Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Let your people do the talking

Having tried and largely failed to control dialogue through their branded social media channels, organisations are increasingly turning to their employees as the potential arbiters of their messaging. 

This is a far cry from the days when social networks were often banned in corporate environments to prevent secrets leaking out, or to minimise the risk of customers being alienated, or simply to stop employees wasting time on Facebook.

Early adopters of social media for professional purposes though, have long seen the professional and commercial potential of becoming online bellwethers and gurus. They’ve used LinkedIn and Twitter accounts to build their own communities, creating new opportunities for themselves (and sometimes their employers too) in the process.

This approach is challenging the orthodoxy of social media as a customer service channel (e,g. a powerful way for disgruntled customers to complain publicly). Quite simply, people are happy to moan at a brand, but they’d much rather talk to a person. In fact, they’d probably quite like that.

Consequently, organisations are looking to tap into a portion of their employees’ communication power and push corporate messages through personal social media accounts. For some, this may sound cynical, or simply a recipe for chaos, but proper training and support can convert employee goodwill and ambition into profile.

Implementing such a programme isn’t easy or straightforward. Building a responsive cohort within an organisation and then extending that behaviour into BAU takes time and commitment. But there’s firm evidence that the majority of socially savvy employees are willing to help once they feel suitably empowered and supported within an organisational-wide initiative, sponsored from the top.

No doubt some employers will have certain advantages built in. Equally though, every organisation has something to gain from this in terms of profile and brand. And in the end. Perhaps the biggest biggest benefit of all will be that elusive but valued beast: employee engagement.

Simply explaining corporate objectives to employees is no longer sufficient. Organisations that want to reap the benefits of a fully engaged workforce need to give their employees the opportunity to champion those objectives. Businesses that succeed in this will receive a vote of confidence and loyalty from their customers that can’t be replicated by traditional advertising and marketing spend.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Vindication (of sorts)

Quick addendum to my last post as we subsequently won the Best Annual Report (Blue Chip) at the Business Finance Awards for the PwC 2015 Annual Report.

Its great to have your ideas vindicated in this way, through third party independent sources. However, the fact that the judges were unanimous in their deliberations was particularly pleasing.

Julian Baker, Nick Masters and Lee Connett at the Business Finance Awards

Obviously, this has only strengthened my belief in the futility of much of the content that is pumped out today and they way it is handled online. When you see how much repurposing still goes on, it just reminds me of that old joke, "If you want to get there, I wouldn't start here".

Monday, February 22, 2016

What are you still doing with that?

 Not fit for purpose is a widely over- and often misused phrase, but when it comes to much online content online, it's spot often on.

A simple test for this theory is to answer the following question:

  • What is the best format to show numerical comparisons? 
  • What is the best way to demonstrate data? 
  • What is the best way to conduct a four way interview?

If your answer for any or all of the above is to write it down and publish it, then clearly we're not going to agree. Yet as nonsensical as it seems, this remains the number one tactic for a huge amount of external communications material. Sure you trip across the occasional video and well produced graphic, but these are often addendum's to the real thing - the document - and rarely assets that have been conceived and created in their own right.

All of which is increasingly anachronistic in a world where content is consumed on brightly back lit devices that fit neatly into an average hand. Even my local train company insists on still publishing its timetables on a pdf via its app. Brilliantly unhelpful, but extremely convenient for them, as that's how they've been doing things ever since they bought a PC in 1988 and discovered Desktop Publishing.

While the world has moved on, most organisations have not. Even their employees have evolved further in the past 15 years then they have - just look at the following:

  • Our attention span is now less than that of a goldfish (8.25 seconds in 2015, down from 12 seconds in 2000)
  • People read  less than half of the words on a web page – even when there’s only 111 words or less
  • Our brains process images 60,000 times faster than text - Imagery gets 67% more attention as a result
  • Videos increase people’s understanding by 74% compared to text

This of course only reflects what we suspect - and if you've ever asked your users or looked at a metrics report - already know.

PwC put this theory to the test last year when creating its Annual Report. Previously, this had always been a traditional print document that had subsequently been dismantled and then reconfigured online.

Rather than a single document it was launched as 40 pieces of content including videos, infographics, animations and a data explorer. All of which were individually shareable and pre-loaded on to social channels.

It wasn't a contest.

There was more social sharing in a week than the whole of the previous year and surpassed most obvious milestones, page views, visits etc within weeks. Good content, produced in the right way, finds its audience, now more than ever. There really is no excuse to continue to get this wrong.