Scott Steinberg, an award-winning professional speaker, is among today’s best-known trends experts and futurists, and the bestselling author of Netiquette Essentials: New Rules for Minding Your Manners in a Digital World, Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty and Millennial Marketing: Bridging the Generation Gap. The founder of Select nightlife magazine, and host of Next Up on NewsWatch, his website is www.AKeynoteSpeaker.com.
The role of marketing and public relations within insurance and financial organizations has shifted drastically with the advent of social media and has moved to greater emphasis on storytelling. Traditionally, organizations would simply broadcast news, or channel it through one specific type of influencer — members of the media — and observe the reaction, then respond on a somewhat more flexible timetable. Today, it’s not simply about beaming out a message: It’s about building trust with end-users, telling a compelling story and creating social streams of dialogue that work two ways.
“Note that kindness, courtesy, positivity and empathy should be reflected in every post.”
Whether marketing meetings and events, or business solutions, it’s important to remember: In a connected, online and multitasking world, companies must first find ways to connect with increasingly fragmented audiences, then work to build empathy and awareness, and create channels through which customers and influencers of every sort can engage with your brand in exciting new ways. Moreover, customer impression carries increasing weight, with brand impression able to travel greater distances in less time than ever before, and users looking to their personal networks for expertise and validation as opposed to traditional media channels. However, while the media matrix and consumption patterns have irrevocably shifted, the value of powerful communication strategies has only become more vital. In fact, traditional marketing and public relations principles play more of a role than ever, and practitioners can excel in the modern world — provided, that is, they adapt to changing markets and best practices.
Following are several hints and tips to keep in mind as you work to create and nurture positive conversation.
Make it clear to employees what’s OK to share online, how and when to do so, and the most appropriate manner in which to conduct outreach efforts. With every employee a brand ambassador, training should begin the first day on the job to reinforce and instill the importance of these organizational values — establishing formal rules of engagement, clearly communicating them to workers and explaining what’s expected from hires is crucial.
Guidelines are only the beginning, however: Establish an internal program designed to teach social media literacy and aptitude, provide continued education efforts and reward employees for successfully practicing these skills. You may wish to consider regular skills refreshes, training sessions, certification courses and gamification-based programs to reinforce these maxims.
Be straightforward and specific about what’s expected in terms of tone, attitude, end-results and output from your social media pros, and regularly monitor and assess how well they’re aligning with and meeting these goals. Providing running feedback and commentary to help them grow and improve is a vital way to bolster performance in these areas. To this extent, you may wish to have team leaders provide sample tweets, posts or updates to provide a sense of how to better shape these communications efforts.
For the sake of clarity and assurance of appropriate conduct, also post formal guidelines for communication within your own blogs, communities and online venues, public-facing or otherwise. Having established guidelines in place helps set expectations upfront, provides a level playing field and helps you address any issues that may arise, such as having to ban argumentative users or remove inappropriate posts.
The immediacy of social media allows you to interact with your organization’s customers directly and often without filters. However, policy and protocols must be set in place beforehand to ensure professional and productive interactions. Understanding that some room must be given to operate between formal guidelines, make it clear to employees what appropriate rules of conduct are when speaking directly to end-users or customers, whether exchanges are B2B or B2C in nature.
Provide ongoing development and training regarding these policies, and make sure employees who manage social media efforts, outreach and campaigns receive regular, ongoing instruction and are passing on learning and knowledge gained from direct frontline interactions with customers throughout the organization to promote positive transfer and enhance best practices. Creating internal sharing systems, online platforms and programs where employees can share insights, ask questions and contribute individual findings can greatly assist in this regard. Sharing findings, knowledge and commentary on the back of ongoing efforts helps boost program growth, engagement and participation.
Marketing campaigns and branding efforts also should adhere to consistent guidelines, helping you ensure the right messages are being sent and that your company is being portrayed with the image and professionalism you desire.
Outside of formal guidelines, basic rules of politeness, professionalism and business etiquette should be practiced online, just as you would when engaging with a customer face-to-face.
Through social media, you also will likely interact not just with individual customers, but entire communities of customers who follow certain blogs, trends, etc. Identify which influencers to reach out to, the best methods for doing so and optimum means of engaging them, and ensure employees are briefed on these topics.
When you’ve got a good story to tell, it often makes sense to tell it across multiple mediums to maximize your reach, and tailor content and promotions by platform. The way individuals consume content on Twitter is very different from that of Facebook or Pinterest. A one-size-fits-all approach is not advised. However, if you’ve got a YouTube video containing several fun or juicy nuggets of information, the incremental effort to write a blog post, schedule some tweets featuring highlights, or otherwise adapt it for use in other formats can easily be justified.
As alluded, tailor your message according to the medium to best resonate with and serve your audience: Content can take myriad short- or long-form shapes — all of which should be adapted for the platform, and easy user consumption. Remember, each medium has its strengths and weaknesses. Visual promotions such as infographics might best be served on Pinterest or Facebook, while key points from them might be better called out in short spurts on Twitter.
Bring value to online conversations by looking for ways to add unique information and insights, and acknowledge and respond to others’ reactions.
Always be respectful when interacting with others online, and keep a cool head, even when you encounter rude or inappropriate behavior by other parties.
Be helpful to others, and find ways through your comments, content and actions to create value and benefit for recipients. Doing a good turn for colleagues, customers and others we interact with across different forms of media helps promote goodwill and empathy — valuable business assets.
When people go to social media sites, they expect exchanges to be more personal, more immediate and more engaging: Be less formal, but make sure you adhere to the rules and guidelines your company sets forth about your brand, message and tone of voice while also creating value for your audience.
Casual and fun doesn’t equate to flippant, glib or self-centered. Think about how you or your brand may be perceived, and take care to present yourself as affably and respectfully as possible. Be cognizant of quality as well, including taking care to eliminate grammatical and spelling errors. Note that kindness, courtesy, positivity and empathy should be reflected in every post.
Humor is appropriate to use depending on context — however, only the same sort of humor that is appropriate for use in an office or business casual setting. Avoid risqué or controversial statements. I&FMM