Moving Through Digital Landscapes: One Company at a Time

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The-Changing-Digital-LandscapeIt’s always interesting when you enter into massive organziations and begin to look at how big brands interact with the ever changing world of digital.  Especially when the organization has a complex structure and IT systems that can make digital strategy easier said than done.

I heard an interesting and salient point from someone the other day, that I think really impacts the way that digital people often approach new landscapes and roles. Myself included!

We are often able to come into new environments and quickly “detect” what is “wrong”, or which “process” needs to be implemented/improved, or where there are huge “gaps”.  I put those in quotes because our wonderful changes today are also the major pain points for those that come into replace us tomorrow.  The situation we enter today, was also once someone’s solution for some other issue they were trying to solve yesterday.

Often times, we bring in processes, ideas and stop gaps that are not net new,  but borrowed from previous places.  This doesn’t make us innovative ( A word that digital people love to associate with themselves).   Every new company that you enter will provide you a new digital landscape that you are facing.  This can be something as basic as not having an environment where everyone is working from the same operating system and know very little about digial at all, to incredibly forward thinking places where you feel inadequate because you don’t seem to be on the pulse as much as everyone else is.

When I first began at Rogers media, I felt so inadequate.  I joined their digital team, and as a communications person I had very basic understandings of technology.  In my almost 3 year tenure, I learned so much and at such a quick pace that I was often the only person in many scenarios who had either encountered, heard about, solved through some abstract digital strategy or solution.  In my new role, I am super savvy in an environment that works on antiquated platforms that have limited technological capabilities for core things like search and analytics.

What I am learning every day, is that it has less to do with how forward thinking and innovative I believe I am – but more so in understanding the culture and environment and determining what  digital strategies make the most sense based on the technologies I am working with.  Part of my role involves pushing forward and challenging my team to think outside the box including being current with technology.  However, driving the company into a digital direction that I have seen before may not be the answer that complex matrix type organizations with strong history and culture need.  What is needed is a lot of observation and finding technology solves that can marry old with new allowing for a smoother and more unique transitioning of those landscapes.

Strategic Communications and Public Relations

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Targeted-Magnify-XSmallHaving had the opportunity to become a well rounded communications practitioner, it is really interesting to see how people use the word “strategic” when speaking about executional things. It’s almost as though the word “Strategy” or “Strategic” has become a buzz word and somewhere along the line, it does get confused with tactics and/or execution.

Press releases, websites, contests, a page in a magazine, a commercial, Facebook pages, Twitter pages – these are all the tactics.  HOW you use them and your plan for that, should be tied into a bigger concept that is then linked into a specific objective.  Confusion over the word “strategy” is prevalent in all communication/marketing disciplines and this truly impacts creative as well.  Creative is encompassed into a large part of what we do and being creative also requires strategic thinking.

This post was inspired by my friend and colleague Lisa,  (@lisawrites) when speaking about the creative process and creative strategy.  Much like the communications process, the creative idea (images, layout, copy and design) has to link to some overarching theme that does inspire, engage or cause something to happen.  Pretty or Twitter or a Website are not a strategy, but they are definitely tools that can be used to make something happen or reach an objective.

As common as this is, I do encourage communications and creative teams to think like this:

  1. What is your organizations overall objective?
  2. What is your organization’s overall goal/s for the year?  How do you understand these goals linking into achieving their objective?  (Not sure – then ask!)
  3. How is this campaign or idea going to help the organization achieve the above two things?
  4. What is the main objective for this campaign?  How does it link to your organization’s objective?
  5. What are your goals for this campaign and how does that tie into your organizational goals for the year?
  6. Who are you trying to reach?  Why do you need to reach them? (Creative teams need all the above information and absolutely need to be linked in at this point and moving forward)
  7. When do you reach out to them?  What do you want them to do/say/think/believe?
  8. Where are they? How will you reach them?  (Here are the tactics!  See how far down the list it is?  All the other stuff needs to happen first before we get here!)
  9. How will you know if what you want them to do is being done? – In other words – what are your metrics of success or KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).
  10. What are your benchmarks?  What will you do if your KPI’s are not performing the way you would like?  What other areas of support will put into this?  What is your plan B?

Once you have these in your pocket you can execute.  By no means am I implying that this step by step process is linear at all! In most cases, it will be more matrix like with lots of back and forths and adjustments, all while being sensitive to deadlines and budgets.  As a rule of thumb I try to follow the above.  Now, more than ever in my career (especially because I work production focused advertiser initiatives a.k.a – the actual execution), I see how critical the above steps are.  Not all campaigns will perform the way you hoped, but that also means there are key learnings that can be pulled from that to understand your organization and its objectives even better.

5 Best Practices for Social Media Strategy in Communications Departments

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Featured in Social Media Today, one of my most read blogs from my old site:


Social media strategy and usage in Communications departments requires a bit of a shift in traditional thinking.  Often, many organzational leaders view social media as a technological advancement — and while it is, its primary usage is often to promote/conversate/develop content/grow audience. Hmm… this is sounding like Prinicples of Communications Theory 101.

The technology aspect is working with IT people who understand things like SEO and the programing aspect of social media platforms, building apps and using apps that work best with websites etc.  (There is obviously much more, but I’m just condensing for space).

While that thinking has to shift a little, there are some things that need to be thought about the same.  You still need to run a department that has people with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.  You can decentralize who has onus on particular features, but ultimately you need to have content creators and community managers and decide where that responsibility will sit.

Here are 5 best practices for social media implementation in your communications department:

  1. Role development: One of two things need to occur — either you will need to develop a new role that is responsible for overseeing and implementing your social media strategy, or you will need to look at existing roles and decide where expansion in roles should exist.
  2. Roles and Responsibilities: Social media can be used by everyone in an organziation — not just communications.  However, you need to define solid roles and responsibilities — who develops content? Who manages your community and profiles? Who leads the strategy?  Will it all be one person or will it be different people?
  3. Understand the basic needs of social media in communications practice:  If you do not fully understand social media as a leader in your communications department, don’t pretend you do!  More importantly, make sure you consult others who have existing social media department models to understand how they set their’s up.  The most important need is: WHOEVER you choose to run your social media strategy NEEDS to have a communications and/or marketing background combined with a DEMONSTRATED knowledge in social media principles.
  4. Demonstrated knowledge in social media principles:  Google them.  Social media users should have a high Googleabilty factor.  More importantly, they need to be demonstrating content development, community management, social media knowledge, involvement in the social media community and of course — newest trends in social media platforms.  If they cannot demonstrate this online, then how can they really understand how its used?
  5. Don’t get technology confused with communications: What you need is  a communicator that understands technology.  It is easy to become sidetracked when you don’t understand technology.

3 common mistakes:

  1. Confusing IT and Technological Communications.  You need to have a person in place with a solid career in communications first!
  2. Multiple personalities on one Social Media profile — ie: Corporate v.s CEO.  If the corp profile is speaking, then you need to keep it consistent.  Let it be one voice manned by one department. If you want your CEO to tweet – the most important principle – be open and transparent, don’t confuse your audience or try to re purpose your corporate account to become the CEO (unless he’s been the one developing the content in it  from the get go!)
  3. Multiple users of one social media account.  Community management is essential to engaging and understanding your audience.  Too  many hands in the pot — no matter how organized or differentiated you think it might be — is never a good idea.  Can you imagine if you had several people responsbile for one e-mail account?  Yes — it will be that messy.  That is why the roles of Community Managers are essential — its a one person job — it can be 1-1 (1 community manager per 1 profile) or 1 to many (1 community manager responsible for multiple accounts).