September 2012

There are days when I have so many solid ideas for blog posts that I do a happy dance. Other times, I struggle with finding a topic that you will find relevant and that I feel that I can, and should, weigh in on. And some days, my writing brain just doesn’t show up. Those are not easy days, given how much I write in a day. However, on some magical days, as I go through the morning’s news, blog posts and social media updates, a piece shows up that is so good I just have to share it. Today is one of those days.

This article on is excellent. If you do any media relations, it is worth a read.

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Writing is a challenge, even when it goes well. Good writing is a gift from the universe, but it’s never guaranteed. Even people that write incredibly well have times when it just doesn’t click; the piece never comes together as they had hoped.

For those of us who write often and who are always chasing that “click,” this article provides some good tips and hints on how you can improve your writing – sometimes without changing a word.

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At AHA, we’ve been busy drafting strategic communications plans for several clients. One of the questions we ask in preparing to write these plans focuses on the area of social media – on social media policy, specifically. We ask if their organization has one. More often than not, the answer is no. And that’s okay; we’re here to help with that. The answer that we sometimes get, however, is a question: “Do we really need one?” The answer is always a resounding yes.

A while back, we worked with a client who was concerned about putting a social media policy out to employees. This company is multinational and was struggling with its identity, partially because it didn’t have a strong brand promise or a way to authentically deliver one if they had it, but also because of additional challenges. In each area (not just each country), the offices were given a great deal of freedom to do what they thought was best. This worked well in some regions, not so well in others. And none of the efforts came together in any cohesive fashion. Work was duplicated or not done at all. It was chaotic. We identified not one, but four different Facebook pages and five Twitter accounts. What’s worse, they did not have consistent positioning or messaging and sometimes even the information they shared contradicted itself.

It was a mess. There were small pockets of people who had – with good intentions – taken on social media as a part of their role. Unfortunately, many of these people did not have a communications background; they were more junior than senior and they didn’t see past the tactic or the tool. There was no strategy applied to what they were doing. In one instance, someone was sharing confidential information about the organization via Twitter and Facebook thinking that they were showcasing an organizational success. What they shared had not yet been announced and it created huge issues for the people working on the project.

Whether you are a big or small organization – you need a social media policy. You need to identify and communicate to everyone who works with you (staff, contractors and even vendors) what is and is not acceptable to share via social media. If you don’t do this, you will have no one to blame but yourself when something goes sideways in this area.

I found an article about developing a social media policy on that is worth a read. It will give you some idea of what you need to include in yours.

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I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend that, when I recounted it in the AHA PR office, sparked a pretty animated discussion. It was about advice that my friend received from some marketing professionals that she happened to meet at a workshop.

The people she met spoke with her for a short amount of time about her work (which is in the not-for-profit arena) and gave her some advice that she got quite excited about. Now, this friend isn’t a marketing person or a professional communicator. So the advice that these good meaning folks gave her sounded really good. Until you put it into context of the budget, resources and current situation of her organization. Then it made no sense at all. It wasn’t strategic; it didn’t have clear objectives. It was advice given with good intentions, but with no basis in the reality my friend lives in.

I have said it before and I will say it again – context matters. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. A while ago, we had the opportunity to develop an app for AHA. We thought about it quite seriously, but then we put ourselves through the same exercise we ask clients to do when it comes to this kind of thing. We asked ourselves what our stakeholder group would get out of this, what we, as a company, would get out of this (besides the fun of having our own app), and what the return-on-investment was for this project – was it financial, raising awareness of AHA and our services, was it providing additional value for our clients? In the end, we realized it wasn’t right for us at the time.

I have been a professional communicator for many years and I have put a great deal of energy into helping to shift the perception of what we do from tactical to strategic. Having random people toss out (in my opinion) unrealistic tactics regarding an organization that they really don’t understand – and not having a clear view of their objectives – pushes us backwards. Don’t be that person. Before you put forward an idea for your organization or your client, think about why you should do it. If you want to do it just because you can – that’s just not good enough.

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We have been doing a great deal of planning in our AHA PR office, for clients and for ourselves. (When you have more than one client, you better plan well or no one gets what they need!)

The reaction we often receive in our first meeting with a new client is surprise at how nailed down we are when it comes to planning. We outlined an editorial schedule for a client recently and she was very interested in why we listed out all of the social media content needs on it, as well as needs for other content such as news releases, articles, speeches, etc. She asked why we don’t just grab the information from the other content when we need it. For us, it is important to plan out not just what content is relevant, how it will be developed, and the deadlines, but also how it will be shared and, where possible, to craft the message that is appropriate to the audience, community or stakeholder group and the medium.

There are many times in a communicator’s day when we have to react and respond (often immediately). Where we can, we plan the creation of content and schedule it in advance. This allows us to build the storyline, create momentum and carry it forward, and strategically engage.

An actor once told me that the reason he was so good at adlibbing was because he “rehearsed the hell out of the part ahead of time.” Creativity happens when you are organized and have efficient and effective processes. Creativity is at its best when you have the time to focus on it. Planning allows that time to focus. To us, planning facilitates creativity.

What do you think? Do you plan for creativity? How far in advance do you plan?


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