years now, and this trend shows no signs of slowing down! Stories haven’t yet taken over from the News Feed style, as  some predictions said, but they have definitely grown in popularity! Don’t really understand stories? These collections of photos and videos give viewers a quick, 24 hour window into whatever you are up to or the message you want to share. Bt.com does a good job of explaining them in simple terms here. But what they are really is a natural transition from seeing people’s photos and automatic videos in your feed, to a quick digest of everything you might like to see, in a format that is perfect for increasingly short attention spans and gives maximum viewing for minimal effort.

2. Be careful with influencers

There has been a massive backlash against influencers in recent years, with ample gleeful news stories on how this influencer or that influencer was publicly shamed for greedy attempts at free stuff. Blatant influencer marketing techniques are increasingly shamed, with many criticised for ‘selling out’ for advertising dollars. That is not to say The Influencer is dead. Far from it! But it is about being more careful and targeted in how Influencers are used, and which ones. Niche influencers, or nano influencers who may have only a few thousand followers, will become increasingly important by offering authentic and genuine high quality content that is exactly targeted at specific audiences.

3. Authenticity!

All of the above is part of an increased desire in many fields towards authenticity. Saturated by clever marketing and advertising, and feeling more and more separated from their neighbours and friends, audiences are increasingly craving the same personal connection that they might have had in the past with their local shops. This manifesting in an important way for communicators, with a growing need for content to feel authentic to be effective. Although it may feel cynical to try to be authentic with social media content, especially sitting in a bland office with a deadline looming, it can generate extremely strong results. And it isn’t about being a mercenary, but about tapping into genuine emotions and thoughts, reflecting on what you want to say, without trying to lure people in with clickbait or overly-produced content. It can also, from a practical standpoint, mean re-engaging with content that was particularly popular organically, and boosting or sharing that to tap into the natural interest.

4. Engage, engage, engage!

All of this talk about authenticity has an important other aspect to note – no longer can businesses and organisations sit on the sideline and just passively release content, without engaging with their audiences. Twitter and Facebook have long been used as a tool for users to reach out to make complaints (and sometimes compliments), but increasingly, there is an expectation of near-immediate and ‘real’ engagement back. You need to go where your audiences are, talk to them to share your message, but let them feel heard in return.

5. Keep abreast of new trends

The digital world is ever changing. New apps, new trends, new audiences. To use a rather trite saying, the only thing certain, is uncertainty. So it is imperative that communicators keep up to date with the newest trends and emerging platforms, to ensure your message is as effective as possible. A great example is the social media powerhouse TikTok, which emerged only in the last few years but has taken off in the under 24 year old bracket.  If that is your desired audience, you may need to get yourself on there!

That’s it!

All of these might seem quite simple and even obvious if you are keeping up to date with news on social media in any form. But I have tried to simplify down some of the buzz words and fashionable advice, to a practical overview on what it actually means. Let’s see what 2020 brings!
Want to take a new approach to communications this year? Get in touch!

Roundup! #1

A round up of some of the most interesting content on the web about communications, public relations and social media – this is what has caught my eye this week!

Effective communication: I’m going to come back to this in another piece, but for now, I’ll leave you with this great analysis on Women’s Agenda, on the different communication styles of two prime ministers – Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison – in response to devastating national tragedies, and the lessons for all of us.

Social Media Trends in 2020: As we enter a new year, there are always people talking about what the year ahead holds for us and what the new and exciting trends will be. This article by Social Media today gives a great summary of the 3 most exciting emerging trends in social media, a must read for any content manager or communicator. Most exciting for someone like me, is the possible end to interruptive tactics… There is also a cool infographic that looks into influencer marketing trends, especially the growth in video content and the need to reach out on different platforms. And finally, as a data-head I am loving this analysis from App Annie about The State of Mobile and what it means for reaching audiences – including the expected massive increase in access and use, especially of social apps!

Simple communications strategies: This piece by Inside Higher Ed is perfect for beginner communicators, giving simple rules for writing well and being understood.

Social media and loneliness? On The Conversation, there is a discussion about how social media can make us more lonely – but it can also connect us.

An importantly, considering the last topic, MIT News has issued a list of tips on how to maintain a healthy approach to your use of social media. Unsurprisingly, this includes taking a break…

Communications confidence

Before I took the leap into writing this blog, I was plagued by constant doubts. Do people care what I have to say? Am I good enough to say it? Will people trust me, am I credible or experienced enough to say this?

Those same doubts are why there has been such a long time between posts.

But I realise – no one is ever perfect. And life is a constant, ongoing learning experience for all of us. But I do start with a solid foundation on which to speak, built from work and life that gives me insights and thoughts that can make a real difference to how people communicate. That have made a real difference for people.

So I gave it a go.

And I’m back to give it another go!

Those mental doubts still nag at me, but I am getting better at ignoring them.

I share this story because I think a lot of us have the same doubts. Especially women. That same questioning, can I do this, am I good enough.

It gets in our way a lot, both at work and at home.

But of particular relevance for this blog is that I think it stops a lot of us from taking the leap into communications, from contributing to the strategic and external communications to our full potential. Those negative voices…I am not a communicator, I don’t have the skills for this, I don’t know what people want to hear…

But don’t let that stop you!

Give it a go, take the leap.

You might fall, with content that goes nowhere. But you might make something amazing…!

Need a nudge for your communications approach? Get in touch!

Planning communications (or Communications Mistake #1)

“Get something out there.”

Every communications professional has been given this instruction at one time or another. Get a story out. Maybe there is a topic, a launch, an activity, a photo, something to talk about. But maybe there isn’t, and someone just feels that there needs to be more done.

The first question any communications person should ask when confronted with this question is – for what purpose? Why?

And too often there is no good answer.

There are ample good ideas and good opportunities for communications activities. Everyone has a good idea in them! But not every good idea is the right idea.

Not taking a moment to plan out why you are doing something or what you want to achieve, means that at best, activities are not as effective as they could be, and at worst, can be detrimental to your aims. Research has shown that too many social media posts can actually turn off your audiences, so caution is warranted!

This is one of the most common mistakes I encounter in communications. It’s a crowded space out there, with an overwhelming number of people clamouring for attention and social media algorithms that work against inefficient content posting. So you need to make sure what you are doing is going to work, and think about why and what and who.

You need a plan

Communications planning is one of the most overlooked, but essential, steps in any effective communications approach. Planning your intended outcome means you can make sure that your message, medium, tools, all of it, get you where you need to be. It also means you can be proactive, look for opportunities to shape your message, before others shape it for you.

So how do you plan effectively, in a role that is so often reactive?

The first step is to start from the end goal – what do I want to achieve. What would success look like in this activity, campaign, project. Or, even better, for this year or budget period, or the next three years!

You might identify a few important objectives. That means you also need to prioritise – what aligns most strongly to what you are trying to achieve across all communications activities, or at a strategic level for your organisation.

Take your time in working this out – go for a coffee, or a walk. I do some of my best strategy thinking while running! It might seem like you don’t have the luxury of taking that time and just need to get pen to paper, but not doing so will ultimately cost you more time in the end. Planning communications activities is a core part of delivering communications activities – and planning requires focused time and energy. Even if only 15 minutes over your morning coffee.

While planning out your objectives, you also need to think about your key messages. What are you actually trying to say? For example, pretend (realistically!) that your end objective is to make people aware of your organisation’s work and support you with donations. In that case, your key messages would be around your organisation’s work, how donations make a difference to that work, and importantly, how supporters can make donations.  

When crafting key messages, remember they need to be engaging – facts, figures, useful information.

You also need to know who you are talking to. Are they potential supporters, who may know of your cause but who may not know your organisation. Or are they government officials, who you are trying to influence for funding for a specific activity/project. So another key element of the planning stage is to determine who you are actually directing your messages towards. I’ll cover this in the next post!

One of the other benefits of having a plan means having a more strategic overview of what you are doing and why, which they gives you the power to say ‘no’ if you need to.

So next time someone says “get something out there”, I hope you feel a bit more confident in saying “what for?” and making sure it is the best possible approach and message to achieve your overall objectives.

Could your communications approach do with a bit more planning? Get in touch!

Hate the message, but not the messenger

Freedom of the press has never been more important – or more under threat.

The presence of these threats isn’t new. The free press has probably never operated without criticisms or attempted restrictions by those they report on, while at the same time those same people use them as a tool for their own messages and ends.

But what is new is the vehemence and spread of these threats, and the willingness of governments to be so open about not just criticisms, but active steps to block and prevent press operations.

The criticisms of United States President Trump and his engagement with the media are well documented – and valid. If the President of the US can demonstrate such active disdain for the media, with no consequences (or importantly fall in popularity), then why not others.

And it appears that Trump really was just the tip of an iceberg.

Disturbing trends have emerged in Australia and the UK, both of which apparently prize free press. The decision to ban Russian media from attending the Conference on Media Freedom in London, ostensibly because they spread ‘disinformation’ (ie. Fake News), smacks of a deeper political motivation. RT itself put it perfectly in their statement; “It takes a particular brand of hypocrisy to advocate for freedom of press while banning inconvenient voices and slandering alternative media.”

Regardless of one’s political leanings or opinions on the validity or quality of journalism from outlets like RT and Sputnik, the idea of restricting press because one does not like the stories they write speaks to a disturbing view on the role of media and the control over it by governments.

A similar attitude is almost percolating in Australia. Just last month, the Australian Federal Police carried out unconnected raids at a media office and journalist’s residence. The raids were apparently carried out in pursuit of information about the release of information classified as “official secret”, in relation to stories about Australian elite special forces operations in Afghanistan and additional special powers for Australian spy agencies. Officially, the raids were to uncover if the journalists involved had committed a crime against Australia’s national security rules, and to uncover the sources of information. The raids also, worryingly, included accessing metadata from journalist phones.

Journalists have an obligation to protect their sources, so that important stories, especially whistleblower stories, can be told without fear. Intimidating journalists into revealing their sources, or threatening sources directly implicitly or explicitly, has very real implications. Stories that need to be told simply won’t be.

This was seen with the Harvey Weinstein case in the US – sources who had legitimate information indicating Weinstein was the sex predator he has now been revealed to be, were unwilling or unable to come forward for fear of the consequences. Had the story been broken earlier, some of his later victims may have been spared.

Seeking to pursue criminal charges against a journalist for reporting a story sets a concerning precedent – how far does it go? For now, it is National Security touted as the reason journalists must be brought back into line. What next?

So what does all of this matter for communications?

It has implications for what we say, when we say it and how we say it. For the messages we share, the rationale for these, and who we share it with. Communications is not just one way yelling into the void – it is a conversation, two ways, that exists within and is influenced by a bigger context.

But mostly, this matters for all of us. A free, uninhibited press is one of the basic foundations for democracy. Without it, there is no ability to hold those in power to account.

In response to the rising tide against a free press, there are numerous pieces published defending the importance of the press, trying to stem the tide and bring sense back into an increasingly shrill discussion. The CNN compilation of essays from 2017 is particularly compelling.

Being a journalist is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Many die each year and many more are imprisoned or persecuted. Just for doing their job.

The more we let a free press be treated as a negative force in society, rather than a positive imperative, the more journalists are at risk. And the more important stories will not be told.

I have no doubt that the journalists who were deemed acceptable to attend the Media Freedom conference this week will point to these trends and seek change from politicians. But I do doubt it will make a difference.