Online Communications

I was recently searching for a hotel in New York City. I searched a few online hotel sites that let you compare, and then went to the website of the hotel I was considering for a stay. It was full of grammatical errors and typos.

This is a nice hotel. Their nightly rates are expensive. It made me wonder… if there is this lack of attention to detail for what I expect is an important marketing tool, what else do they miss?

I went to check out their social media. It too had grammatical issues, typos and spelling errors. I went to review sites to see what others were saying about their experiences. And, there it was. So many reviews focused on how things that were promised didn’t happen and that the details that they expected to be standard were overlooked. There was a lack of attention to quality and excellence that was a concern to me. I booked somewhere else.

Content Is Key to Success

We create a lot of content for clients. Social media copy, web content, blog posts, editorial-style articles, white papers, presentations, speeches, op-eds, brochures, videos, podcasts, webinars, backgrounders, news releases, media statements… the list goes on and on. Content is king, queen and the court jester. It’s how organizations strategically inform, engage and persuade.

Brand storytelling is at the heart of how an organization tells its story. And if there are mistakes in it, you lose credibility. Factual inaccuracies, typos, grammatical errors and spelling mistakes hurt your brand reputation. Ensuring that your content not only has a great narrative that engages, but that it also meets strong quality standards in these areas should be a given.

The Language of Social Media

Some of our clients have an audience that requires them to embrace a new language paradigm of social media slang. This means abbreviations and using numbers within a word (l8 = late). It depends on the demographic you are addressing. It has to be relevant.

Copy Editing, Proofreading and a Grammar Expert

We’re in a time of change – and that includes language. Words and sentences that would have been unacceptable even ten years ago are now accepted. In fact, the Oxford Dictionary comes out with a list of new words that are being added to it on a regular basis.

Language evolves and will continue to do so. It’s important that we, as communicators, stay on top of that evolution. We need to stay current with the words we use, but that doesn’t mean we can get sloppy, lazy or thoughtless about creating content. In our line of work, we can’t have typos, grammatical errors, spelling mistakes or factual blunders.

What Kind of Impression Do You Make?

Let’s face it – for the most part, the first impression that a potential customer or client gets of you is online. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, your website, a video, a webinar… What if this communications piece has mistakes in it? What does that say about the quality of your work? What does it say of your professionalism? It says that you don’t care enough to pay attention to the details.

What Can You Do?

We work with clients to make sure that they always represent themselves as intelligently and professionally as possible (because that is who they are). Quite often, even if a client has written a piece – they send it to us for a copy edit, fact check and proofread before it is made public.

This includes social media copy. The challenge is that sometimes it is easy to dismiss an error on Twitter or Facebook because you were working quickly and had to put it up. The fact is, as much as social media is personal and more casual than other content, it still represents your brand.

As an aside, you should have a content strategy that clearly defines your content, storylines, the narrative and what your overarching content objectives are. Don’t wing it, don’t post for the sake of posting, and if you are always randomly posting – that’s what your ROI will be.

Be thoughtful about your content. Be detailed. Be aware that it takes time and effort to create great content. Don’t toss its impact out the window by making mistakes in it.

The Last Laugh

We found a roundup of some of the worst typos ever – that made it out into the public. We thought you might enjoy them.

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We recently managed a client event that had a live stream component. The engagement that this event had showcases how powerful this type of outreach can be.

This was an important industry-relevant event and it featured three exceptional speakers – all experts in their field (which are closely related). People had flown in from across Canada to the venue in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland and we had a packed house of well over 200 people.

There wasn’t room for everyone who wanted to attend and some influential professionals couldn’t make the trip here – and that’s where the idea for the live stream on Facebook came in. Live streaming provides the opportunity to extend and expand an event’s reach and ROI – and to create strong engagement with your audience.

No matter how many times we have produced live stream events (and they are becoming a regular occurrence in our world), there is always a concern about them. We work with an exceptional videographer/live stream team that consistently delivers excellence – and yet we still lose sleep when we have a live streamed event coming up. Well, more sleep than usual. We worry a lot – will the technology work, will the Wi-Fi go down, will the online audience have a positive experience… the list goes on and on.

We did produce our first live stream about five years ago with the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry. There was a series of public policy meetings planned and we knew that it was crucial that those who were not in Vancouver had the opportunity to view the meetings and to provide feedback.

Facebook Live and other live streaming platforms weren’t out yet – so we streamed through the Commission’s website. There wasn’t a huge opportunity with technology and within our budget to be interactive during the live stream, but it did allow interested individuals and groups to watch and provide feedback to the Commission via e-mail.

Today, interactivity is a key component of a live stream, and it improves the experience substantially. Given our extensive experience with this type of engagement – live streaming an in-person event – we thought we would share some tips and insights on how to produce an effective live stream.

Tips for a Facebook Live Event

  • Hire a great videography team – we work with Sean Lam and his team and highly recommend them. Call us if you want more information, but I can tell you – they are excellent partners. They are skilled, experienced and they care.

 

  • Identify the purpose of the live stream – is it to increase Facebook followers? Build engagement? Educate? Entertain? Influence opinions? Provide news and updates (especially important if you are dealing with an issue or crisis)?

 

  • You need to know what you want to achieve before you plan out your live stream content strategy.

 

  • Promote the live stream from two weeks out. Any earlier and people won’t notice. From two weeks out, push out information via Facebook, e-mail, your website, your newsletter, via event announcements and other communications methods.

 

  • If you have speakers, ask them to (please and thank you) promote the live stream to their community. And help them to do it by providing visuals and content. Make it easy for them.

 

  • Run special promotions one week ahead of the live stream. This could include giveaways or other contests. Engage the audience with the subject matter that the speakers will address.

 

  • Double, triple and quadruple-check your technology.

 

  • Review your speakers’ presentations to ensure that they will work for the live stream.

 

  • Put up signs at the event so people in the audience will realize that there is a camera and that if they walk in front of it, they will block the view for the people online.

 

  • Assign someone to monitor Facebook for comments and questions – and to engage. If there are breaks in between presentations, have that person ask the online audience questions.

 

  • Ensure that if the speakers take questions, the audience on Facebook has a chance to ask some too.

 

  • If you can’t get to all of the questions on Facebook, explain to people that there is a limited time for questions. If there are questions that the Facebook engagement person can respond to, do that.

 

  • Ensure that the person engaging online knows the full presentation schedule and can explain what is happening and that the video will be available post-presentation for viewing.

 

  • At the end of your event – thank the Facebook audience specifically for being there. They took time out of their day to participate in your event.

 

  • Post-event, go through the comments and make sure that you have responded to each one. In the hectic pace of a live event, it is reasonable to expect that you will miss a few.

 

  • Find a quiet place, post-event, to have a glass of wine or a beer. You deserve it!
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By Ruth Atherley

Social media can ruin your future. It’s that simple. Social media puts your reputation at risk when you post something inappropriate, illegal, immoral, unethical or just plain nasty. A perfect example of this is a small group of Harvard University accepted students – who engaged in a private Facebook chat where they shared sexually explicit memes and messages that also targeted minority groups. They aren’t going to Harvard now. Their admission has been rescinded, according to the Ivy League school. Their futures aren’t so bright now.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened and it won’t be the last. Heck, there are people who were stars in the world of PR and social media who have been taken down because they posted something unacceptable – often thinking they were being funny.

One of the elements of social media that I appreciate – in both my personal and professional life – is how it allows you to see someone for who they truly are. Years ago, before social media (remember that?), people could show one face publicly and be someone else entirely behind closed doors. Not anymore. Social media has erased that boundary – and I think that is a great thing. You see, even if people are trying to showcase themselves in a particular way, if it isn’t authentic to who they really are – at some point – they will slip up, let their guard down, respond to something… and they will get caught. And many of those people should be unmasked for who and what they really are. If there is a theme of ugly beliefs or behaviours that surface, then they deserve what they get.

What about the person who makes a genuine mistake or the one who behaves poorly but learns from it? Social media is unforgiving – what you comment on or post lives on forever. Even when you take it down, it’s likely someone has a copy or screenshot of it. Social media never forgets.

When we work with clients on social media, we tell them that whatever they post on social media should be done with thought, respect and consideration. It’s perfectly reasonable to enter a discussion, dialogue or debate to disagree. But imagine if what you wrote was run across a jumbotron screen or published on the front page of a national newspaper – would you be proud or ashamed? Not just of what you said, but also how you said it and how you engaged with others. Sometimes, we need to be the “grown-up” if a conversation turns nasty or aggressive – to respectfully stand up for what is right or, if appropriate, to disengage.

This isn’t just professional advice; it’s personal advice too. Be careful out there. Your reputation is at risk.

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By Ruth Atherley

We recently had a potential client come to us for a social media strategy and tactical plan. They also wanted us to implement the plan. As they laid out their goals, targets and key performance indicators (KPIs) for the first six months, we worked to respectfully, but honestly communicate that what they expected was close to impossible – for anyone. (And that anyone who said they could achieve those targets was either misinformed or overselling themselves.) In addition to unrealistic goals, they had an incredibly small budget. They were adamant about their expectations and didn’t want to hear our feedback about the realities of what could be accomplished. It was clear that this client wasn’t a good fit for us, so we respectfully declined this contract.

We love social media and have an in-depth knowledge of the power of social networks and online engagement – but it takes resources, effort and time to build a community, to create engagement, and to facilitate communication and dialogue. We’ve been including social and digital media in our strategic communications plans since we opened our doors over 14 years ago. And we have learned some valuable lessons about what it takes to do social and digital media well.

View social and digital media as a component of your overall communications strategy.
No element is a stand-alone and there will always be overlap. It is crucial that you don’t just repost the same content on all of your networks. Change it up a bit to speak to the specific community or stakeholders, use different images, and stagger the posts from one network to another.

Don’t try to be all things to all people.
Unless you are a large consumer product or service company – limit which networks you use. It is impossible to keep up with multiple social media networks and do it well. Pick your top one, two or three and do those well first – and then see how you can expand out.

Create an editorial calendar.
Have it include all of your communication vehicles, networks and outreach. Identify the events, initiatives and information you will share and work through it like a magazine would work through their editorial lineup for the year, quarter, month and week.

Put enough resources into it to do it right.
Having someone manage your social media from the side of their desk doesn’t work anymore.

Respect the fact that your social media channels are a megaphone to the world.
Copyedit, proofread and fact check what you are saying. It matters.

Give yourself time to build a community and to create engagement.
Don’t expect that you will have thousands of followers the first week you are active on a social network. It doesn’t work quickly – and you want a good community that will engage. That takes time.

Give more than you take.
Engage with others. Comment, retweet and share. If you aren’t actively supporting others, you can’t expect them to support you.

Keep the algorithms of the social network in mind.
On Facebook, your followers might not see a specific post. Comment on your own post or respond to a comment to help bump it up a little. Don’t repeat a post three or four times a day – that becomes irritating to your audience – and don’t try to trick them by changing up one thing like an image. Your audience will see through that. If you want to make sure they have seen your post, find different ways to showcase it that isn’t irritating and repetitive.

Repurpose content.
Spread it out over a range of channels and social networks – plan it out with the editorial calendar.

Social and digital media are important parts of a communications strategy. To do it well, you need time, resources and action.

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