3 Reasons Channel Shifting Can Improve Reputation Management of Governmental Organisations

stickshift

There is one thing that politicians and governmental organisations can agree on: the difficulty to develop and/or preserve a positive image. Hard won good reputations can easily be damaged due to generally vulnerable images and unstable levels of trust.

Most of the debates in PR circles are legitimately focused on managing public images by creating value through content marketing. Yet I find the conversations do not tap enough into the choice of communication channels that would carry the content – especially with the surge of digital tools.

Governments have been always risk averse and as a result became slow adopters of digital tools compared to private sector organisations and that’s what makes the choice of communication channels a conversation worth having.

There are several good examples of governmental organisations that are embracing digital successfully such as the British Tourist Authority and the London Borough of Newham to mention a few but shifting to digital channels is still a complex foreign territory to the majority of public sector organisations in the UK and abroad.

So how can shifting to digital help governmental organisations manage their reputations.

 

Digital can reinforce brand messaging and standardise service delivery:

Whether its tax returns, driving licences, planning permissions or travelling visas – online platforms can improve the provision of governmental services and standardise their delivery across the board. They can also increase their level of accessibility from anywhere, at any time and even facilitate access to people with special needs in a way that face to face or telephone interactions are less able to do.

Digital platforms such as websites, emails and social media can also enable governments to effectively convey and preserve a certain brand image and help deliver constant messaging.

 

Digital offers deeper audience insight:

Whilst tried and traditional research methodologies are a great resource to help drive audiences’ attitudes and behaviours; they can take too long, cost more and potentially present flawed conclusions because they rely on recording memories, which decay rapidly.

Digital on the other hand is changing the way we gather, analyse and deduce patterns in real time and at a fraction of the cost.

Digital channels enable us to better understand our audiences and act on gathered insights in real time. The available tools give us the ability to quickly and easily process big data to deliver highly targeted content – both ads and editorial – to users whether they are on a computer, tablet or mobile and at a time when they are listening which improve the user-experience.

 

Digital can save money: 

Channel shifting can deliver savings and audience engagement. According to Goss Interactive the funding of local government, central government, NHS, housing associations and the police have been reduced by 27% in 2012-2014 and a further 10% is tabled for 2015-2016.

Although, this can make a shift towards digital channels seem more like a fait accompli – yet governmental organisations can use this as an opportunity to reinforce a brand message of excellence and efficiency in using the tax payer’s money through the provision of re-engineered services in a quicker and cheaper way.

 

Managing reputations for governmental organisations relies on channel choice as much as it does on messaging; especially with the increasing variety of how we consume media such as through on-demand TV and radio and digital tools etc. Governmental organisations have a great opportunity to benefit from digitalising their services and communications to convey the brand image they wish to deliver.

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12 things I learnt from comms2point0’s Essential Video Skills Workshop

Video and Mobile Communication

You’ll probably have heard by now that video is the next big thing on the internet but not sure what to do about it and how to start incorporating it in your communication plans effectively without going bankrupt.

I was there until I luckily got myself a seat on one of the Essential Video Skills Workshops run by comms2point0 and Film Café.

By the way, I whole heartedly recommend that you attend one of these workshops if you want to keep up with the game.

The seats get sold out pretty quickly but two more workshops have just been made available in September and will take place in Birmingham and London. Book from here.

So, to cut into the chase, here are 12 lessons I learnt from the day:

  1. Shockingly, we spend more time consuming media than sleeping. According to an Ofcom study, we spend on average 8hrs 41mins texting, typing, listening or watching compared to 8hrs 21min sleeping. Out of those 8hrs 41mins of media consumptions, almost 6 hours are spent on TV (live and recorded), social media, email, online news, web and mobile apps. Read more.
  1. Facebook surpassed YouTube in number of video views on desktop since they introduced the auto-play feature. The number of views per month on desktop increased from 4 billion to 12 billion.
  1. Forget about Bambuser . Persicope is the new social broadcasting tool.
  1. There is something called Vertical Video Syndrome and it’s an epidemic. You have to watch this video.
  1. Nearly three-fourths of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2019. If you don’t want to be left out – sign up to one of these workshops: Birmingham on 7 September and London on 8 September.
  1. That scary moment when you realise how old fashioned you must be because the majority of people choose to watch moving flashing pixels (aka video) about something rather than read about it.
  1. If you’re making a video for everyone, then you’re making a video for no one. In the audio-visual industry, there are at least 4 categories of men, 5 categories of women and 2 categories of children. Think who you want to reach. The general public means nothing.
  1. The Gangnam Style video by Psy literally broke YouTube’s views counter. Some tweaks needed to be made to allow YouTube to count higher than 2,147,483,647. In fact the number of views is spilling over nine quintillion views 9,223,372,036,854,775,808. I never heard of a quintillion before.
  1. Discovered the AE/AF lock on mobile devices (AE: Auto Exposure/AF: Auto Focus). This is a great feature that prevents your videos from going blurry or out of focus as a result of your subject’s movements when being filmed. This is how to do it on iOS devices.  For Android, I’m afraid you’ll need to look it up as different models have different settings.
  1. We had a fierce debate on which platform to choose to upload videos: Facebook or YouTube. Like with most arguments in life, we had a group who thinks uploading videos to Facebook directly can increase its chances to be viewed thanks to the auto-play feature. The other group thinks that uploading a video to YouTube makes it more discoverable and easier to share on other platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

I personally choose something in the middle to make the most of both platforms. Upload the video to YouTube and Facebook. Let me know what you think.

  1. Follower Wonk: this is a great twitter analytics tool that I think you should start using if you’re not already. It offers so much insight on several metrics – more than I’m able to describe in these bullet points. For example, it’s telling me that the best time to reach my twitter followers is between 3pm to 4pm which is when I tweeted this article. Check it out: https://followerwonk.com/
  1. Cake is the new cat for digital communicators. Watch out kittens, here is a picture of my cupcake:

cupcake digital communicators

That’s it but obviously, different people will pick up and learn different things. This list is in no way a summary of what’s been covered during the day’s workshop and if anything, I hope it encourages you to enrol. There were loads covered on landscaping videos, pitching video ideas, integration with communication plans, distribution and actually shooting and editing videos on the spot.

My renewed thanks to Dan Slee from comms2point0 and Steven Davies from Film Cafe for a great learning day.

What using Soft Power in International Relations taught me about campaigning?

attraction

Picture this: a 16 year old boy from Morocco going to the hairdresser to get a “David Beckham” haircut or doodling all sorts of tattoo shapes on his textbook while in class.

Imagine this South African 48 year old lady spending her evenings binge-watching Bollywood movies and gasping at the sight of her favourite Indian actor’s dancing.     

Wouldn’t you agree that those are basic examples of successful brand engagement – ones that went beyond geographical limits?

Indian Dance GIFWatch the full dance GIF from 3:53

Now, thinking about those two people, wouldn’t you also agree that they are favourably disposed to Britain and India respectively and they are likely to choose to consume news, services and products from those countries rather than “rival” ones? Sure they would.     

How did that happen?

They call it ‘Soft Power’. A term I accidently came across that influenced my understanding of effective branding and campaigning.

In case you haven’t heard of the term before now, Soft Power is the use of positive attraction and persuasion to achieve global influence. The term is mainly used in international relations and was first coined in 1990 by Professor Joseph Nye, former Dean of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Clever man.

Simply put, Soft Power is a country’s ability to alter the behaviour of others to get what it wants using attraction and persuasion techniques.

According to Mr. Nye, there are basically three ways for a country to get what it wants: coercion (sticks), payments (carrots), and attraction (soft power). Side note: sticks and carrots are considered a hard power such as the military, economic sanctions etc.

What I learnt was that force could get people to do what you want them to do, but it will never be out of conviction or admiration. Think of Greece, Iran and Russia.

History demonstrated that the use of Hard Power could bring results but only temporarily. Eventually, uprisings and revolutions will happen because people don’t like to be oppressed. MarketingJust don’t hard power people

Soft Power on the other hand is very closely linked to branding and it’s about attracting, persuading and influencing people to achieve what you want them to do by appealing to their minds and hearts.

There are 3 main pillars that determine a country’s Soft Power:

  • Its culture (when it can be made attractive to others – think Hollywood projecting American culture)
  • Its political values (when seen to be applied locally and overseas. China, for instance, is not doing so well on this one for its record of human rights abuses)
  • Its foreign policies (when they are seen as legitimate. America’s focus on the use of hard power and involvement with several wars isn’t getting credit points on this one)

So what does all this have to do with campaigning and comms work?

We can use the concept of Soft Power on organisational level to attract and engage audiences. My reflections led to me to conclude this:

  • Maximise the value of your assets such as social influencers. They will promote your messages and increase your brand awareness. For example: I tried to reach out to well-known local bloggers that often write about politics and public affairs to help us promote my employer’s projects on freedom of expression.

Working with influencers can be very beneficial since they already have an immense reach. It’s a win-win situation because your campaign can position them in good light and for that reason they will be happy and have fun creating engaging posts with their own style. Often they will help for free and their followers are just waiting to respond to that call to action.

  • Adopt a human style with a “real life” lingo. This will appeal to the hidden personal traits of your audience. Also do post occasional off-target messages. They will make you seem more human and relatable.

 Just don’t use this: “We are strategising our forward facing service protocols to maximise our human infrastructure’s core efficiencies.” 

Make a Vine insteadInstead of a superboal spot, we do a vine video

  • A longer term strategy that focuses on attraction will reap higher rewards over time. Soft Power campaigns are healthier, more sustainable and will deliver higher brand engagement than any short term coercive campaign.

A slightly off-target thing:

Did you know that Britain is the most powerful country in the world? This is based on a study done by ‘Soft Power 30’ released last week that examined soft power assets at the disposal of countries. Check it out for more details.

Please let me know if you have any thoughts in the comment section. Would be good to challenge perceptions and discuss ideas.

>Photo Credit: César Viteri Ramirez via Flickr. 

The Religious Smokescreen

Cross Posted on OpenDemocracy.

Theories about the Tunisian Government being a puppet in the hands of Rachid Ghannouchi, head of the ruling Islamist party Ennahda, seem to be justified by a buzzing online video leaked on October 10, 2012. The spiritual leader, supposedly retired from the political scene, is caught on video during a meeting at the Ennahda offices in Tunis.

He appears to be advising Salafi representatives to act wisely in order to solidify their gains over the secularists and consolidate their long-term strategy to reign over Tunisia. Ghannouchi and other members of the Ennhada party state that the video dates back to February or March 2012 and it has been spun and taken out of context.

Throughout the video Ghannouchi seemed to encourage the Salafi groups to do more community outreach through building media institutions and schools to better influence the people with their ideas. ‘Do not rush things’. He said. ‘I tell the Salafi youth that we all went through the same and we suffered. Now you need to have a TV, a radio, schools, and invite the Imams. Why are you rushing things?’ He adds. ‘We should present a reassuring discourse to people, and instruct them to protect our achievements. We should spread our schools and our associations throughout the country,’ the Ennahda leader says.

The pro-Ennahda camp got defensive at the reaction to the video. They tried to justify themselves on the grounds that the meeting took place during the national debate on whether to use Sharia law as the source of legislation in the country’s new constitution. The aim of the meeting was to include the Salafi groups into the democratic process and convince them to drop their use of violence to further their cause.

However, some left-wingers are calling this evidence of Ennahda’s obvious plan to turn Tunisia into an Islamic state similar to Iran. Ghannouchi says on video that Ennahda was now under the control of the Mosques and the Ministry of Religious Affairs. He argues that too radical a change could backfire on them, as it did for the Algerian Islamists in the 1990s.

He further highlights the secularists’ threat to their plans because they control the main sectors of the state: 

‘Now the secular groups, though they did not gain a majority, still control the media, the administration and the economy. The administration is in their hands. Yes, we are heading the administration but all the bases are under their power. Even the governors are under their control … the army is in their hands. We cannot guarantee the police and the army,’ stated the party leader.

The Ministry of National Defence issued a statement on the same day stating that the military will always be Republican and apolitical.

It further explained that the army would remain neutral with regard to conflicts between the political parties and keep the same distance from any political polarization. In the same context, the Ministry called on all soldiers and officers in the army to respect the laws of the country and the hierarchy within the national army and commit themselves to serving the nation.

Hatem Farhat, a lawyer from Mahdia, filed a lawsuit the following day against Rachid Ghannouchi. The lawyer claimed that the statements clearly indicate the party’s intentions to control all aspects of the state and provoke people to fight, thereby threatening the internal security of the State as per Acts 70 and 72 of the Tunisian Criminal Code. The complaint states also that this tape highlights Ghannouchi’s real intention to change the state, according to Chapter 72.  The lawyer demanded that the Court of First Instance carry out an audit to verify the authenticity of the video as part of this investigation and to refer any found guilty to the court.

In an interview with AFP last month, Ghannouchi called the Salafi groups a danger ‘to public freedom’ and vowed that the authorities would crack down on them after they caused deadly violence at the US embassy in Tunis.

The double-faced discourse employed by Ennahda is making it harder to have confidence in their statements. On the one hand, they claim to be moderate and are in full support of the country’s democratic transition and preserving people freedoms. And on the other hand, they remain silent at the different attacks made by the Salafi groups and their on-going threat to public freedoms.

They also seem to be focusing on manipulating behind the scenes to keep control by buying more time, thus postponing answering the people’s most urgent demands.  

Tunisian Constitutional Assembly Violates its Own Transparency

This article is cross-posted on OpenDemocracy.

Tunisia scored 3.8 on the 2011 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which measures the perceived levels of public sector corruption around the world, through aggregated surveys and country reports.  The scoring is on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 means that a Country is perceived as highly corrupt and 10 guarantees probity. Tunisia, with a score of 3.8 is ranked 73, along with Brazil. (Of the 183 Countries surveyed New Zealand, Denmark and Finland topped the list, while North Korea and Somalia are at the bottom.)

This was no surprise for Tunisians.  When Tunisians took to the streets, they called for an end to the authorities’ abuse of the system. For an end to bribery in public procurement, to promoting their own interest and misuse of public funds, through rendering all public data accessible to all Tunisians at all times – in one word, transparency.

The Constitutional Assembly plays a key role in determining the democratic transition of the new Tunisia, ensuring that Tunisians are aware at all times what bills their representatives are debating and voting for.  This remains a distant goal. 

Two weeks ago, a coalition of activist groups, namely, the transparency initiative OpenGov.tn, the collective activist group and blog Nawaat, and the pro-democracy group Al-Bawsala,  announced that they had filed a lawsuit against the Constitutional Assembly for violating its own transparency standards, articles 54 and 62, necessitating the publication of vote counts and committee reports:

‘Deputies must learn that their vote does affect all the people they are representing, it is not just about them and their names only’ – expressed 27 years old, Amira Yahyaoui, chair of Al-Bawsala on a TV talk show.

‘If they don’t follow their own laws (articles 54 & 62), how are we supposed to have confidence in their creation of our national laws?’ said Malek Khadraoui, a representative of Nawaat to Tunisia Live.

The activists’ decision to take legal action against the Assembly came after months of concentrated efforts to push them to be more open in their proceedings. However, the noncompliance by the Assembly which they attributed to an idiotic lack of technical support actually constitutes an implicit refusal to live up to its own standards, stressed Amira.

This transparency initiative is gaining support from a range of media outlets, politicians and members of the Assembly from various political affiliations. Ultimately it is the demands of the electorate and the compliance with the constitution that is important.

The current Troika government has put in place a corruption monitoring website for public administrations and a state TV channel broadcasting live the Assembly’s general sessions, but this is not enough.

The 3.8 CPI score was no shock. However for the Tunisian people to believe that their country is making great advances in their steps against corruption, the Government needs to improve on their transparency. This is our only guarantee that they have made a break with a past of corruption paving the way to truthfulness and prosperity.