COM 0015 Blog Post #4 Out of the Box

For many traditional media specialists, social media is seen more as a hobby, on the periphery of mainstream media.  Changing this perception, or to out it differently: thinking outside the box, takes time.  This course, and this certificate program, provides a formalized structure to do just that: Think outside the box, and appreciate the enormous potential of social media – particularly as they relate to listening, demographics, analysis and applications.

Google Media MonitoringListening: This course has, among other things, afforded me the opportunity to better understand how social media must be and should be an integral part of any communications strategy or marketing plan.  It also means that any successful communications plan must focus more on listening to  the target audience(s) as opposed to having the audience listen to you.

FacebookDemographics: My line of work tends to focus on an older demographic which has a particular social media presence.  But any effective outreach program must reach out to as many target audience(s) as possible and this can be most successful by identifying the demographic characteristics of these audience(s) (including your competition) and reaching out to their specific social media networks.

wordpress_logoAnalysis:  The biggest challenge, once you understand all of the sources of information found on social media, is to develop a means of getting your message to stand out all-the-while developing a search matrix to find the right, pertinent and cogent pieces of information and feedback that is out there.

LinkedInApplications:  Through this course and certificate program, I have come to appreciate the enormous potential of five social media apps: WordPress, , LinkedIn, Facebook, user generated content (UGC). and free media monitoring through Google.  All of these will, henceforth, be an integral part of any communications plan.

HootsuiteThat said, one must also include an ability to manage all of the social media we intend to use.  Thus far my preferred method is Hootsuite.

To summarize, social media is more than a hobby and when subjected to the same rigors of structure, research, discipline in messaging as traditional media, it will allow us: “…to connect, network, build your personal profile and brand in many ways.”  This capacity, in turn, will have a direct impact on our ability to think outside the box and develop a more successful communications or marketing plan that you may wish to embark upon.

 

COM0015 Blog#3 Professional Networking now and in the Future

I believe a successful online network strategy depends of four essential steps:

Audience:  You will need to define your audience(s) and their respective level of social media participation.  In other words, you not only must identify your key audiences, you must also determine where they “hang out” on social media.  Only then will you be able to employ the proper social media resources to reach your key audience(s) and get them engaged.

Content:  Providing relevant and current content is perhaps the biggest challenge to any successful professional network online.  Trying to be the sole generator of content and assume that your audience will only receive or consume your content is a stillborn concept when it  comes to social media.  Displaying user generated content (UGC) is the key to any successful social media network because it allows you to have a steady stream of current content.

Environment: If we accept the premise that every social media network sites’ primary function is to host UGC, then the challenge is to draw users who want to create content and post on your site.  This is easier said than done because offering the same kind of content opportunities as other sites is useless. In fact, there are already too many sites that have been set up in the hopes that people will simply join on their own.  Most fail and are soon taken down.  A successful network must create an environment where people want to join and share great ideas.

Integration:  Finally, any successful social media network must keep pace with the ever changing nature of social media apps.  One way to do this is to integrate several social media tools into your network.  In other words, do not rely solely on a few videos or one RSS feed, etc.  The key is to integrate as many of these social media tools as possible into your social media network because the overall reach will exceed the sum of their respective reach and will still be able to function if one app is changed or replaced.

These are the four major steps that need to be developed and refined over the next 6 – 12 months.  By the end, if these steps are followed, we should have a strong organic engagement and a strong professional network now and in the future.

COM0015 Blog#2 Strong and Weak Organizations

Social media strategic campaigns tend to have a very short shelf life for a variety of reasons.  However, some campaigns do stand out for better or worse.  Here are a few examples of both and why they seem to have some traction.

Make-A-Wish & Disney Partnership

Disney Share Your EarsOne social media strategic campaign that sticks out in my mind for 2016 is the “#ShareYourEars – Make-A-Wish Foundation & Disney.” It basically asked its audience to take a picture of themselves wearing Mickey Mouse ears and post them on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #ShareYourEars.  Every picture posted unlocked some $5.00 from Disney towards the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  The initial campaign had a ceiling of $1M but the response was so positive that Disney increased the ceiling to $2M.

I am a big fan of displaying user generated content (UGC).  It is for a great cause, its cheap, it gets the audience involved and, in this case, it also helped with the sales of Disney products.  Everybody wins!

West Jet – Mini Miracles

West Jet Mini MiraclesAs part of its 12,000 mini-miracles campaign, West Jet turned to its employees to submit some 12,000 short videos of acts of kindness in a 24-hour period (e.g. December 9th, 2015).  According to Jose Angelo Gallegos, this campaign generated approximately 400 media outlets in 214 countries with more than 2 billion media impressions.

Again, the onus was not on getting the upper echelons paying for huge marketing initiatives it was about getting the base involved.  Sometimes getting  the audience involved works, other times getting the employees may work just as well if not better.

Coca-Cola

Coca Cola RussiaIn the Fall of 2016, Coca-Cola posted a photo of Russia as part of its social media strategic advertising plan.  Only one problem: the map was outdated.  Specifically, it did not show Kaliningrad as part of Russia.  The result was a far cry cry from any Christmas cheer.  Instead, Russian patriots posted images of them pouring Coca-Cola soft drinks in the toilet.

While images convey a whole ranging of meanings and save on ink space, it is crucial to get the right image for the right message.  This was a “top-down” campaign which clearly put the responsibility on the upper echelons to get it right.  This proved not to be the case for this specific image and the strategic campaign went sideways as a result.

Conclusion

These case studies show that, as with any social media strategic campaign, it is critical that all facets of the campaign be well researched and be able to achieve, if not exceed, its intended goals.  In these specific cases, it is also worth mentioning that the participation of the widest base of people proved more effective than a “top-down” unidirectional approach by senior management.

COM0015 Blog#1 Personal Vs Corporate Tools & Sources

I have been in the business of media relations since 1995 and I have seen my fair share of tools and sources trends that have emerged and disappeared.  The “Next big thing” is always around the next corner.  So the question one must ask is what are the objectives of our social media communications plan? And how do these tools and sources afford us the ability to engage in critical thinking?  In other words, the tail (e.g. tools and sources) should not be waging the dog (e.g. social media comm plan).  The easiest way to look at this issue is through the eyes of a personal media plan versus a corporate media plan.

Personal Social Media Plan:  In this case, the free tools and sources are the safest way to go since they afford both a media monitoring and organic engagement capability.  In my case, I use a Hootsuite account with your standard RSS feeds, Twitter account and Facebook helps too.  For the rest of my personal media monitoring and feedback capability, I rely on Google Alerts.  Aside from the inordinate amount of time required to apply and familiarize myself with the tools and sources, one must also be aware of their other limitations.

Limitations:  Google alerts searches a database of approximately 1,000 outlets in Canada.Google Alerts Logo  It is unable to provide searches that are time based (e.g. past year, past month, past week or the past 24 hours).  In other words, everything is lumped together.  There is also something to be said for having the ability to consult with someone  to help you with your searches and/or resolve issues.  Finally, Google Alerts has virtual no social media monitoring capability. So you have to have something in addition to Google Alerts to gain an accurate monitoring capability.

Corporate Social Media Plan:  Before I appear to be placing and advert in this blog for the Meltwater company, let me just say that I am using them as an example to contrast the tools and sources afforded by corporate media monitoring capabilities with those of free media monitoring and will try to keep my comments to the generic advantages.  Perhaps the most obvious is the fact that by relying on an external company one does not have to research, choose, constantly validate and apply various monitoring tools and sources.  This can take a lot of time.  Other advantages include:Meltwater Social Media Monitoring

Advantages: Hiring a company like Meltwater significantly increases the searchable database.  They have access to approximately 10,000 outlets in both official languages that can be divided by provinces, with specific time frames and are listed in chronological order.  This provides the user with the ability to detect trends.  In fact, their database can be searched as far back as 2010!  They also provide you with some analysis that may help direct your focus on the issues of importance.  You may also reach a contact person that can help you with your searches and they have a partnership with Facebook and Twitter, so searches done through Meltwater also includes these two important social media platforms.

Summary:  Notwithstanding the price differential between free monitoring versus corporate monitoring, one must ask themselve: How do these tools and sources afford us the ability to engage in critical thinking?  when time is in short supply, given the speed with which social and traditional media operate, we need to make sure that the tail (e.g. tools and sources) is not waging the dog (e.g. social media comm plan).

 

 

 

 

 

COMM0014 Blog#7 How Storytelling will Help Veterans

Storytelling is the art of turning information into something that will both entertain and educate us by appealing to the human body’s senses, specifically: seeing and hearing all the while appealing to our imagination and emotions. For these reasons, social media plays a crucial role for storytellers since social media is all about real conversations with real human beings.

bruce-writingThat being said, there is already more digital content than any one human being will ever be able to read in their respective lifetime.  So the challenge for any blogger is to create content and “weave compelling stories” that readers will want to devote some of their precious time.  This outcome will only be achieved if the blogger is sensitive to the diverse nature and beliefs of his or her potential readers (e.g. target audience).

In my case, the stories will deal with veteran issues and they will be stories about veterans with a message of hope, guidance and resolution.  The ultimate goal would be to create stories that are “compelling, emotional and moving, but also raises people’s consciousness” about the plight surrounding veterans and their families.   I believe in the necessity of telling these stories and that good stories will be shared.  This will be my barometer of success – the number of shares.  Thanks to this particular course, I believe that my stories will be more “sticky” and shared more than ever before.

NB: The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Royal Canadian Legion.

COMM0014 Blog#6 Why Veterans Matter

One day, while attending church, I thought I recognized a military buddy who, like me, had recently retired from the Canadian Armed Forces.  He was sitting in the pew in front of me and I leaned over to say hi and soon found out, after my third attempt to get his attention that he suffered from hearing loss.  After I had finally got his attention and we started chatting, I asked him if he had submitted a disability claim for his hearing loss with Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC)?

His response, typical of many military veterans, is that he had not because the bureaucracy, forms and policies surrounding these kinds of disability claims were daunting and he simply could not be bothered.  I offered to help and, within 8 weeks, VAC approved his disability claim and his hearing aids would now be covered by VAC because the hearing loss was deemed to be related to his military service.  Receiving free hearing aids and treatment for someone on a fixed income is significant and he thanked me many times over – much more than I deserved.

bruce_kent_hehr_5_november_2015

The author with the Minister of Veterans Affairs and the Associate Minister of National Defence, Hon. Kent Herr. (Author is fourth from left in front row).

My experience as an officer in the military coupled with my own disability claim and work as a service officer with the Legion afforded me the opportunity to understand the VAC disability claim process.  It really feels good to be able to share my knowledge of the process and help fellow veterans .

Stories like the one I just mentioned are repeated dozens of times by veterans all across the country and these stories need to be collected and shared so that our veterans know that the federal government will answer their call much like they did when our country called upon them to serve their country.  They just need a hand-up not a hand-out.

NB.  The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Royal Canadian Legion.

COMM0014 Blog#5 Veterans Matter

As a fourth generation military member, who also has a son that is currently in the Canadian military, our family has seen its fair share of injured and disabled veterans and of loss to defend this great country.  Our legacy is one that few other Canadian family’s share.  It is a legacy that has been purchased through considerable sacrifice to defend our human rights and freedoms as well as our constitutional monarchy.

National Remembrance Day Ceremony

As a fourth generation baby boomer veteran, I understand that veterans matter.  Author (middle)

For my part, I am a military college graduate and former officer in the Reserve and Regular Force.  During my final years in the military, I worked as a public affairs officer.  After I retired from the military, I worked as the Manager of Communications for The Royal Canadian Legion – Canada’s largest traditional veterans’ based not-for-profit organization.

I have a unique understanding of the Canadian military.  Furthermore, my blog would add value to the discussion among the traditional and virtual veteran communities as well as the traditional and social media because they would be neutral without the bias associated with traditional veterans’ organization’s self-interests.  In short, my brand would be accountable to all veterans and beholden to no one.

The military has shaped many facets of my entire personal and professional life.  It has also given me a unique understanding of the Canadian military as it relates to defence policy, veterans issues, the importance of Remembrance and the positive impact our veterans have in our communities. These issues can be grouped into a short yet effective mission statement I like to call: “Veterans Matter.”

COMMoo14 Blog#4 Martell Custom Homes

As I prepare to set up my blog dedicated to the wellness of Veterans, I am mindful of the necessity of telling the right stories based on purpose, relevance and conversation. Failing to do so means my blog may get lost among the estimated 152 million blogs that are already out there.  With this thought in mind, I have searched the Internet for successful B2C social media programs.   To my mind, Amy Porterfield’s suggestion that Martell Custom Homes has a solid social media program is a good one.

When MCH started in New Brunswick, its founders relied almost exclusively on realtors for their business.  Adopting a social media presence allowed them to eliminate the middle person and reduce costs, all-the-while remaining faithful to its purpose: building custom homes.

The key to any successful social media presence was to ensure relevance to the potential consumer.  So, rather than simply state the obvious and try to sell custom homes, they developed a fan base by delivering attractive content on the needs of home buyers through a blog.  The content, according to their own statistics, suggests that 86% of their custom home buyers contacted them directly as opposed to through realtors largely as a result of this social media fan base.

The third and perhaps most crucial part of any successful blog is to ensure there is a conversation.  Martell Custom Homes followed some of the basic rules governing the use of social media but they also adopted some rather unique and interesting features on social media: (1) they installed GPS tracking devices on their contractors, so home buyers know where their respective contractor is and working on their homes; (2) they also posted photos of the MCH homes to show the progress being made.  Home buyers were then afforded the opportunity to share the photos along with their excitement with friends and family which, in turn, helped promote MCH.

While there may not be a silver bullet that automatically guarantees success on social media, it is clear that Martell Custom Homes understands something that Steve Jobs once said once said “You‘ve got to start w/the customer experience & work backward – not the other way around”

COMM0014 Blog#3 Analytics of the Defence Community

According to Veterans Affairs Canada statistics published in 2015, there are approximately 685,000 Canadian military veterans.  By my calculations, Traditional Veterans Organizations (TVOs) have less than 25 percent of this community as members.  Of these, more than 90% are Caucasian males with a High School diploma.  Perhaps of greater concern is that half of these mostly male military veterans in the TVOs tend to be above the age of 75 whereas the average age of the majority of veterans in Canada are Baby Boomers with a much larger female component with more post High School education.  Moreover, the ethnicity, religious affiliations and choice of spouse is much more diverse.

The difference between the two groups also has a psychographic component.  Unlike military Baby Boomers and Millennials, the TVO member is more likely to be retired, living on a single fixed income revenue stream (e.g. pension) and looking at traveling (e.g. cruises).

picture-165

A member of the Greatest Generation, Danny Daniels (left), and a Baby Boomer, the author (right).

TVO members may still be inclined to use the phone, websites and emails, but statistics show that Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and YouTube videos become increasingly important for military Baby Boomers and Millennials.

Seen from this perspective, my preferred option is to focus on four social media forums to concentrate on the largest component of the veteran community: Baby Boomers and Millennials military veteran community.  They are: (1) Twitter that will encourage people to visit my blog; (2) Facebook page that will refer people to my blog; (3) YouTube videos on Facebook that will encourage people to visit my blog and finally (4) my blog.  This approach would be my priority which reflects the current rate of posts by medium for my entire blog and not just any specific issue.  In others words, I would post more often on Twitter than Facebook but more often on Facebook that on my blog.

COMM0014 – Blog#2 Internet Content – a case for State Intervention or Free Market?

From cave walls to the Internet, the tools for communicating have evolved tremendously throughout the history of Humanity.  Indeed, we are being inundated by its unprecedented ability for mass distribution of content of varying quality.  Yet the best content seems to transcend the technological revolution in communications. These stories are able to do so because they religiously follow a certain format – a not-so-secret formula that has withstood the test of time.

The theory of “inverted pyramid writing” has been around a long time and the required readings for this lesson present cogent guidelines supporting the need to adhere to the not-so-secret formula for good content.

bruce-writing

The Author testing his theory to see if paper refuses ink

The problem is that the Internet does not refuse bad content anymore than paper refuses ink or cave walls refuse paint.  So  social media writers do not need to be properly trained to write nor do they need to be aware of the “inverted pyramid writing.”  So most of their stories, articles, and blogs fall flat.

By way of contrast, professional writers are trained but they are generating less good content because they tend to work for government and big corporations.  They are the only ones that can afford to hire professional writers and the latter are increasingly busy re-writing yesterday’s weather to pander for votes or trying to pawn more bells, bobbles and whistles on the consumer than worry about good content.

bruce-and-chris-hadfield2-july-2014

The author with a great Canadian storyteller: Chris Hadfield

The readings from this lesson point towards one simple question: How do we spare readers the dribble  and trial and error method of finding good content and instill some form of  adherence to a format that has withstood the test of time and generated bigly (it’s a real word!) content?  (e.g. certification, permits, licences, etc…) Or do we simply let the readers decide what to read for themselves?  State intervention or free market?