“This Expo is for those who take it… it’s up to you what you make of it.” This is what I remember most from my conversations with the other communication managers taking part in this year’s Expo – an unprecedented event which I believe truly changed Italy. And in terms of EU digital communication, I think we really did make the most of it. The EU had the most engaging social media presence in the whole Expo, and, for me, it clearly shows that it is possible to make Europe appealing if we humanise our communication and target ‘real citizens’. This is how we tried to do just that.
The first thing we did to change the communication mindset was to get some new running shoes. Yes, for real. Effective community management can no longer be done sitting in front of your computer. The more we digitalise our relations, the more human relations matter in community building. So, I needed to get out, to meet people, and to talk to communication professionals from all over the world, in order to seize the historic moment of the first real socialmedia World Expo.
Second, we explored how people around the world did communication – and it turns out that it’s not all about likes, retweets and followers but actually about making real human connections with those influencers, stakeholders and participants that can make your message travel further. A cup of coffee is far stronger than a retweet when developing communication networks. (For the record, the EU did pretty well when it came to the figures, too – our Facebook page had 51 500 followers, the Twitter account more than 18 000, Instagram over 5 000, while the website had more than 250 000 visitors).
Third, we focused on communicating Europe to citizens. “You’re crazy if you want to do this at a World Expo,” I was told – but thousands of social media users clearly disagreed. Expo brought the world to Milan and we brought Europe to the world with a simple message – ‘We are stronger together’. We did it by merging digital communication and personal connections.
Could this be the way ahead, the way to most effectively bridge the gap between citizens and policymakers? The time is ripe and we certainly have the tools – and the experience – to do it. So why not call me for coffee and we’ll talk about it.