Insights & Advice
Social media is intimidating for many companies, especially those who are considering it but don’t yet have a strategy in place.
So, you can imagine the reaction I got from a few of my executive friends when I tweeted about “empowering the whole company” with a voice on social media. (This was based on a webinar with experts at Dell and Zendesk, who have unleashed measureable results via social media for their respective companies.)
They asked: “how do you control the message?”
They fear “multiple personality disorder,” or having too many “official” people speaking on behalf of their brand, which could lead to potentially conflicting or reputation-damaging messages.
I understand their fear; but we need to face the reality. Why and how we communicate has changed. Conversation about a company can be happening anywhere and at any time. The company “spokesperson” simply can’t manage all of these conversations, and in many cases, isn’t the right person to either.
Employees are a company’s biggest ally, advocate and ambassador. Tapping into this source can build credibility, authenticity and genuineness for your brand.
To get you started, here are five ways to incorporate employees in your social media strategy:
1. Set policy and standards. This is an essential first step. Clearly articulate how, when and why employees can be on social media under the company brand. If possible, engage them in actually establishing the policy and standards in the first place.
2. Train your people. This can be done formally through training sessions and certification on the policy or informally through a company-wide message about social media use. It depends on the size and culture of your organization.
3. Showcase employees’ expertise. If empowering your whole organization on social media is out of the question, create specific opportunities. For example, allow your internal experts—whether a developer, planner or finance person—to hold a Twitter or live chat, be a guest blogger on the company blog or host a webinar.
4. Keep track of conversations. Monitor and track what employees are hearing/saying. Develop a simple logging process so that employees can record their interactions and feedback. Review this log weekly or monthly, depending on the level of activity, to identify trends, opportunities and issues.
5. Act on what you learn. Employees may have just provided invaluable insights and intelligence about existing, new and future markets; or better yet, helped you build these markets. Make use of this intelligence in your business plans.
If you’re in PR, you likely know that the Canadian Public Relations Society is involved in the Public Relations Society of America’s exercise to update the definition of PR. An open process is underway, and we are invited to join our industry colleagues to add our voice.
The process is a bit overdue, to say the least.
Mobile, digital and social culture has changed how we communicate, and as PR professionals, we’ve needed to adapt or risk becoming obsolete.
Why we communicate has also changed. In the past, the needs were more or less to get a message out or react to a crisis. Traditional reporters were the ones getting the story out.
That’s all changed in today’s social age. Anyone can share their experience with or opinion of a company or its actions—good or bad. Potentially millions of people could be listening and could weigh in. A company’s brand and reputation are at stake all the time.
Creating a standard definition that recognizes the evolution of PR and supports its professional credibility is paramount. And, I welcome the opportunity to add my voice.
Based on the criteria PRSA has set out, here is my input:
- PR does what: protects brands by building sustainable relationships through discussion, engagement and interaction. In essence, we create advocates and ambassadors. Let them help protect your brand. They can be equally, if not more, effective than your media spokesperson.
- With/for whom: any person or organization who touches your brand. While different tactics apply depending on the target audience, PR professionals need to be cognisant of who and what will be impacted, and ensure appropriate strategies and tactics are considered.
- To do what: influence opinion, action and behaviour. This is a two-way street now. Recognize your audiences influence you as much as you influence them.
- For what purpose: to build effective and mutually beneficial value. For your company, value could be building a loyal customer base. For customers, it could be a company that not only has a great product, but also engages with customers, invites feedback and responds.
If you have any thoughts on this, let me know what you think.
The word “value” means different things to different people and depends on context.
For Debbie B. Parhar Communications and Public Relations, value through communication is defined by the client and its individual business needs and objectives. It could mean revenue and profits. It could mean influencing opinion or behaviour change. It could also mean new relationships or a more engaged workforce.
There are three ways I aim to deliver value through communication:
Create. I begin by working closely with a client to define their communications goals and objectives, and infuse creativity and innovation to design communications strategies to help meet these goals and objectives.
Build. Then I build solutions to align with the strategies and to meet the goals and objectives. Through my commitment to excellent service, I will be responsive and flexible in building solutions that meet the needs of the client, and their target markets or audiences.
Sustain. To sustain value, I put processes in place to evaluate strategies and solutions to allow us to evolve and adapt based on changing environments or communications needs.
That is how I define Create. Build. Sustain. Value through Communication.
It’s my brand promise.
After years of counselling companies on their blogs and helping them build their online presence, I have finally created an avenue for my own online voice.
What I have set out to accomplish through this blog is two-fold: first is to share my experiences—not only as a communicator/PR professional but also as a woman, wife, daughter and sister; and second is to learn and grow from you, my readers.
In delivering this blog, I am following some of the very guidelines I share with my clients to help build and protect their company brand online:
- Have purpose. With each blog post, I plan to share what I have learned in hope of helping others. How many people I influence—whether just one person, a few or hundreds—I have accomplished what I set out to do.
- Be authentic. Through this blog, I will share my voice and perspective based on my values and experiences. I will not try to mimic others’ style or voice because I would never succeed!
- Engage people. I invite readers to discuss, debate and share their insights on anything I have to say.
- Learn and grow. This blog is a mechanism for me to hear from people who think similarly, have similar interests or are just interested in what I have to say.
While I fully expect topics to change and evolve, these four themes will always guide my blog posts.