Communications

dreamstime_xs_45994455At AHA, we’ve recently been working on quite a few stakeholder communications projects. We really like this kind of work because you get to work with great organizations that understand the value of regular, consistent and useful communication to their stakeholder groups, and it makes a positive impact when done well.

I think that it can be easy to forget or overlook some stakeholders, especially during a time of change, transition, strategic or other long-term planning, or during an issue. Depending on what you are dealing with, the focus might be media or government relations or reporting to the board of directors or governors – the seemingly “higher priority” groups. In reality, in our experience (and we have done a great deal of work in this area), one group can’t be seen as a higher priority than another – especially in this day and age of social media.

Messaging needs to be consistent throughout your communications, no matter what stakeholder you are engaging in dialogue or updating. What you tell journalists, board members, employees and members of the public must be uniform in the messaging. Don’t share more information with one group than you want the others to know. It will get leaked and it will create resentment and mistrust.

Communication with stakeholders has to be regular and it should be as often as resources will allow (even if you need to bring in help). It may seem clear to you or others who are more involved in the situation, but for those who are receiving the updates, details or other news – especially if it deals with change (even potential change) or an issue – it takes longer to absorb the information.

Providing regular communication might seem repetitious to you, but for the person who is getting the information, they need time to take it in, process it, and put it in context of what it means to them. It is better to have your stakeholder groups complain about getting too much information (and they will) than not enough. Even if you have people complaining that they are receiving too much info, you will always have those who will say they haven’t heard enough or anything at all. It’s just how it works when you are dealing with serious subject matter.

There is, of course, a great deal more to planning and implementing a successful stakeholder communications program. However, you have to start with a clear commitment to communicate with all stakeholders, consistently and on a regular basis.

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dreamstime_xs_29206617I don’t think a week goes by at AHA when I don’t learn about another social media communications channel. And some days, it can feel like there is so much information about the technology, usage and user demographic, that it can be really confusing and overwhelming.

We go through a process here at AHA that includes defining the demographic user, how this technology or channel can be effectively used for clients, and how challenging it might be to get it up and running – relevant to client understanding of technology or appetite for new channels. It can be a time-consuming process, but it’s worth it for us so that we can be aware of new opportunities for clients.

We are going to start a regular (every two weeks) feature here on the blog that focuses on explaining, in the context of communications or PR, different social networks, channels, tools and technology. And – we’re going to start with the most popular ones like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. While many people are fully versed with these, many others aren’t – and we have had several new clients come to us because they want help with the basics. Other people might already be using the more popular social media networks for their organization, but don’t have a strategy. We’ll talk about that too.

We’re looking forward to developing this feature series here on the AHA blog – and we hope it will provide you with some useful information so that you can navigate through all of the communications opportunities online.

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dreamstime_xs_35210587 (1)This week, it was announced that convicted serial killer Robert Pickton had apparently self-published a book about the crimes and it was listed for sale on Amazon. There was, of course, a public outcry about this. I think everyone who heard about this book thought about how this news would affect the families of Pickton’s victims and wanted something done about it.

Hearing about this book was upsetting to many – including the AHA team. We worked with the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. I took on the role of Director of Communications for the Commission and our team edited the 1,400-page report. The pain and loss that the families suffered is beyond comprehension and to see this book being sold – and Pickton potentially profiting from it – was abhorrent to all of us.

It generated widespread media coverage and social media outrage. People called, e-mailed and connected with Amazon and the book’s publisher, Outskirts Press (based in Colorado). And – quite quickly – both Amazon and the publisher responded. Amazon pulled the book and the publisher ceased printing and sent out an apology, explaining that they did not realize that Pickton had written it.

Public outrage has a more immediate effect with the power of the online world. Prior to social media, phone calls would have been made, protests organized and traditional media may have played a role, but today, when people are upset, they have a much louder – and more convenient – way to make noise. And it can happen quickly. The news of the Pickton book broke late Friday, I believe. By Monday morning, Amazon had pulled the book and the publisher had issued an apology.

In this instance, the power of the people worked well and the outcome was positive.

Now, the question I want you to ask yourself is: How would you respond if a large group of people were frustrated or angry with your organization or brand?

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charlotteempeycrop2We are beyond thrilled to announce that media icon (and all-around awesome human being) Charlotte Empey has agreed to take on the role of AHA’s Toronto Bureau Chief.

AHA partner, Ruth Atherley, and Charlotte have known each other and worked together for many, many years. Their friendship and professional relationship goes back to the days when Charlotte founded and was Editor-in-Chief of Modern Woman magazine and Ruth was a contributing writer for her. Charlotte went on to have senior and leadership roles at many of Canada’s national publications – including as Editor-in-Chief for Metro English Canada (daily) newspapers and Canadian Living magazine.

In this partnership role, Charlotte will work with the AHA team to expand the brand journalism and branded content services in Toronto, Vancouver and across the country.

With shrinking newsrooms, organizations are challenged in getting their stories told via media coverage. Understanding how widespread the changes in traditional media are, as well as the power of social networks, online content and search engine optimization (SEO), the AHA team realized years ago how important it is for brands to tell their own stories.

In order to meet a growing client need in this area, the AHA team has put a strong focus on creating engaging, informative, well-written and professionally-produced branded content and brand journalism campaigns for our clients. This approach allows the brand story to be effectively and authentically shared with organizations’ stakeholders, communities and target markets in a way that engages the audience.

For our purposes, branded content speaks more specifically to projects or individual items to be developed – such as web content, one-off articles, videos or podcasts – and brand journalism is focused on a longer-term campaign that would include weeks, months or even years of creating ongoing, interesting, informative content on a regular basis that engages your target market or stakeholder groups.

Please click to see case studies.

AHA Branded Content/Brand Journalism Services

Our branded content/brand journalism services include, but are not limited to:

  • Writing and editing
  • Identification of compelling story angles relevant to an organization/project
  • Defining the client’s brand story
  • Interviews with subject matter experts, senior team and staff members, board of directors and other individuals, when necessary
  • Research of industry/global trends, identifying key elements relevant to the subject matter
  • Development of brand journalism campaigns
  • Editorial content schedules for ongoing series
  • Editorial content schedules for social media
  • Editorial style writing of articles for websites, blogs, e-newsletters and other online publications
  • Video segments and series (sometimes accompanied by articles)
  • Photos
  • Photo essays
  • Social media content
  • Social media series
  • Promotion of branded content on social networking sites
  • Client bylined articles for submission to traditional media (consumer and trade)
  • Op-ed pieces (bylined to client)

See the news release on this announcement here.

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