The challenge of creating a comms plan for hundreds of volunteers and rolling it out in just a couple of days was not one we had ever faced before. But three weeks ago we came across a new Facebook group for our local town in Buckinghamshire, England, created in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Noticing that lots of people were offering their services locally, I set up a Google form to post on a local Facebook page to take names of people who wanted to volunteer. Within 24 hours we had over 150 names, and rising fast.

Now, what to do next?

Through the local grapevine, I was made aware of a new charity in the town – Better Connected Beaconsfield – and it soon became obvious that this would be the right organisation to help in structuring our growing group of more than 300 volunteers.

After a couple more phone calls The BCB Buddy Network was born. I started working intensely with a group of people who I’d never before (and nearly all I still haven’t met in person). After a lot of late nights, a lot of Zoom calls, and a load of favours called in, here’s what we’ve learned. I hope this is of use for all of you (either with or without comms and digital experience) trying to manage communications and digital output for local coronavirus volunteers.

Read more about the BCB Buddy Network at www.betterconnectedbeaconsfield.org.uk

Focus on the instantly doable, then do it

Just as I would do with a client, we quickly developed a basic plan of what we needed to do urgently. In the short term, the first step for us was to update and improve the website to enable people to find the charity, the second was to promote the charity and the need for volunteers on social media. The next phase has been communicating the work of the charity through PR to get more local recognition and more people signing up, and then building a newsletter to update and engage our team of buddy volunteers.

Learnings:

Establish a core comms and digital team

We put a volunteer button on the front page of the BCB website to encourage those who wanted to volunteer for any task that we might face. This enabled us to gather information about local comms, PR people and designers who might be able to help us. Each person who expressed an interest was quickly interviewed on the phone to understand what they wanted to do, and what their skillset was – and then assigned a role.

Learnings:

You’d never believe what’s possible when you ask

Not everyone can give time – these are personally and professionally challenging times for all – but I have been overwhelmed by the number of local people with exceptional skills who’ve offered their help with this project.

The original BCB website was basic and, at that stage, not quite up to what we needed to manage a flow of volunteers and enquiries. We asked the UK WordPress community, and local agencies and freelancers, for help. Within hours I had heard from local developer, Simon Plews, who updated the front page immediately.

Then I was approached by Louise Towler who runs Indigo Tree, a local digital agency. Louise offered to build a new templated WordPress website in the space of 36 hours herself over a weekend. The front page includes three clear calls to action and is dedicated entirely to our local coronavirus response.

Learnings:

Pause, and think

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I have a habit of rushing and wanting things done quickly! It pays – when health and vulnerable people are involved – to pause and think. Tempers can get frayed at times like this as people are feeling anxious. Be direct and clear in your needs and also be realistic about what people can do.

Learnings:

Create some clear comms guidelines

We created some social media guidelines very early on as it was important for us to make sure that we protected the confidentiality of our residents if they were looking for help. Ensure that you explain to your volunteers and network how important it is to be cautious about what is shared in public social media groups.

Learnings:

Set up data protection and GDPR-compliant systems from the start to protect your volunteers and those you are helping

Regular group communication

From day one we set up a daily evening call for core members of the charity team, to bring us together with a common goal and ensure we were moving forward as quickly as possible. We also all needed to be on the same page when it came to comms and messaging.

As soon as the volunteer network was in place, we instituted a webinar each weekend that disseminated more widely the information we needed. This included local doctors, local church leaders as well as the core project team. We started with a one-hour session, and have reduced that to 30 minutes.

Regular communication to volunteers and a flow from, and to, the group enables us to minimise the time spent on communicating and repeating information, and also ensures that we get our key message delivered quickly.

Learnings:

Social media – a blessing…

We’ve used Facebook to organise and communicate with our team of volunteers and also to reach out to the community to promote what we are doing. There was already a BCB Facebook page which had limited followers. We quickly redesigned as a coronavirus hub for BCB… Including more callouts for volunteers and Buddies to join the network and also pushing anyone in need to the website to sign up.

Learnings:

Keep sharing your key information

We’ve been uploading both webinar recordings and key documents such as shopping guidelines to our Facebook private Buddy group, but also uploading them all to the BCB website behind a password-protected page that Indigo Tree created on the website.

This enables us to upload PDFs, videos etc to keep the volunteer group closely informed.

Learnings:

Other learnings:

Find your connectors: Approach and ask for help from those people who are great communicators, and connectors in your community. You need them at a time like this, to help spread the word across Facebook groups and pages, and guide those who do not know about your services.

Google forms: We managed to get a volunteer and call for help system establish quickly using Google forms attached to the buttons on the front page of the website stop each button for instance I need help, or I want to volunteer, had a separate Google form behind it.

Information from each button drops into a spreadsheet which could be managed by the project team at BCB.

This enables us to ensure that our data was safe and GDPR-compliant. These things are important at a time like this and it’s vital not to forget data protection and compliance with privacy regulations, especially when dealing with vulnerable people.

Newsletter: We have a team of four people including a writer, one person looking after mailing, one person finding stories and a graphic designer to pull together a regular newsletter for volunteers. The aim is to send a big thank you to them, as well as encouraging more volunteers to join and giving a shout out to our lovely volunteers. We will create this only as often as we have the stories, and the resources. Not a priority at this stage.

Video volunteer stories:  I have encouraged or asked volunteers to record short messages on their phones in video answering the questions who are they – first name only – and why they volunteered, with a little bit of information about them. These have been brilliant to give a face to our volunteers, and to encourage more volunteers to step forward

Facebook scanners: We have recruited a handful of people to keep an eye on Facebook across all local groups and our partner organisations in Beaconsfield, with the aim of responding to those looking for help, and posting details of the BCB Body Network to encourage people to go to the website to get help. We also created a Google form which is open to all where we have uploaded information about neighbouring and local support groups in case we are approached by people seeking help from outside of the area

I hope this is of use to even one other volunteer group out there. Best of luck with your work helping your communities.

None of this would’ve been possible here in Beaconsfield without a fantastic team at Better Connected Beaconsfield, and of volunteers behind the scenes.

And of course to all our Buddies, the incredible volunteers who are powering just one community’s response to this challenging crisis.

 

READ MORE:

#Coronacomms: Building a compelling virtual event – 4 key steps

#Coronacomms – Getting Virtual: tips & techniques to put life back into virtual communications

If you would like to know more about virtual communication strategies, please email gay@formativecontent.com

About the author: Gay Flashman is the CEO and founder of Formative Content. Last year, she was named in Thrive Global’s Top Female Creatives of 2019 list. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

 

Three years ago, global TV audiences were enchanted by two young children who invaded their father’s home office, gate-crashing his video interview with BBC News. The clip went viral. 

In the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, what was unusual then has virtually become the norm. Most of us now work from home, with video conferencing the standard form of communication – complete with interruptions from children and pets.

It’s part of what is now often referred to as the ‘new normal’, and its impact is set to linger on, even once the crisis is over and lockdowns ease around the world. 

Why? Not only because the business case for remote working is now irreversible but, more importantly, because these new ways of working have allowed – no, forced us – to show more of ourselves and to be more authentic as a result.  

The new ‘business as usual’

Some of us may feel uncomfortable revealing so much of our ‘real life’, maybe even think it ‘unprofessional’ if a child interrupts a conference call or the dog demands to be fed.  

But Ashish Babu, Chief Marketing Officer for Europe and the UK at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), observes: “Someone’s alarm or doorbell will go off, and I think you’ve got to just assume that is business as usual. The simple headline is that we’re all human, and this is going to be the new norm, and we just get on with our business. What matters is good content and good interactions.” 

What the lockdown has given us is a heightened level of authenticity and transparency in our communications. We are connecting at a human level because we are revealing more of ourselves than we would typically do in the office. And we’re building stronger relations as a result. 

Connecting socially − remotely

Deborah Turness, head of NBC News International, was building her team for a new global news channel, NBC Sky World News, when the lockdown hit. While the channel’s launch is on hold, her “remote army” is delivering content to NBC’s global operations. 

And Deborah is emphatic that her connection with the new team has benefited rather than suffered from the current situation: “I think I’ve gotten to know my team better than I ever would have if we were in the newsroom together. Because we’re sharing, we’re letting our guard drop a little bit, and using the platform to come together in a social way as well. And yes, we actually have a glass of wine together. We share cooking tips. It’s really refreshing.“

This authenticity doesn’t just extend to interpersonal relations but also content creation.

An antidote to ‘fake news’

In the nightly news, we now see politicians in their living rooms, wobbly mobile footage, and journalists finding new, more ‘grassroots’ ways of telling stories using the tools currently available to them.

While this may take some getting used to, it also brings audiences and journalists closer together to rebuild a relationship of trust. 

This is particularly important in this era of fake news and diminishing trust between the audience and the news providers, says Deborah Turness. She points to market research by NBC which shows that, rather than being presented with an all-too-perfect final product, audiences want to know what journalists do and how they get their stories – warts and all, including any mess-ups along the way. 

“Don’t just tell me what you know. Show more of your working. Let me know I can trust you by showing me that I can trust you. Strip away some of that gloss that conventionally comes in particularly television news. The real story of news is something much more essential, visceral.” 

The limitations imposed by the lockdown – if they are indeed limitations – allow news reporters to create much greater intimacy and understanding, and with that a chance to restore the audience’s dwindling trust in them. 

Turning limitations into opportunities

The same applies to business relationships and communications. In adapting to the new normal, aiming for a ‘human-first’ experience in all communications is critical, says Ashish Babu of TCS.   

Several conferences have already moved to online channels as a result of the lockdown, with more heading in the same direction. But there is potential for many other daily business interactions to draw on the human element that platforms like Zoom, Skype, Teams and others convey. 

While our interaction with these tools is currently driven by the lockdown, it’s in our interest to stick with them beyond the crisis and help make communications more transparent – rather than simply slip back to the ‘old ways’.

 

READ MORE:

#Coronacomms: Building a compelling virtual event – 4 key steps

#Coronacomms – Getting Virtual: tips & techniques to put life back into virtual communications

If you would like to know more about virtual communication strategies, please email gay@formativecontent.com

About the author: Gay Flashman is the CEO and founder of Formative Content. Last year, she was named in Thrive Global’s Top Female Creatives of 2019 list. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

The difference between crisis communications and business-as-usual communications is like comparing off-road driving with cruising along a regular motorway. 

Whether it is your internal communications with employees, or how you speak to external stakeholders and customers, every communications’ professional is having to navigate their way through. 

Many of us are using video conferencing technology to meet virtually – but the magic lies in skilling up your staff so that they can use the technology well. 

 

Your background is your brand 

First impressions really count, so if you’re working from home, take time to find a background that looks professional, particularly to external stakeholders or clients. People don’t need to see your dirty laundry or family photographs. 

Recently a video was circulating on social media of a live online interview with an expert – on the news. Behind her, a flatmate or partner walks nonchalantly down the stairs wearing just his underpants…

Find a neutral background – a nice coloured wall or bookcase. Or see if your technology provider offers a virtual background which can be matched to your branding. This means you can sit in your bed and no one will be any the wiser.

Be human

One of the common side effects of sitting in front of a webcam seems to be that normal body language changes and people become expressionless and unfriendly. Teaching people to work well on video means reminding them to smile, to have good eye contact, to use gesture – basically to be themselves. 

As someone who spent many hours in remote studios staring down the barrel of a camera lens wearing an earpiece in live TV interviews, it takes a while to get used to treating the webcam like another human being. 

Get the lighting right

Make sure you are well lit. One of the most common mistakes I see is people sitting in front of windows. Do not sit with a window behind you – better to sit somewhere you can have the window light illuminate your face. 

If there isn’t any natural light, then make sure you have some good white lamp light (better than yellow electric light) on your face. Experiment so that you remove any shadows or reflections on your glasses if you wear them. Don’t sit under bright strip lighting. 

Position yourself well

Sit yourself centrally to the webcam or phone camera. The camera should be at your eye level so that people aren’t looking down at you, or indeed up into your nose. 

If necessary, prop your laptop on a firm box or pile of books. Don’t leave this up to the last minute – find the perfect spot, check that it looks good, experiment with your seating and lighting levels until you are happy. Check the position by taking a photo of yourself. How do you look? Often we see experts on television who are holding their phones, or positioned awkwardly. This will potentially make you feel more nervous, and detract from what you – the expert – are saying to your audience. 

What not to wear 

If you’re using video conferencing to communicate with colleagues or clients, there are some rules. Ideally you won’t be wearing your pyjamas… but if you do, ensure they aren’t visible.

If you are communicating as a professional to an external audience, it is obviously sensible to dress professionally; internal meetings can be more relaxed as we all get used to working from home. 

Avoid wearing fabrics with close stripes, checks or dots. These patterns can strobe on camera. Avoid jewellery that is too large or shiny or that makes a noise if you move. And very light or pale colours can look washed out. 

Engaging the audience 

The biggest challenge of communicating through a webcam is keeping people engaged. You have to work a lot harder to involve audiences through a camera lens. The more people joining you in a virtual meeting, the harder this is. 

Getting the eyeline right, your lighting, the position of the webcam and your background will help. Then you have to inject two main things: a clear structure to your call or meeting to keep your audience on the same page, and a lot of energy and passion.

If the present crisis is going to be the start of a more permanent shift towards working from home, training yourself and your colleagues to communicate more effectively in the virtual world will be a good investment.

 

READ MORE: 

How best to show your company’s commitment to sustainability

How the right kind of content can help build trust in your brand

About the author: Charlotte Hume worked for ITN for just under 18 years – much of that as a TV correspondent. She is a highly experienced communications coach and a specialist in crisis communications. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

At times like this, when many of us feel concerned and anxious, we all need to be careful about what we say – whether to the people we are close to, to our colleagues, or to our clients and stakeholders. And that’s just as true for corporates as it is for individuals.

As the ‘front line’ of company engagement with your public audience, that caution needs to extend to social media channels – it’s incredibly easy to misjudge the tone of your social posts and wreck your reputation in a moment. Business as usual content, pre-scheduled and automated, should be dropped in favour of thoughtful and responsive output that reacts and responds day by day.

People are looking to brands and companies to give sensible and appropriate advice as we live through this pandemic, on topics they have ‘earned’ the right to discuss. Some of the world’s politicians and leaders will be found wanting in the advice they give to their citizens during this crisis – companies can step into the trust vacuum.

How do you ensure your social media content developed during a global crisis does not offend, upset or alienate audiences during this difficult time?

Review your output

First, swiftly assess what you are saying currently, and what is scheduled on your social channels. Is it appropriate at a time like this? Be clear on the role your brand plays in people’s lives, how you add value for your audience and use that knowledge to help guide your decisions. Pivot to areas that will have resonance and meaning for your audiences.

Eva Taylor, Head of Social & Marketing Operations at social media management platform Hootsuite, gives this advice: “Sensitive situations, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, require a careful and thoughtful approach. Take a step back and re-examine the content you’re sharing on a regular basis to avoid appearing insensitive or irrelevant, which can negatively impact your brand in the long run.”

Shift to a different tone, says Taylor, “A health scare is not a ‘marketing opportunity’ to capitalize on: instead, focus on how your brand can help others.” She added, “Keep an eye on breaking news and how it might impact your chosen approach. Observe how your audience responds and consider adapting your tone accordingly when crafting any messages that you plan to share on social.”

I don’t know how many times in the last few weeks I have read a social media post that has very obviously been pre-scheduled months ago. They appear crass and ill-timed.

Run through your scheduled posts and check them for tone. Do they feel wrong or badly timed? Do they seem insensitive to any members of your audience or your client groups?

Direct resources to social

This is not the time to close down communications. In fact, this is the moment when, as an organisation, you should be communicating more than ever with both your employees and your external stakeholders.

Clients, customers and suppliers will be looking to you for a clear outline of how you are responding to the crisis and how they can expect to be treated. This is the right time to be demonstrating your commitment to a true purpose, especially if you have previously espoused one in your values or communications.

Audiences and followers will want to hear how your leaders are responding and that they are ‘steering the ship’ confidently in the face of adversity. They will also need reassurance that you are maintaining at least some semblance of an operation in spite of the challenges of remote working and social distancing.

Taylor recommends: “If your audience is reaching out to you with questions and concerns, this is a great time for your brand to participate on social in a transparent, empathetic and timely manner. Use this as an opportunity to strengthen your relationships and build your community.”

Be honest and be human

As with all communications, it’s important that you’re honest and open in your messaging. That does not mean that you have to reveal everything that is going on behind-the-scenes. But it does mean that you need an authentic and honest tone of voice when you speak to the wider audience. We all know that this is a very human catastrophe and everybody is under pressure whether with family, work or with their companies. Bear that in mind when you think about the tone of voice you use.

If you read some of the latest output from Microsoft, who we have been working with, you will see that CEO Satya Nadella has been on the front foot with his commentary and content on social media, as has Microsoft President, Brad Smith. Their messages have been delivered in an authentic and straightforward way.

At the right time, organisations should be telling the hero stories, the frontline stories, the stories of the challenged and the vanquishers. Whether it’s your people at the top, or your staff messages, think about how you reveal the human behind the message. For larger, global organisations, these stories will land with your own people as reassurance, as much as with your external audiences.

“In the ‘new normal’ that we now face, brands should experiment with different formats. A video message recorded on a CEO’s webcam or phone might be exactly what is needed to get an authentic and timely message out to the world,” says Richard Wellings, Digital Content Strategist at Formative Content.

“More than ever, social must be a two-way affair. Brands should carefully plan to share employees’ stories, important third-party pieces or answer questions in a public forum.”

Look to the future

In this initial phase of the pandemic – when different countries are feeling the full impact of the virus, with many people ill and dying – your comms should be helpful and practical, authoritative but warm, demonstrating and explaining how you can help. Talk about how you are helping your people, communities or clients. If it’s not crucial or of value – why would you say it now?

If your business is struggling but you are determined to keep it going, then focus on that message in your comms. If you have devolved your team, and that is putting pressure on your internal operations, then start to tell the stories about your people and how they are responding. Explain how you are working to deliver continuity of business.

The final word goes to Hootsuite’s Head of Social, Eva Taylor: “Social media is an ideal channel for two-way engagement and plays a significant role in crisis communications.

“At times like this, fully leverage its ability to communicate with your customers, employees, and the broader community to help support each other as best as we can.”

READ MORE: 

#Coronacomms: How to be productive when everyone’s working remotely

#Coronacomms: How can you create a successful virtual event?

#Coronacomms: How can business leaders communicate with impact in this crisis?

If you would like to know more about how Formative Content has helped tell the brand stories of some of the world’s biggest B2B organisations, please email gay@formativecontent.com

About the author: Gay Flashman is the CEO and founder of Formative Content. Last year, she was named in Thrive Global’s Top Female Creatives of 2019 list. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Or if you would like to find out more about her recently published book ‘Powerful B2B Content – Using Brand Journalism to Create Compelling and Authentic Storytelling’ click here.

We are living through a crisis of trust. Voices that were once seen as credible, from world leaders to leading media organisations, are meeting increasing scepticism. So who exactly do people think they can rely on at a time like this?

Companies and their leaders, according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer. More people trust companies than either politicians or the mainstream media. And they expect CEOs to show leadership on issues ranging from equal pay to the environment.

Against this backdrop of growing mistrust among the wider population, there presents itself an opportunity for businesses to jump in and fill the gap, creating their own direct relationships with customers. Engaging and authentic content can help create and build these conversations.

Brand journalism – or branded content produced using the techniques of journalism – does just that. And in a world filled with ever-increasing amounts of stories, images and ‘stuff’, good quality branded content can cut through the noise.

The power of narrative
Humans make sense of the world through stories. Once you’ve got someone’s attention, telling a rich, compelling tale is a surefire way to hold it. From there, brand journalism can help show your audience you understand the issues that matter to them.

Demonstrating what your company’s best at in this way not only has a practical value for your readers – it’s a crucial component in building your reputation as an expert in your field. If, for example, your content has helped someone understand a difficult topic, or enabled them to make a well-received insight-driven contribution in a meeting with their boss, they will come back again and again. You will be trusted, recommended, and your content will be widely shared.

And as data protection laws make it harder than ever to build useful prospect lists, quality content naturally pulls people towards your business. It’s a world away from the resistance that can be generated by push marketing.

A unique voice
That’s all very well, you might be thinking, but where do I start? Square one is to find the stories. Get out and about in your organisation. Talk to people. Track down those who deliver for your customers. And don’t shy away from the truth – it’s vital your stories are authentic. In fact, some of the best examples of brand journalism tackle tough issues head-on.

Take the podcast series produced by Shell. Presented by in-house experts, it addresses tricky issues surrounding the energy industry and the company, such as carbon footprints and climate change. It’s a level of honesty that’s priceless in winning the respect and trust of your audience.

When looking for topics to cover, make sure that above all else they matter to your readers. Whether it’s social issues or supply-chain management, focus on what keeps them awake at night. If you do that, your company will be their first port of call for advice on and analysis of the issues that most trouble them. That’s the power of great B2B content.

Keep it real
Your people are the lifeblood of your organisation, so it makes sense to use them to bring your stories to life. And it doesn’t always need to be the CEO or senior leaders – quoting the people who make things happen will be at the heart of the authenticity you’re looking for.

When you’ve found your stories, and how you’re going to tell them, it’s time to talk strategy. How are you going to deliver your content? Consistency is key here – publishing once and sitting back isn’t going to cut it. You don’t have to produce 50 pieces a week, but establishing a regular rhythm is essential to maintaining a sense of anticipation and keeping people’s interest. Your audience needs to know it’s going to keep hearing from you.

However you approach it, brand journalism can speak to your audiences in a way that no other form of marketing can match for engagement.

This article was originally published on www.powerfulb2bcontent.com, the home of Formative Content CEO Gay Glashman’s book: Powerful B2B Content – Using Brand Journalism to Create Compelling and Authentic Storytelling.

READ MORE: 

3 ways to create data-driven content

How the right kind of content can help build trust in your brand

5 ways to boost brand awareness without breaking the bank

If you would like to know more about how Formative Content has helped tell the brand stories of some of the world’s biggest B2B organisations, please email gay@formativecontent.com

About the author: Gay Flashman is the CEO and founder of Formative Content. Last year, she was named in Thrive Global’s Top Female Creatives of 2019 list. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

One in seven of the world’s population is on Instagram, with over 200 million users visiting business profiles every day – a potentially vast audience for your brand.

And with 71% of businesses now active on the platform, they’re signed up to a whole new market demographic, one that craves personalised visual content.

Some businesses are guilty of creating content for the platform that does not add value or engage the audience. What can they learn from the charitable sector?

Many charities and not-for-profit organisations have been establishing themselves on the social media site for some time – and have a lot to teach corporates in how to leverage those square tiles to deliver powerful brand messages. 

Here are five lessons:

Use people power

Research shows that images with faces in them are 38% more likely to be ‘liked’ and 32% more likely to be commented on. Instagram is a platform that rewards you for humanising your brand. Unicef, the world’s leading organisation working for children in danger, has grasped this. Take a look at some of its recent posts:

 

 

 

 

At the time of writing, these were Unicef’s most liked images from the last seven days. Unicef is using its key personnel and the children it helps, as its subjects. 

Businesses should replicate this. Use real people, strong images and human examples where you can to make your posts more relatable.

 

 

Unlock emotion

Charities know that using images and real life examples evokes emotion in the reader or audience. Follow Greenpeace and Doctors Without Borders for strong examples.

B2B companies might not be telling stories that have the same emotional resonance as those from charities, but it is still possible to find stories from your organisation that build a connection. 

Consider how you can engage your own people to share their thoughts, purpose and passion on your Instagram feed.

Think of Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle. If you’ve got a product to sell, communicate either through evocative imagery or compelling captions why what you’re doing is important.

Captions are also a useful storytelling tool. Instagram allows up to 2,200 characters on its captions which is ample room to complement the imagery beside it. 

Well-written captions bring the story to life, and can act as the post’s main emotional pull if the supplied image lacks sentiment.

Use Stories

500 million people use Instagram Stories every day – and a third of the most viewed Stories are from brands. This is an area for marketers to exploit, especially as they are expected to outpace feeds in 2019.

Dogs Trust regularly posts Story content to its channel as a way to extend brand awareness even further. The charity also makes use of the highlights feature, allowing it to save past stories permanently to the top of its profile, instead of disappearing after 24 hours. Because of this, Dogs Trust can share powerful evergreen content to its followers, such as health tips and dog safety. 

50% of businesses are creating Stories every month, an interestingly low statistic given the obvious advantages.

Stories are an effective way of driving traffic to your website using the ‘swipe-up’ instruction. A strong call-to-action in an Instagram story can direct people to relevant pillar content hosted on your site.

Unleash the power of video

Video content receives 38% more engagement on Instagram than regular posts – and 2.1 times the amount of comments. 

Pencils Of Promise and The World Economic Forum are prime examples of not-for-profit organisations exhibiting quality video content across their Instagram channels. 

The accounts have high volumes of followers and specialise in posting informative, short-form videos commentating on world news and topics. 

Bearing in mind Instagram’s one-minute cap on video content, both organisations ensure that their message is conveyed clearly and concisely within the timeframe. 

The Forum’s content has caught the attention of influencers such as Leonardo DiCaprio, who has reshared many videos on environmental issues. 

Post often and keep it relevant

This isn’t as obvious as it sounds. If you’re posting to Instagram once a day, but the actual contents of your post doesn’t add value or spark joy in some way, then there’s no point. Focus on quality over quantity.

The most successful charitable Instagram accounts focus on ensuring that every post shows what they’re working towards; whether that’s a cure, global aid, rehoming animals or caring for people with disabilities. 

Even if it’s only twice a week but it’s relatable, captivating imagery, your followers will appreciate it far more and wait eagerly in anticipation of the next instalment.

READ MORE: 

How present should a CEO/CMO be on social media?

Lessons in content marketing: why your ‘why’ should come before your ‘what’

 

If you would like to know more about how Formative Content can optimise your social media strategy, please email seb.budd@formativecontent.com

About the author: Seb Budd is the Content Marketing Executive for Formative Content. He is responsible for planning, executing and driving the social media and blog content for the company. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

Trust is hard to win and easy to lose – easier than ever, in fact, in today’s world where news travels fast across multiple networks, driven by users, companies and organisations, as well as traditional publishers. 

Monitoring social media is now a full-time job for brands. But just reacting to events is no longer enough. Investing in digital communications to help build trust is crucial to any marketing strategy. 

The importance of this to brand guardians is highlighted in a recent piece of social listening research we carried out at Formative Content.

Chief marketing officers and comms bosses, the research reveals, regularly use the keyword “trust” when tweeting about content.

Why trust matters

Other research, too, shows that trust isn’t just a big concern for brands – it’s also a big opportunity.

According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer, people trust businesses more than they do governments and the media. Almost three-quarters of people are worried about fake news, but a similar proportion look to company CEOs to take leadership on important issues.

So organisations have a chance to step into the void created by a lack of trust elsewhere. And the content they put out on social media will play a key part in this.

What’s the secret?

Creating content that builds trust requires a focus on quality and authenticity.

“Write about what you know” is the advice often given to budding novelists and it’s even more true for businesses. Companies that produce blogs and videos about things they understand are much more likely to be considered genuine sources of useful information.

Messages should articulate the views of the organisation with clarity. And, of course, honesty is a given – pretending to be something you’re not is likely to have the opposite effect to that you intended. 

Find the emotion

The most successful content makes a connection with the person reading or watching, and central to this is acknowledging that person is human. 

As I write in my forthcoming book on brand journalism, it is a mistake to ignore the emotional side of business communications.

Marketers and comms professionals all too often think that’s just for consumer brands.

People want to feel an affinity with anyone they’re buying from and trust is imperative in building that relationship. But you can’t just communicate and expect to get attention.

To be effective, content needs to embody the qualities that make the best journalism compelling. It must be relevant, reliable and credible. It needs to keep the reader engaged and offer a fresh perspective on an issue the audience cares about. 

The value of trust

In short, your content needs to deliver real value. If it does, it will help grow meaningful and enduring relationships with your audiences. Over time trust will grow, and in turn give a tangible boost the brand.

Marketing expert and author Michael Brenner says people want to learn new things, and expert thought leadership builds trust. He cites the example of consultancy Capgemini, which created a corporate storytelling website to showcase the talents of its consultants.

The initiative delivered nearly one million new visitors to its brand website and attracted more than 100,000 new followers to the firm’s LinkedIn page, as well as 1.8 million shares of their content. 

A boost in trust can directly impact on a company’s bottom line, according to a recent Accenture report

“In this age of transparency, how a company does things has become equally important to what it does,” says the report. 

“Companies need to very intentionally create a culture of building, maintaining and preserving trust, and bake it into their DNA, strategy and day-to-day operations.”

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If you would like to know more about how Formative Content has helped build trust amongst client audiences, please email gay@formativecontent.com

About the author: Gay Flashman is the CEO and founder of Formative Content. In April, she was named in Thrive Global’s Top Female Creatives of 2019 list. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.

Updated on 27th February 2020.

It achieved over 1.5 billion downloads from the App Store and Google Play in 2019 and is more popular than LinkedIn, Twitter and Snapchat. It’s active in 155 countries around the world and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Its name is TikTok and it bills itself as the “destination for short-form mobile videos”.

But should B2B marketers be taking note? Especially following the monumental success experienced by outlets such as the World Economic Forum, who recently garnered over 3.5 billion views of one of their TikTok hashtags at this year’s Annual Meeting in Davos.

What is TikTok?

Beginning life in Asia and then launched in 2017 by ByteDance for markets outside China, TikTok is the way for primarily teens and Generation Z to engage with each other through music, dances and videos lasting between 15 and 60 seconds. 

Now though, global news organisations such as The Washington Post and NBC News have joined the platform. Consumer brands such as Burberry and Calvin Klein are on board and even sports teams such as Liverpool Football Club are using TikTok to generate content aimed at raising brand awareness amongst a younger audience, in a way that resonates with them.

The question is: how can B2B brands harness TikTok’s power? Is it just a brand awareness tool? Or is there more to it?

Scepticism

Not everybody seems to be convinced. According to some, B2B marketers were safe to ignore TikTok in 2019 and possibly forever. This is unsurprisingly down to the young audience, clique-like nature and time restrictions on message delivery.

Whilst the demographic at the moment sits in the 16-24 range, the older generation is expected to arrive in due course, as happened with Facebook. So arguably, now is the time for businesses to invest in TikTok and establish a following through expressive and compelling content that explores what makes them fun and interesting. 

Think of it in the same way many B2B businesses conduct themselves on Instagram – using the network to share captivating, cultural content. Instagram began as just a way to share pictures with friends, and now there are more than 25 million brand accounts that regularly connect with and, most crucially, sell to their audience. 

TikTok has a long way to go, though.

With its young userbase, the decision makers just aren’t there yet, so there’s not much for B2B brands to market to – and there really is no way to tell when they’ll show up. 

By the time they’re in senior level roles, will TikTok still be around? Just look at the demise of MySpace and Bebo.

There’s also a pertinent question B2B brands will have to ask themselves – do they want to create a new innovative side to the business, without jeopardising their authenticity and integrity? Do they want to completely shift their tone of voice? 

If the answer’s yes then brands have got to be willing to experiment and test new ideas fully knowing they may fail. This could put off a lot of well-established corporate players.

Waiting game

So why, then, has The Washington Post taken the gamble and joined in the first place?

Dave Jorgenson, the driving force behind the Post’s TikTok page, said: “The long-term plan has always been that we’d use this as we use any other platform. [Someday we will] post news in the way that reflects the platform. [Right now the plan is to] jump in and be part of the fun.”

Jorgenson, who primarily serves the newspaper as a producer and editor in the Creative Video team developed a seven-page proposal for his bosses – and they approved his plans. 

Clearly, The Washington Post is confident in TikTok’s future. But it does have the advantage of being able to wait a decade or so to see if it brings in readers in the future. 

TikTok is also currently in the very primitive stages of allowing brands to advertise on the platform, so this could be another route in. However, it circles back around to that key factor of who the brands would be advertising to.

It seems that, for the short term at least, TikTok might not be the best place for B2B brands to be advertising. Building brand awareness is apparently the strategy for those already there, but any selling is going to have to wait a while.

It’s likely that we won’t see a flood of B2B activity on the platform until one of the key players takes the plunge and joins the game, giving onlookers the chance to analyse their performance. Who, if anyone, will be the first to take a step into the unknown? 

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If you would like to know more about how Formative Content can optimise your social media strategy, please email seb.budd@formativecontent.com

About the author: Seb Budd is the Social Media Executive for Formative Content. He is responsible for planning, executing and driving the social media and blog content for the company. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.

Gay Flashman, founder and CEO of Formative Content, is one of just eight women named in the Thrive Global Top Female Creatives of 2019 list.

The list showcases women who are “reshaping the creative space and paving the way for future female leaders to shine and inspire our next generation”. It recognises the importance of the creative industries in helping inspire positive, transformational change. But it also acknowledges there are often barriers to access and progress that women in all business sectors face that their male counterparts do not.

Set up in the UK in 2014 by Gay Flashman, Formative Content has grown at around 70% year-on-year. With an almost 50:50 male-female split at all levels of the business, and a wide spread of ages, the company combines commercial acuity with a flexible and inclusive outlook.

Formative’s list of blue-chip private and public sector clients includes the World Economic Forum, KPMG, Nestlé, Tata Consultancy Services, Microsoft and many others. They have come to rely on the team at Formative for high-quality editorial and visual content that deploys journalistic integrity to support clients’ business objectives.

The team at Formative is made up of journalists who have a depth of high-level editorial experience, from the BBC, Bloomberg, Channel 4, Channel 5, ITN, the Press Association and more.

Featured alongside novelist Candice Carty-Williams, the journalist Marissa Miller, and the actress and activist Jameela Jamil, Gay Flashman said her inclusion was something she was extremely proud of, but which reflects the achievements and contribution of the whole Formative team: “This is fantastic recognition of my desire to build a business that can exceed clients’ expectations by delivering content of the highest possible standards at a speed other agencies struggle to match. But it’s also a huge compliment to the team here at Formative who have taken that vision and made it our reality.”

 

Facebook has announced its intention to integrate WhatsApp, Instagram and its Messenger app. While all three will remain as standalone apps, the services will be linked, so that you can send message across platforms.

The messaging app merger will redefine how the 2.6 billion people that collectively use these apps connect with each other.

By announcing the merger, Facebook is signalling its intention to move towards what could be called the ‘WeChat model’.

WeChat world

WeChat is a multi-purpose app developed for the Chinese market by Tencent. It has 902 million daily active users and has been described by tech publications and experts as a global ‘super-app’.

WeChat allows users to send messages, mobile payments, order car rides, order food and even operates as a social media network. It is essentially like Facebook, Uber, WhatsApp and PayPal all fused into one service.

Facebook’s move to the beginnings of a similar model makes sense from a development perspective. It gives the company greater control over its users and creates a closed system of its apps that will help it fight off competition from other messaging services.

Data fears

However, Facebook’s move to the WeChat model is likely to raise concerns about privacy and data security.

WeChat, for example, is required to share all the data that it collects from its app’s 902 million users with the Chinese government.

Concentrating control over the data of 2.6 billion users into a single organisation like Facebook – a company that has already faced government inquiries on data privacy and user information – is bound to bring even more scrutiny from regulators and politicians.

The Irish Data Protection Commission has already issued a request to Facebook for an “urgent briefing” on the proposed changes.

Facebook is still in the early stages of implementing this change, with the project estimated to be completed by late 2019 or the start of 2020.

Whether it can complete the move to the WeChat model remains to be seen.

 

If you’d like us to help you get the most out of your digital marketing in 2019, get in touch.

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Chinmay Jadhav is a Content Manager at Formative Content.