Integrated media planning. A vital part of your advocacy outreach.

Photo Courtesy of the Internet Archive C.C.

Photo Courtesy of the Internet Archive C.C.

Picking the Right Tools.

There is an old parlour game called, “I packed my bag to Saratoga.” Seated around a table a group of folks pass along a short story whispered into each other’s ear. By the time the story has been rehashed through six or more participants, its narrative has changed significantly. Socks become nylons and soap bars becomes chocolate bars. It’s not because each player is a bad storyteller, it’s the plain fact that each person hears only what they deem important to the narrative. As human beings, we are used to hearing stories relevant to ourselves and the community in which we live. When it comes to living a better life, we are eager to share with others.

This inherent ability to advocate good and tell an important story is in all of us. Only the dynamic of a community will change. Have you not called your local councillor to promote an increase in play space for your kids at the local park? Discuss an article in the newspaper with your neighbour about yet another tax hike? Or shared a news story on Facebook that challenges the need for more infrastructure renewal – in other words, better roads? These are all forms of advocacy with one critical component, a clear and informed voice promoting enhancement or improvements for all.

Photo Courtesy of Ivan C.C.

Photo Courtesy of Ivan C.C.

Where is your audience?

Finding the right voice to carry your message can be difficult for many advocates. Once you have ear-marked your target audience, where are the conversations happening? Are they on the news at 6, or written as an opinion piece within your community newspaper?

As individuals and communities start their advocacy campaigns, many are now asking where do policy makers get their information so they understand the importance of your position. There is a universe of conversation happening right now due to technologies offering easier access to information. Mining the right channel to receive information is becoming more complex. Especially in many CMA (city metropolitan areas) communities, where multiple languages and customs can add a complexity new to many media professionals in Canada.  Then there are digital platforms representing certain demographic preferences. Is social media the right space to have your voice?

This may sound complex but if we go back to the fundamentals of media relations and its strategies, it makes logical sense.

Photo Courtesy of Andy Rankin C.C.

Photo Courtesy of Andy Rankin C.C.

Media’s Brick and Mortar

When promoting policy and programs to particular audiences, strategic media is routinely used to encourage public conversations and debate. When used effectively, this process will generate an engaged community and aid grassroots support.  Strategizing your media plan will help you define your goals towards developing an appreciation for the policy or campaign. Equally, strategic media identifies what needs to be done to take down all the barriers towards compliance and stakeholder adoption. Media is also helpful when sharing research to arm your influencers and change leaders with facts to support your campaign. Coffee shop conversations with the right facts can be a persuasive tactic when practising grassroots advocacy.

How policymakers and the general public understand and resolve the challenges faced by their communities is guided by the quality of information provided to their advocates. Today, more than ever, media takes a leading role in making this happen. Media relations is no longer hammering out media releases and fostering sustainable relationships with media partners. Each media channel, traditional, digital or social, plays a strategic part when reaching specific audiences and informing potential advocates.

Producing and fostering advocacy through the media involves four key processes:

  1. Build the Foundation

Your media strategy should fully integrate all government, stakeholder and issue planning. It’s imperative that media is a part of these campaign strategies. Not just as a tactical component to implement your plan, but also within objectives, research, key message methodologies and measurement. Media will offer you an opportunity to ‘amp-up the noise’ in each functional part of the campaign or initiative.

  1. Position the Right Partners

Identify the essential supporter(s) of the issue and frame the voice, or narrative, around this person or persons. This is dependent on which supporters are best aligned to deliver the biggest impact. It’s important to note that impact in one media channel, may not necessarily be as ‘loud’ than on another media channel. For example, if we look at a medical issue or policy rooted in senior care; you would use traditional media (broadcast, print and radio) as these audiences represent a conducive community to watch the news, read the paper or listen to the radio. Your spokesperson would be a trusted leader known to stakeholders within this segment.

Conversely, if your campaign is based in teen mental health issues, you are then concentrating on who would be the best to carry your message forward. Social media will then take a leading role in your strategy. Your voice will come from various subject matter experts which in turn offer influence to their followers. They will be trusted by this audience to carry the voice forward. Unlike traditional media, social engagement is more immediate and offers quicker behavioural traits to help modify your key messaging.

  1. Research

Having short, clear and factual data to support your issue or campaign is critical for your planning. Cold hard facts rule when trying to put across a point or winning credibility and eventual acceptance. This can only be brought forward by spending the time up front to research your audiences and their behaviours. Utilize stakeholder and government research for segmented behaviours to craft messages and themes relative to this audience. Look for trends through the media that either support or oppose the issue or campaign. On social media, conduct regular audits to monitor issues and tone.

  1. Plan and Measure

With your foundation in place, your supporters identified and your research complete, you are now ready to create your plan. Adding to your foundation work, media planning today often will reflect methodologies of change management. Change is no longer a phenomenon but a fact. Governments, societies, groups, etc., are constantly changing. As a media planner, you must be aware of change within the media and within your stakeholder community. Tie-in your goals and objectives to reflect the capability for change – at any time. Plotting your objectives along a timeline will help you keep the plan time-bound. If change is foreseeable, plot it accordingly. S.M.A.R.T. (strategic, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) objectives offer guidance when developing your plan. Measurement, both qualitative and quantitative, will offer the data necessary to adjust your plan along the planning continuum; then monitor, monitor, monitor.

How Not To Be Seen



What Ever You Call It, Own it and Share it.

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

The Great Content Mashup. 

There is a lot of discussion lately centred on the difference between a content strategy and an editorial strategy. Wikipedia states, “Content strategy refers to the planning, development, and management of content—written or in other media.”

Seems simple enough – you need to have a plan that develops content appropriately and manages it accordingly.

So what about an editorial strategy? Is this different than a content strategy? Or is it an amalgamation of both?

Back in 2009 when the influx of online marketing was within its infancy, publishing giant Meredith’s digital transformation expert CEO Jack Griffin stated, “We don’t hire editors, we hire content strategist.” Many wondered at the time what he was talking about, but today revere these words as prophetic and intuitive.

Does this mean that creating an editorial strategy is dead, especially now when all you hear is content this and content that?

Let’s go to today’s experts which tend to be a little more pliant when citing a definition.

Content strategist Margot Bloomstein confirms content as, “Planning for the creation, aggregation, delivery, and useful governance of useful, usable, and appropriate content in an experience.”

Yikes! Some big words indeed. And what exactly does an ‘experience’ mean in this context?

If we are to understand Ms. Bloomstein’s definition, let’s break down what editorial content consists of.

What does Content consist of today?

Digital strategists Predicate LLC in New York informs its clients, “editorial content constitutes a publishing asset that is repeatable and repeatedly published (article, blog, etc.) in a recognizable form and packaged (edited) for consumption.”

If we do a mash-up of Ms. Bloomstien’s definition with Predicate’s, we understand an editorial content strategy as:

“The planning for the creation of a publishing asset that is delivered over and over again to varied recipients and all the while its author keeping control of the content’s ability to be useful, usable and appropriate in its application.” Clearly an editorial strategy is crucial to an effective deployment of content.

Integration of disciplines is key.

For most of us working in marketing and communications, we now have the responsibility and accountability to provide our clients with a robust editorial content strategy. No longer can we execute a separate content strategy that is indelibly linked to the marketing side of the business, but in isolation from a solid editorial strategy. We need to preface our content marketing strategy with attention to strategic planning on how and where the content will be viewed and republished.

The argument is no longer whether it’s an editorial strategy or a content marketing strategy, the argument is how best to create, deliver, monitor and measure effective editorial content to all audiences. And forget about the definitions!

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Editorial Note: Welcome back everyone to Communications and Convo. It has been a long 9 months and many things have happened to keep me from happily tapping away. That was then. This is now.

I look forward to reacquainting myself with the mighty faithful by writing more stories on communication practices and thoughts about… well we’ll see so stay tuned!

Dear Video. You’re Still Hot!

Awe yes, my good friend video. From Beta to VHS to DVD to iMovie. What a pal you have been, and continue to be for communications and PR. You have helped us mitigate risk by telling a discernible yarn of what happened – and most importantly, when it will be fixed. You have helped leading manufacturers become the best in the world by training their employees on standard operating procedures; all by watching a movie. With a filter or two, you have allowed us to put on some ‘slap’ when the story is dull and ordinary. You have made our storytelling to be compelling so our clients become closer to their customers.

For many years, frame by frame, you have served our industry well, but at what cost?

Every year you say you need more dollars so you can keep up with the latest trends to ‘look good’ for clients. This seems fair, but when probed further you begin to list all your associates that will need to be included in order for you to ‘look good.’

First you say you need a producer to ‘produce’ the story. A director to capture and conceptualize the story. A videographer to shoot the story. A writer, that will put words into the mouths of many… and so on and so on and so on.

My good friend video, I hate to break this to you. In today’s world you are just too darn expensive. Your associates are good and talented people but I cannot support all of you at one time.

Why you say?

It’s actually quite simple, I am operating on one-tenth the budget of two years ago and I just don’t have the money for you to ‘look good’ any more. At lease to the extent you are accustomed to.

So I old chum I put this question to you. Isn’t ‘looking good’ relative to what we are both working towards?

I say it is.

I bought a new Canon T5i DSLR with decent resolution that helps me shoot BOTH video and stills just by slinging a bag across my shoulders. I have a program called iMovie on my computer that helps either me, or my staff, assemble a pretty decent video. To top it all off, 80% of client videos are produced for what is called social media. You may have heard of it. It’s a channel allowing not just one-way communication but embraces two-way communication.

So do not fear my friend. You will continue to ‘look good’ because we will take the time to buy the books and do the research and learn how to shoot and cut a good video. We will promise to do all the things your associates have taught us with one big difference.

Because we can.

Even past the Canon, as iPhones become the arriflex of the back pocket, do not worry, you will always ‘look good’ because you are our friend and we care.

If you still don’t believe me have a look at a grassroots video below. This was produced by myself and Ross Fitzgerald entirely in-house for the Campaign For All Canadians at Canadian Blood Services to promote a worthy and important cause – building a National Public Cord Blood Bank in Canada.

Subject matter aside, you look fantastic!

From ‘Stick’ to ‘Auto’ Social Media Helps Drive Crisis Communications

Four on the Floor

‘The peddle to the metal’

Back many years ago, I attained my license with the help from a very trusted Italian – my Fiat 500. She was not Gina Lollobridgida but was fitted appropriately with a feisty 4-speed gearbox and a sweet looking candy apple red exterior. Certainly a dream come true for any young man at 18.

There is much to be said about learning to drive a ‘stick’ opposed to an automatic. Better gas economy, longer brake life and more versatility when driving for others. Oddly enough none of which came in handy while diving through the fens of Cambridge England delivering wine in ‘85. But that’s another story.

Driving a good crisis communication plan has much in common with that old 4-speed Fiat in Windsor Ontario. From first to fourth comes a procession of tried and true communication methods: gathering the facts, shaping the issue, mitigating a process and monitoring the absolute bejesus out of it. Many of these tenets, and a further six, are explored extensively by Vancouver-based expert John Barr and his book Trainwrecks. How Corporate Reputations Collapse and Managements Try to Rebuild Them (covered last year by Globe and Mail columnist Harvey Schachter) to help fretted corporations manage their ‘pending’ issues.

Managing critical issues was a key responsibility during my tenure as national public affairs manager for the stem cell business line at Canadian Blood Services (CBS). Crisis communications took many forms with issues ranging from volcanic ash air travel disruption, to patient appeals. All straightforward in planning and execution as my team and I would bring measured results for both client and partners. Nested within our crisis strategy sat traditional media that in itself frequently took centre stage by utilizing print and broadcast channels to tell the story of transparency, accountability and concern. Slowly the issue would recede to the back of the public’s mind and all would be good – hopefully.

Then came a huge shift in how a crisis is initially presented to the public, reported throughout and monitored.

Social media.

To offer a clear picture of how crisis has found friend and foe in social media, picture this true and often repeated scenario.

You are living the good life. Health, financial vestment well tailored for many years, kids driving you nuts but love them dearly and you finally got that 30-year scotch you wanted.

One morning you start to realize your 12-year old is sleeping a lot and showing more bruises than a weekly round of hockey will produce. You and your partner take her to the doctor where at lightening speed she is diagnosed with leukemia. Your good life is now over for any foreseeable future. Your world is upside down and your family is in crisis.

Now spring forward to a barrage of testing only to result in the eventual news that ‘your baby’ will need a stem cell transplant to survive. This is your only child so no sibling match can be found (30% of HLA matches come from a sibling match). The only hope your champion left-winger remains is a blood stem cell transplant. This will need to come from someone you will not know and from god knows where. Where do you turn?

Why the internet of course. Within one breath you put up a Facebook page, set up a Twitter handle and desperately post, tweet and retweet.

‘Heck why not; we live in the digital age.’

You then proceed to call every media outlet you can muster to tell your story. A natural response but nevertheless one that can work so much better when integrated with social media tactics.

Carefully and with a metered approach, you convince the family that online is just one part of an effective communication strategy. A strategy that will build community, foster advocates and spread the word to find that illusive HLA match not just for your daughter but also for all patients.

Is that not the true meaning of a social network at work?

Good crisis communications planning will always have traditional media side-by-side with social navigating through the initial fear and uncertainty towards a result favourable to all parties.

From 4-speeds to overdrives, using all the speeds available when working in crisis will get you to your desired destination. Whether the radio is AM or SirusXM.

Plant the Tree First

Plant the Tree First

Strategy = Growth

Embedding Strong Social Media Roots

On Monday I was fortunate enough to be part of IABC Foundation’s ‘Gift of Communications.’ A warranted and rewarding program offered during the IABC World Conference in cooperation with United Way, Toronto. Pro bono consulting can be immensely helpful to many not-for-profits that struggle to keep up with limited dollars and resources.

‘Keeping up’ with communications and publicity can be daunting to small and large organizations as it represents a vast landscape of anything from harvesting latest trends, to getting your executives more engaged in communication strategies. This is especially true for small not-for-profits struggling to stay alive in a reduced government funding environment.

Today, and certainly tomorrow, this struggle will continue; but hands-down the number one issue facing these institutions is how to manage their presence in social media.

Granted, each explicitly recognizes social media as the vanguard that will help them reach new business goals and objectives vital to both their funding and program delivery; but on the other hand, they have no knowledge how to lay-out a strategic plan that will ‘tie-back’ to their Vision, Mission, Core Values and corporate strategy.

So with bated breath they latch onto the low lying fruit of ‘getting a Twitter channel up.’

During the Monday session, this gap was much bigger than anyone in the room thought imaginable. Easily 85% of the agencies were in some ways struggling with this weakness in their overall corporate strategy. Most had very little understanding of basic social media fundamentals when utilizing this medium for business goals and objectives.

Is this really surprising?

We are all human and have an inherent need for what is ‘the latest and greatest’ panacea to either fix our leaky basements or build more aggressive investment portfolios. We hear of great gadgets, programs or solutions and want them now!

Not-for-profits struggle with smaller and smaller government stipends forcing an urgent response towards finding not the right solution, but an immediate solution. Many board meetings will recite,

The next government is looking to slash 40% of all public monies for community outreach. How can we survive? What about this Twitter thing. Everyone’s using it, let’s get on board. Heck if the CIA has one, why not us!”

Other than who would have thought the CIA would give credibility to the use of social media, what has happened here is a large gap within many not-for-profits online communication strategy. In fact, in most cases there isn’t one.

Building a strategic online communications strategy starts with each board member clearly understanding the importance of a well planned and executed approach. Even in cash-strapped organizations, it is crucial to allocating a few precious shared promotional dollars to developing an online strategy. A practical online approach will increase your organization’s credibility, innovation, transparency and other core values that many institutions hold near and dear to their success.

So, for all those not-for-profits and causes out there, let’s look at building the tree first before the nest. If you do, there are many branches that will help your online presence grow, including – of course – Twitter.

A strong well rooted online communication strategy will help your organization cultivate an effective stakeholder audience, advance your mission, live your vision and core values and if you use the right ‘fertilizer,’ tie-back to your overall corporate plan.