Social Media

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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Social MediaSocial media is a challenge when it comes to both your professional and personal lives. Posting to your social media accounts offers an often very public view of your opinions, hobbies, habits and attitudes. There really isn’t any separation between personal and professional anymore.

I have read many articles on the subject and have seen a couple of speakers say that you should keep your Facebook page personal and use LinkedIn, Twitter and other accounts for more public engagement with potential clients, customers, partners or employers. Well, the reality is – that’s not easy to do. LinkedIn is pretty straightforward; it is generally focused on professional networking and business-related topics. Other sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram, aren’t so easy.

Let’s take Facebook as an example. How would you decline an existing or potential client or employer if they asked to friend you on Facebook? (And, if you haven’t experienced this, you will.) There is no easy way to decline that request. I have been immersed in the world of social media for more than 15 years – and I still haven’t found a good way to do it. That’s because turning someone away who has a connection to you does not build a good relationship. And it can look like you have something to hide.

The fact is, you can set up your privacy settings to stop some people from seeing all or some of your posts, but I know very few people who actually do this. While the person isn’t informed that you have done this, if they are paying attention, they might notice. And that doesn’t stop someone from tagging you or sharing inappropriate information and others seeing it. You have to be really on the ball and vigilant to make this work.

In working with clients, we have done social media audits that have turned up images of board members sitting beside someone smoking marijuana, senior staff drinking wine from a bottle, and several other pieces of information or photos that could damage their professional reputations. You can’t control everything and, for the most part, these kinds of things can be easily explained or put into context, but sometimes you don’t get that opportunity.

I have been on Facebook for a long time and I have friends, family, colleagues and both past and current clients as my Facebook friends. And while I do share some personal things, in the back of my mind I always ask myself – what if this ended up on the front page of a national newspaper… would I mind? We have a social media policy at AHA: We don’t post when we are sad or mad. And, for the most part, we focus on the positive. Even in a negative or serious situation, you can find something to say that is constructive.

The fact is, there is no longer a boundary between what you do in your personal and professional lives. They have blurred together. When you speak to young people in the workforce today, they expect the people who lead the organization to be transparent and authentic. More and more staffers are connected via social media networks – and often with their supervisors, managers, directors and the big cheese.

For the AHA team, we work closely with our clients and we usually have strong, positive relationships with them. Social media helps us build these relationships, as they can see who we are when we aren’t sitting at their boardroom tables. They can see who we are as real people. They are exposed to our values, our integrity and ethics in action – through example – not just from us telling them who we are. They can also see that we like to have fun, have a sense of humour, and they can learn about our hobbies and passions. For us, this is a benefit. People want to work with people they like and respect – and that’s a two-way street. When professional contacts connect with me on Facebook, I get to see who they really are too.

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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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