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.

As the impact of coronavirus seeps deeper, events, company all-hands and business meetings are being cancelled.

Some of these might have been primarily social occasions that can be rescheduled or refunded. But many other events – such as internal strategy sessions or intra-office meetings – are crucial at a time when communication is the key to business success.

Plan ahead

We are in a period of ‘unknown unknowns’, but it’s clear that coronavirus spreads quickly and with stealth. 

If you have a large-scale – or small-scale – event planned in Europe or the US in March, April and May it’s no doubt at risk as we reach the containment phase of the virus.

Cancel early, and shift to a remote or virtual event as quickly as you can – the more of your attendees you can prime, and inform, the better. Avoid negative “we’ve cancelled” messaging and focus on the positive: “We can still meet but virtually.”

Focus on outcomes

It’s important to go back to basics when you re-think your event – at the core of the experience, what do your attendees want or need to take away from the event?

It may well be that you can focus only on ensuring your keynotes or major sessions are streamed. Or you could decide that you need a full range of speakers and have the bandwidth to schedule a full running order. 

Consider re-creating your event without an audience, filming it on site with your speakers if they are able to travel, but streaming to your broad audience.  

Re-staging the event as a ‘virtual television experience’ is relatively straightforward and can work for both internal and external audiences.  

This will work if you have not been told to isolate completely and can still get your speakers in to your workspace or host location, or if you are broadcasting from your own audiences to a disparate or global workforce.

Pull on your strongest speakers – or your speakers delivering business critical information – and build your running order or schedule around them. 

Think hard about the format

Consider compressing a two- or three-day event into 5 or 6 hours. You can include breaks and interstitials for the audience to discuss and ‘virtually break out’; bring in a ‘host’ or primary speaker to pull the event together and ensure that you keep to time and can react to events and interaction from the audience. 

Consider breaking your virtual event into segments or chapters. It’s one thing to schedule straight-through sessions when your audience are all seated in an auditorium, it’s quite another when they can tune out at will online. 

Don’t forget that if you audience are homeworking too, they may be facing distractions a live audience would never encounter. Breaking the event into chapters will avoid people switching away from your event mid-session.

Your technology 

External event providers such as ours will provide one single video stream that you can share to your intranet, chosen environment or social channels, working with your IT department to ensure this is a smooth experience. 

If yours is a small event, you can use streaming technology – such as Skype, Skype TX, WebEx or Zoom meeting app – to deliver your keynotes or presentations, bearing in mind that quality may not be perfect quality for a large screen. 

At a time like this the information you are delivering is more important than the ‘look’ of the presentation. 

Scheduling and languages

Ideally you will schedule your virtual event to be at an optimal time for all your audiences. But finding a time that suits all time zones can be a challenge. You can always pre-record and share a recording after the event if attendance is not possible. 

Don’t forget you can also offer instant translation or subtitling to enable your message to be delivered to as broad an audience as possible. 

Multiple platforms

Consider all outlets to push your event out to your target audiences. Start with your core space – either your business website, YouTube channel or your intranet. Bolt on additional platforms if you need to extend the reach of your event. 

Today’s tech solutions will enable you to upload documents, presentations, imagery or videos into your live virtual event. 

It’s relatively straightforward with available tech to push concurrent live feeds to platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook. Consider how best to engage your target audience. 

Enable interactivity 

It’s crucial that the event is as engaged and lively as an in-person event. Here are some ways to include interactivity: 

– If you are using a technology like Skype, WebEx or Zoom, use the chat functionality during keynotes to solicit comments and conversation 

– Stream on Twitter and run polls and votes; encourage comments and build thread commentaries

– Build in ‘water cooler moments’ via your meeting technology, where people can discuss issues and points of interest

– If it’s a large event, switch off live comments so the flow of a presentation or keynote is not interrupted

After the event

Solicit feedback to determine where you can make changes and improvements.  This is a learning experience for many companies, so don’t expect to get it right the first time.

READ MORE: 

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

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

Communicating sustainability: 7 companies doing it well

 

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.

We all want to be noticed. What’s the point in making all that shiny content if no one is looking at it?

And for most of us we want that content to be noticed – and enjoyed – by an ever-increasing number of people.

The internet is a crowded space though, with lots of brands shouting, stomping their feet and jumping up and down for attention.

What can your business do to rise above this noise?

At the newsrewired event at Reuters in London earlier this month, Vogue International head of audience growth Sarah Marshall shared her top tips.

 

1) Set KPIs

Marshall suggests you have three to four KPIs, specific to what you want from your audience. This could be the classic metric of unique users, or it might be looking for a little more loyalty through the tracking of repeat visitors. Others you might want to consider include Facebook shares or Instagram likes.

 

2) Get the business onside

You could have some pushback internally on why you need to grow your audience. If you’re focussed on luxury, or a specific target audience, you might need to explain to senior leadership (or even members of your own team) why growing your audience matters.

Marshall created a two-page document for each head of department at Vogue so that everyone received the same message and could share it with their teams.

 

3) Agree targets – and remind people what they are

Marshall worked to create a simple email update at Vogue. It tells key people how far they are from monthly audience targets relative to how many days are left.

The simple visual format doesn’t rely on opening a spreadsheet and can be viewed on desktop and mobile, with it landing in each editor’s inbox every Monday.   

 

4) Get the key people in the same room

No matter how big you are, it’s vital to get the important people in the same room. Whether you’re agreeing targets, sharing best practice or planning campaigns, workshops and growth days can save weeks of back-and-forth via email.

This is especially vital if you have key staff based across the globe, distributing content across multiple platforms in multiple languages.

 

5) Compile a growth book

Your staff are the best source of knowledge you have – what works, what doesn’t and simply what has been tried – so share it.

Marshall, for example, asks editors to share three growth initiatives from their newsroom.

A growth book can be a great help in getting the best ideas on paper, literally.

 

6) Growth plan

It might sound obvious, but have a plan.

You need to make sure you have a regular flow of content, distribute it on the appropriate channels, and engage with your community regularly.

Marshall sends her team a form to complete that asks key questions about what they’re going to do and how they’re going to do it.

 

7) Have monthly check-ins

You’ve got a plan, you’ve got KPIs, you’ve got best practice, so what’s next?

Check-ins.

Again, it sounds pretty obvious, but if you want growth, you need to monitor it, discuss it and adapt as necessary.

 

8) Respond to changing algorithms

Just because something has worked in the past, doesn’t mean it’ll work indefinitely – particularly when you’re at the mercy of social media algorithms.

Stay agile, diversify and ultimately respond to changes. Otherwise, you’ll be left behind.

 

If you’d like us to help you get the most out of your social media strategy, get in touch.

Email: office@formativecontent.com or call our team on +44 (0) 20 7206 2687.

Enjoyed this post? Read Why your business may be losing Twitter followers

Joe Myers is Managing Editor at Formative Content and leads our Social and Web team.

 

Want to get your event trending on Twitter? Well, you’re in luck. That’s one of the things we’re good at here at Formative.

We work with clients including Tata Consultancy Services, the Varkey Foundation, the World Economic Forum and Informa, providing content and social media coverage for some of the world’s most respected events.

What’s more, we’ll share what we’ve learned from this work to help you get your event social strategy licked into shape.

Sadly, there’s no magic wand or silver bullet. There’s no easy shortcut that avoids hard work and commitment. But having a strategy and a plan — and sticking to them — can bring success. Here’s our take on how to get your event trending on Twitter, based on our experience of pulling it off time and again.

 

A recent success story

Last year we drove a phenomenal increase in Twitter activity for one client event. Across two days, overall organic Twitter engagement increased 574%, totalling 67,052 impressions. Paid-for activity generated almost 72,000 engagements more.

And of course, we got the event hashtag trending.

We were pleased. Our client was pleased. And hopefully you’re impressed. But what you really want to know is how we did it.

 

Planning and delivery

Remember that hard work we mentioned a little earlier? Well, we created nine blogs, 14 videos, and 469 tweets during the event. That’s right — during. That requires content planning, fast and accurate turnaround of work, and a team of highly-focused, talented professionals.

Well before your event, you need to pinpoint and agree what you want your team to cover, figure out where your audiences are, and decide which sections of your event are best suited to promotion on Twitter. Draft in additional staff members to tweet if you need to.

 

Prepare your hashtags

Hashtags are great for grouping, tracking, and sharing information. They are a way for comms teams to harness or drive energy and conversation around a specific event, and provide a focal point for event attendees. So decide on any hashtags you want to use and build awareness of them in the immediate run-up to the event. It’s great to have your own hashtag but make sure they are short, easy to remember, and most important of all not in use elsewhere.

There might be some you can jump on that are already in use, which is great if they’re not only relevant but have gained some traction – for instance #SDGs for the Sustainable Development Goals. Consider using multiple hashtags if you feel the event warrants it, for instance to broaden conversation and engagement, but not too many as you don’t want to dilute the impact.

 

The right team

Remember that Twitter is your first line of engagement and communication with many of your customers, clients or audiences. Whoever is tweeting needs to sound authentically part of the brand, as well as being fully conversant with your messages and any sensitivities that exist.

It can be a great idea to do some dry runs to ensure everyone is comfortable with live tweeting and feels at home with Twitter. You can always use YouTube recordings of previous events to test and rehearse. Also consider creating a document including all key Twitter handles, names etc to allow for swift and efficient cutting and pasting into tweets.

Journalistic skills are important – whether a formal or informal understanding – as is accuracy, attention to detail and speed of writing. Few things will let you down as badly as poor attention to detail and tardiness in an arena as public as Twitter. Needless to say it’s vital that your team members are adept at encapsulating potentially complex comments into 280 characters or less – while remaining mindful of the importance of @references and your #hashtag strategy. It’s a lot to juggle, but no one said doing things properly was going to be easy.

If you have a large number of speakers you might want to consider having more than one Twitter reporter – two writers can tag team, for instance, with each covering a number of speakers in any one session. That’ll reduce the likelihood of things being missed, as well as help spread the workload.

 

Tweeting off-site from elsewhere

If you can’t be at the event it’s often easy to tweet remotely if you are able to access a live video stream. But if you are using such a feed for tweeting, make sure you’re set up early to rehearse and check your links and tools – fire off a couple of ‘coming up’ tweets to check your connectivity — and ensure you have tested and practiced with whatever tool you’ve decided to use for posting, whether that be Hootsuite, Tweetdeck or Buffer, for instance.

 

Preparation: on the day

Make sure you’re clear on the identities of each of the speakers; find photographs to cross-check you are referencing the correct speaker, and double-check name spellings. If you’re on-site, ensure you’re located where you can see all speakers clearly. If you’re viewing on a live video feed ensure you are clear about the location of each speaker.

You should also think through how you can shorten commonly-used phrases, how you are referencing your groups and stakeholders and what you are happy to abbreviate. Take a look at these recent @UNDP tweets for examples:-

 

The heat of the moment

Finally, here’s a checklist to help you keep out of trouble when the pressure is on:

 

If you’d like us to help you get the most out of your social media strategy, get in touch. 

Email: office@formativecontent.com or call our team on +44 (0) 20 7206 2687.

Enjoyed this post? Read Why your business may be losing Twitter followers

Sean Fleming is a Writer at Formative Content with extensive content marketing experience developed across a career that has encompassed advertising, marketing, PR and business journalism.

Social media is a constantly changing landscape for marketing professionals. Algorithmic updates on both Facebook and Twitter – which affect how corporates promote themselves on these platforms – show that marketers need to be aware of the wider social network opportunities available.

One of these is Instagram. Launched in 2010, this is a platform that has grown increasingly popular with brands and marketers. A big reason for this is an algorithmic change in 2016. Before this the site would show your posts in chronological order. Now the algorithm tailors your newsfeed in response to the posts users engage with; this means that the posts people like, comment on and share are more likely to be seen by a bigger audience.

At first this change was unpopular with users, but the platform now reports that people are “engaging with the community in a more active way” following the update. What this means is that Instagram offers untapped potential for brands to explore, so here are some tips to help you get started.

What to post

The difference between Instagram and other social networks is that you are not able to include links on posts, so the focus of your content is photos and videos rather than text. While it is easy to think such posts are not well suited to corporate brands, with the right strategy you can make them work for your company.

Types of content that do well on Instagram are:

Choose a theme

At first sight, your Instagram profile can seem a confusing place as it displays all your images at once; so it is important to think carefully about how your visuals work both individually and collectively. The crucial thing here is to have a posting strategy and plan what events or announcements you want to place on it and when.

Alongside this you might want to consider how background themes and reoccurring motifs in your posts can help to bolster your corporate identity on the platform. For example, (RED) uses pastel backgrounds that give all of its images a gentle brand identity while UNICEF mostly posts photos of people and children, which reinforces its emphasis on young people and families.

Hashtags

Posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more user engagement on Instagram. The more that people interact with your content, the more chance your posts have of being featured on a hashtag page, which increases your potential reach.

Credit: Instagram

People who follow the hashtags will then be able to see your post, giving you the chance to reach a new audience.

Stories and Live

Instagram Stories – used by more than 300 million people a day –  are short videos or photo sequences that can provide insight into one topic. These live on the platform for 24 hours and, if you have a verified account with more than 10,000 followers, you can add links that can gain traffic, generate leads and increase sales.

The kinds of stories that brands can produce varies enormously. One method is to use them as a type of video. National Geographic, for example, uses them to tell a narrative that makes great use of wildlife and natural photography that is clearly aligned to the brand’s core identity.

Others use Instagram Stories to give behind-the-scenes views of an organization; NASA uses them for events but also to explain what employees do.

Credit: Instagram

Meanwhile, Instagram Live is a real-time streaming service that can be particularly useful for event coverage and generating a conversation with your audience. Like the stories, these are available for 24 hours after the livestream has ended.

While instagram does not follow a similar pattern to Facebook or Twitter, the potential for promoting corporate content should not be ignored. By using all the available features, and having a carefully planned posting strategy, you will be able to reach a new audience on a platform that is rapidly growing in popularity.

 

If you’d like us to help you get the most out of your social media strategy, get in touch. 

Email: office@formativecontent.com or call our team on +44 (0) 20 7206 2687.

Enjoyed this post? Read How to curate quality social media content

Laura Nash is a Content Producer at Formative Content and specialises in digital content and writing for social media.

Today’s news that Facebook is changing its Newsfeed algorithm will undoubtedly have a major impact on those publishers, organisations and companies relying on the platform for much of their traffic, engagement or ad dollars.

In his statement, Mark Zuckerberg says that public content has been crowding out personal content on Facebook, as the volume of articles, videos and messages being created has exploded.

Facebook is now telling us they will promote on our news feeds the content with which we interact the most (especially between ourselves), rather than those messages we passively ingest. How should B2B content publishers respond to the news?

Think quality not quantity

We have, for some time, advised our clients to reduce the volume of their Facebook posts or face being ‘squeezed’ by the Facebook algorithm. Consider posting less, but make what you post of high quality. Where possible, reduce your automated posts and ‘generic’ posting.

Put audiences first

Think carefully about how you can develop content – of whatever format – that engages your target audience. Go back to the first principles of communication, i.e. What is keeping your audience awake at night, what is challenging them or concerning them? Take those issues and build content around the areas that are most likely to provoke reaction or comment.

Have a point of view

If you want to encourage dialogue then you need a point of view – what is your stand on a particular issue faced by your industry? Will your CEO get off the fence and talk about a concern or challenge to a sector? Having a strong point of view could stimulate the type of back and forth discussion that Facebook wants to see happen.

Speak with a human voice

For organisations and brands it’s even more important now that you speak with a ‘human voice’ and don’t publish bland PR information that doesn’t get any sort of response from clients. Encourage your audiences and customers to become your evangelists by developing messages that reflect the spirit and ethos of the company.

Be prepared to engage

If you start to create content that is designed to elicit discussion and debate between your followers then you will need to be more alert to those discussions, when and where they are taking place. Be ready to respond.

Develop live content

One area that the Facebook team specifically mentions that provokes more debate is live video. Live video is ridiculously easy to create and can be a straightforward way in which to engage with very niche and targeted B2B audiences.

Experiment with new approaches

The key outcome is engagement and dialogue, but that can be difficult to provoke. Consider ways in which you can encourage audiences to chat and engage with each other. This could be through carefully crafted thought leadership with a real point of view, it could be through humour or comedy, if that’s appropriate, or through responding to a piece of industry news with a live discussion or debate.

Create a strategy for Facebook groups

Groups will become a key aspect of future Facebook engagement. Consider how you can engage with key groups for your industry, sector or company using groups as well as straightforward page activity. See this great article from the team at Buffer for more insight.

Review and monitor

As never before, you should constantly review and monitor what works and what doesn’t for your audiences on Facebook. When you see that you have had success with a post, dissect what worked and why and aim to leverage that tactic again.

Broaden your engagement strategy

Finally, many of us have become dependent on Facebook for much of our organic traffic over recent years; today’s news is another reason to review your content strategy to ensure you maximise all possible platforms and routes to your audiences.

 

If you’d like us to help you get the most out of your social media strategy, get in touch. 

Email: office@formativecontent.com or call our team on +44 (0) 20 7206 2687.

Enjoyed this post? Read 10 ways to fill your content pipeline with quality content.

Gay Flashman - Formative

 

Gay Flashman is the CEO of Formative Content, creating corporate digital content to build reputation, brand and community for clients including the World Economic Forum, Tata Consultancy Services, the Varkey Foundation, Global Education & Skills Forum, FundForum International, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Nestle.