Communications

who, what, when, where, whyThere are many social media platforms out there. I have seen some organizations attempt to use them all and the fact is, I have yet to see anyone accomplish that. Unless you have a huge communications team, a big fat budget and are all things to all people, it is strategic to identify the right platform or platforms for you and to limit them.

For our clients, we often review their social media platforms as a part of the planning process. Depending on the size of the client and the scope of our work with them, we make recommendations on changes and additions in this area.

We develop a great deal of content in a brand journalism style for our clients. The fact is, I believe communicators and public relations professionals have been using the brand journalism approach for decades – we just called it “content.” Today, we call it brand journalism and we use that content in a variety of ways, including on social media platforms. But before we do anything, we define where the organization’s stakeholders/community/audience hang out on social media platforms, we spend time understanding their needs, wants and expectations regarding interaction with brands and organizations (and often the world as a whole), and we develop a strategic editorial plan and schedule. And that plan and schedule is reviewed and revised on a regular basis as trends, interests and expectations shift.

I was fortunate to work with some incredibly talented editors and journalists back in my journalism career and they taught me a great deal more than how to write a good article. There is so much that goes into developing compelling content that speaks to the reader, listener or viewer. As much as each piece should be able to stand alone in its value, it’s also important to understand how all the pieces come together.

The content that is put forward in newspapers, magazines, in online publications and in broadcast news isn’t randomly pulled together. There’s a plan. As much as the media follows the news of the day/week/month, the content as a whole is strategically planned out with themes, context and flow. How pieces reflect on each other, what the sidebars attached to major news stories can communicate, how all of the images/visuals and articles/segments flow, what kind of follow-up or updates are expected, what time of year it is, whether the information will be important to people today, what the other seemingly unrelated events and news stories are, etc. All of these elements need to be taken into consideration when developing an editorial schedule/plan and when writing or producing the content.

It’s a thoughtful process and when it is done right, you can engage your community in meaningful and valuable ways. Not only is this approach important for which social media platforms you use, but also for the content you will share on them, including how often to share, what the themes are, the style and tone, how often you will self-promote (please, not often – it’s annoying and you will lose your community), what your level of engagement is, how much you will repurpose or repeat content from one platform to another, and – at the heart of it – what you have to say that matters to the people you want to connect with.

Working all of this out is one of the most interesting, exciting, challenging and rewarding parts of the work we do. When a client is committed to doing it right and puts in the effort, the results are often incredible. Their followers multiply, their web visits increase and they find themselves in authentic conversations with their key target markets, which – depending on their ultimate goal – drives sales, increases brand awareness, changes behaviours or perspectives, informs, educates and engages. But it all goes back to knowing who you want to connect with, why they would want to connect with you, where to connect and when.

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I got up quite early this morning (2:30 a.m.) because I had some work with a tight deadline that I had worked on over the weekend and wasn’t quite happy with it yet. I had an early ferry (6:20 a.m.) to catch, so that meant that getting up at my usual early time (5 a.m.) to catch up on things was out of the question – I needed to get up earlier. As I hauled myself out of bed, I wondered if other people do this – get up this early because something is due and it needs work. I thought about my boundaries and the AHA boundaries that we set – and if we need to be stronger about them. Then I had a cup of coffee and laughed at myself.

The fact is, some of the work we do happens on weekends. This weekend, we had a client with an important event – so for three hours on Saturday and Sunday, Paul was on the phone with media pitching them to come out to the event. He was pretty successful and his efforts resulted in three major media outlets covering the event.

I am working on a big project for a client and I feel a little behind on it. It seems everyone on the client team feels that they are behind too – it’s a result of the enormity of the project – and we’re all working hard to keep up. I don’t like feeling behind; I don’t think anyone can do their best work if they are always rushing to meet deadlines, and my goal for this week is to get ahead of this project – no matter what it takes (early mornings, long days and working on the weekend).

We have great clients. They approach the relationship as a true partnership – they work with us, they listen to our advice and counsel, they bring us into interesting projects, and they rely on us and trust us to provide support for the tough projects (like when they may be facing an issue or crisis and need strategic communications help). And in return, we do whatever it takes – within our abilities and power – to deliver excellence. And I have to say, excellence isn’t a 9 to 5 activity. It goes beyond that. We are committed to our clients and in our world that means something to us and to our clients. And the work we do doesn’t always happen during the regular workday. It’s great when it can and does, but it’s not the reality we live in.

We believe in a work/life balance here at AHA. We believe in working as partners with our clients – and that means setting boundaries on both sides that are clearly communicated. And we believe that our commitment to our clients pays off every day. We have loyal, caring clients that are engaged with us, they pay us in a timely fashion and they go out of their way to recommend us to other organizations. I’d say that getting up a little earlier is a small price to pay for those kinds of professional relationships.

This morning, as boundary thoughts bounced around in my mind, a blog post by Danielle LaPorte came winging into my inbox and, since I am a big fan of hers, I drank my coffee and read it (I always want to know what she has to say to me!). She is a sassy, upstart, smart, spiritually-focused business/life coach who defies description. She isn’t for everyone, but if you “get her” and are ready to truly listen to her and yourself, she can change your entire life (business and personal) for the better. And her blog post today was about boundaries. It’s worth a read.

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I know we don’t usually post blogs on Thursday, but I was up drinking coffee, watching the national news and reviewing blog posts, articles and online media coverage this morning (which is how I like to start my day) and the fabulous Chris Brogan delivered this directly to me.

Anyone who reads this blog on even a semi-regular basis knows that we love, love, love Chris Brogan. He is smart, insightful, an excellent communicator and he’s authentic. His blog post today is on content creation and audience/community engagement. It is most definitely worth a read. Take five minutes and read his blog post, it will improve how you communicate with and connect with your stakeholders or target audience.

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Regular readers of our AHA blog know that we’re big fans of Chris Brogan. He’s smart, he’s talented, he’s kind and he’s generous with his knowledge. A pretty great combination, if you ask us. We always find something interesting on his blog – topics that engage us in conversation and discussion in the AHA office and with clients. One of his recent posts on how important it is for communicators to do more than “talk well” resonated with me. This post is worth a read.

We know that the world has changed and that technology has empowered us – as communications professionals and as people. The use of visuals to tell a story is more popular than ever and more accessible, thanks to widespread access to technology (and the reasonable price tag).

As communicators, we will always be charged with developing positioning and messaging. I can’t imagine that speeches, newsletters or editorial style content are going away anytime soon; however, there is so much more to communicating these days.

We have used both professionally shot and flip style video for many years now. While we are smart enough to know when it’s time to bring in the professionals, we have also learned how to shoot and edit our own guerilla/Flip style videos. We use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (and so many more) – all online communications tools that demand a different understanding and approach to communication, including how to engage with an image or video. Our abilities don’t end there – Paul took a web design/html course so we can better understand what it takes to build a site. Not that we, personally, will build a site, but we need to know what it takes and be able to make minor changes. I am obsessed with online measurement and we have spent time at conferences and workshops focused on how to interpret online stats and measurements. I am continually reviewing the incredible information that can be gleaned on Google Analytics to better understand what works online for our clients and what doesn’t. SEO is another area that it is important for communications professionals to understand.

All of this at once can seem overwhelming, I know. But if you are a communicator, you can choose one area a month and spend a little time understanding how it works and what it means to your organization (or you can just call us and we can help).

It’s important to have at least a working knowledge of a wide range of communication tools and approaches relevant to today’s technology and to the expectations and demands of your stakeholders.

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Each week, I get a little piece of wisdom in my inbox. It’s from Della’s Deck.  This engaging, interesting, well-written, smart as all get out blog provides techniques and tips to help you be a better communicator. Della’s Deck offers weekly communications advice to make life easier and more enjoyable. And it delivers.

Full disclosure here, Della Smith is a close friend, my mentor and she used to be my boss. However, she is also an incredible communicator. Della brings a strategic approach (believe me, she thinks like a CEO) and she combines it with realism (she knows what we go through as communicators), perspective and an in-depth understanding and consideration of human nature. Blend this with her knowledge of communications – including social media. Her tips and advice are relevant, timely and interesting.

The blog posts are shared in a way that allows her readers to take them and implement them immediately. They aren’t filled with corporate speak or bafflegab. They are relatively short, to the point and – I have to say – I have yet to read one that I didn’t relate to.

Check out Della’s Deck.

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