Grabbing community building by the horns

“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.

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Photo: Valentina Macciotta

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.

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Photo: Valentina Macciotta
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Expo Milano 2015: an outstanding opening of the European Union pavilion!

Last 9 May I had one of the most amazing days of my professional life. We inaugurated the European Union pavilion at Expo Milano 2015. All the work we have done for months has paid off amazingly with an incredible turnout and very inspiring words from both President Martin Schulz and High Representative Federica Mogherini.

“Europe is changing, flexibility is no longer a taboo and austerity is no longer a mantra” stated Mogherini. The High Representative also took the opportunity to thank all those who contributed to a big event like Expo Milano 2015, first and foremost the volunteers.

The President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz expressed his pride in being part of a “unique and exceptional community of 28 democratic countries cooperating for peace, welfare and the future of the new generations.”

The promotion of the day started cross-platforms a few days in advance in order to create some pre-event buzz with stakeholders in the field of EU affairs and Expo Milan

After the ceremonial welcoming speech, Europe Day at Expo went on with the “Citizens’ Dialogue”, a debate between institutions and citizens that took place at the Expo Auditorium and welcomed thousands of citizens and high school students from across Europe.

The lively debate moderated by RaiNews24 Director Monica Maggioni tackled some crucial topics for Europe such as nutrition and environmental sustainability. The discussion also grew online through social media, with the official hashtag #EUdialogues (mentioned over 2000 times in the day).

EUDialogues

On social media this turned out to be one of the most successful Citizen’s Dialogue ever, especially thanks to the great inter-institutional cooperation between the many EU-actors involved

At the end of the Dialogue I had the honour of jumping on stage and getting a quick post-event statement by both Mogherini and Shulz on the the interaction and communication opportunities offered by this type of event. I must say I was thrilled at the very least.

Before the Citizen’s Dialogue started I asked a few students participating what they would have liked to ask to the President and the High Representative

Continue reading “Expo Milano 2015: an outstanding opening of the European Union pavilion!”

7 reasons to follow the EU at Expo

Expo Milan 2015 will be the first real “social media World Expo.” Even though Shanghai 2010 did display a touch of social networks within their outreach efforts, Expo Milan invests and relies massively on social media. The goal of this intense use of social networks and digital connections is manyfold. Not only is this strategy intended to reach the expected 20 million visitors, but also to concentrate on those who won’t be able to make it to Milan and have an interest in debating how we can feed the planet now, and in the future.

“Seven” is both an Expo paradigm and coefficient: Expo Milan foresees the sale of seven times the tickets sold during the latest football World Cup in Brazil. Every day. Expo will welcome daily an average of seven times the visitors of Disneyland Paris at its maximum capacity. 7000 are the events scheduled to take place during the six-month-long fair. Should I continue?

The European Union will be there to make a strong stance and present openly how its policies, its aids and development projects and its scientific contribution to the global debate on food and nutrition. Here are seven reasons why you should follow this incredible project on social media:

  • One voice for the EU – The European Union as a whole will be represented in Milan. It will not be an institutional but an organizational presence speaking on behalf of all the EU institutions.
  • Alex and SylviaOur journal. Our trip. Our experience in real time through the European Commission’s widest digital network.
  • Thematic weeks Food is a realm that cuts across numerous fields of expertise. To cover as many aspects as possible of the global debate on nutrition, we dedicate social media thematic weeks to deepen the discussion, the information and the content on each specific topic covered by the EU.
  • Facebook – Our eyes, hears and mouth on the pavilion, on Expo, on the visitors. Day by day you will see everything there is to know about Expo2015 and the European Union.
  • Twitter – To keep yourself in the loop. Our events, our conferences, our statements, our guests and all the material shared and commented on by our digital network. Wanna be part of that? Follow @EUExpo2015 & #EUExpo2015.
  • Instagram – Our creativity expressed in a diary made of images. Ours, yours, the community’s. Be part of it!
  • LinkedInOur microscope on science, policy and development in the realm of global food and nutrition security. For experts, scientists and those who want an institutional answer to their questions about the future of food.

Our social media is strongly based on multilateralism. We publish, we listen, we engage. We are the real time voice of the EU in the biggest event of 2015

Anything more check out our website europa.eu/expo2015

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Open your ears: social media monitoring is not all about being techy

Open your ears

It is a common misperception to think of social media as different from traditional media. I believe that the more communication technologies evolve the more we must learn to see social media as part of “all media.” However, it is true that some aspects of media monitoring require a different perspective when talking about social media and gathering intelligence.

Do you know what’s been said about you, and where?

In a previous blog post I advocated how audience segmentation (the process of dividing a broad target audience into more specific subgroups) is key to effective communication output (the way we communicate).

When I was asked to prepare a presentation on social media monitoring to gather intelligence I realized how this also applies to communication input (the way we gather information to then produce communication output).

Knowing where people are talking about you and your activities is crucial. We’re currently in an era of information overload and learning how to listen and extract the information which is useful for our communication strategy is not an easy task.

We tend to think that effective monitoring is about being techy or using the most advanced tools or the most elaborate algorithms. At the social media team in the European Commission we are often asked “How can I find influencers on topic X or Y” or “what tools can tell me exactly who to follow on a particular topic.” I’m afraid the answer is: there is no magical tool. Tools will help ease your workload but you should not forget the so-called “human touch.” No matter what monitoring platform you are using or monitoring project you’re setting up, you will always need some manual background research work.

Choose the appropriate monitoring technique

We can distinguish different types of monitoring activities on social media. These are mainly based on:

  • The amount of information that needs to be processed.
  • The duration of the event/topic at stake.

Roughly I could identify:

  • Continuous monitoring
  • One-off monitoring
  • Short-term project-based monitoring
  • Long-term project-based monitoring

Continuous monitoring

“Taking the temperature” of the social media interactions and shared content in relation to your activities is very important. Whether you do that through a corporate monitoring tool or via different platforms, every-day monitoring allows you to be reactive and keep close to the action. It is by monitoring the trends, the data and volumes of information on a daily basis that you will be able to understand when values are unusual (unusually high or unusually low) and to promptly react when needed.

One-off monitoring

This usually refers to monitoring activities which are done una tantum. They generally end with prompt reports and are used to assess the performance of specific activities. They are good to evaluate events such as conferences, debates, press briefings, campaigns etc…Was the event successful? If not, why? Can we do something to counterbalance? This type of monitoring should be used to answer these questions.

Short-term project-based monitoring

Short-term project-based monitoring can be set-up when a particular “opportunity window” opens (alteration of trend and detection of unusual values). For instance, if you are continuously monitoring discussions on social media about “finance” you will be able to notice when significant amounts of discussions suddenly start revolving around related topics like legislation, transactions fees or regulation. If any such topics is of particular concern for you, it would be interesting to follow a procedure similar to what you can see below.

Social_media_monitoring

1. After identifying the issue (i.e. huge concern on social media about upcoming financial regulation) you should measure how far the issue has expanded on social media. This can be done by measuring reach, engagement, shares and retweets, likes etc…

2. Further ad hoc monitoring will allow you to identify influencers and to be able to understand the sentiment around the topic (positive, negative, neutral)

3. After that it is recommended to make a decision on how to engage on the topic with the right stakeholders and suggest a publishing/output or rebuttal strategy.

4. Once this is done, it is necessary to reassess the situation and report it back to the people in charge who will verify if the issue is over or continues.

5. If the issue continues, go back to step 1

If you make step 5 it means that your short-term project-based monitoring becomes long-term.

Long-term monitoring project

These are monitoring projects that are on-going and for which you cannot foresee an exact end date. It’s good to keep an eye on these projects regularly on long intervals or when timely events may lead to values alteration.

Of course there are cases that require the implementation of monitoring projects that go beyond what we have presented here. Nevertheless, whatever monitoring activity you think of setting up, it is important to consider:

  • Consistency

Stick to consistent measurement and reporting techniques. This is key to providing effective benchmarking.

  • Sustainability

Organise your monitoring activities according to the resources you have at your disposal. Although it is very important to monitor your presence on social media, it also requires considerable resource investment. Try to find a sustainable balance between your workload and time spent on social media monitoring.

  • Essentiality

With the help of social media monitoring tools, either expensive custom solutions or free online platforms, you will be able to gather enormous amounts of information. Think about who you are reporting this to and stick to what really matters. Information overload is your worst enemy.

Visiting a local creative communication agency

I was “forced” at home in Italy for a few weeks over Christmas following some serious foot and ankle surgery. This sort of “constrained stay” gave me a chance to discover the local reality in my small native area in North of Italy about how communication and creative agencies work. Now, I know that not only in Brussels, London, New York and Singapore people and businesses need communication campaigns and social media trainings. However, getting to know the guys behind Kreative House, left me very positively impressed for their level of innovation, creativity and down-to-earthness.

CEO and agency founder Cristian Grossi was happy to share his thought about running a communication agency in small town in Italy.

Christian, how did Kreativehouse start?

We started in 2008 as a simple graphic studio. A little naively, we focused mainly on the aesthetic aspects of images and words. Project after project, we learned that emotions are messages that need to be conveyed, that they have their own channel and their own target and need to be treated with extreme attention and care.

To tell you the truth, we promised ourselves we would never do traditional advertising. Classic advertising aims to persuade and to exaggerate the message. I don’t think we could sell irrigation systems or smoked ham.

What are the main challenges about running a creative business in a small town?

The hardest challenge is letting people understand that even if you live in a small town you can provide work of the highest level. We get super excited every time we hear that our fashion line was the season’s top seller with half a million income, or when our campaign for Amnesty International gathered 140,000 signatures in less than one month. But there’s still someone showing up at our door asking us for a brochure or a business card. It’s funny, sometimes we pick up the phone and it’s Gino’s café, and then the next call is from Versace.

How has the communication and creative business evolved in the past few years in your area?

Communication professionals must constantly adapt to new models. Some roles are disappearing. For example, until a few years ago small brands needed a Press Office. Today it’s not essential anymore. You need good content, a Twitter account and a specifically profiled target market.

If on one hand some roles are disappearing, on the other hand, especially on a local level, there is an overload of new professional figures, like social-media-something. Some improvise themselves putting out interesting content into the net without a specific logic. Only a few approach communication as a systemic, deterministic model that guarantees measurable results.

Don’t get me wrong – we strongly believe in the freshness of local creativity (we often joke saying that Milan is “much more provincial-minded than us”). For example, our territorial marketing project «Weloooooveit» focuses on the «proud to be local» idea, on the celebration of homemade tortellini, of the housewife and the shop around the corner. But this doesn’t mean that you can just improvise. We believe that in the field of communication every single action must be planned thoroughly.

Cattura

Tell me something more about your clients’ portfolio? Who are they and what do you think made them choose you to run their campaigns?

We had the luck to start with fundraising campaigns for non-profit organizations (the first were Amnesty International, COOPI, Lipu/Birdlife Italy). It’s a challenging field, because the product is actually an idea, a cause, a live emergency. People offer money when they believe in an ideal and trust you. Believe me, building a strong, trustful relationship through a communication campaign is not an easy task. This is why when we landed in the field of product marketing everything seemed so much easier to us! Unlike non-profit, people get a direct return from art, fashion and cultural events.

giardino-uccelli-birdgarden-lipu

What motivates you to keep innovating your business?

If you think of communication like a project, you have to innovate constantly, it’s almost automatic. In our job, we think as communication designers, as project developers. Design must be planned, shaped, targeted – and plays a crucial role in the conception of the brand visibility vectors (product, communication, environment). In this perspective, design has a strategic function, and its development is deeply rooted in our agency’s core values.

roBOt06 Report from roBOt Festival on Vimeo.

What would you recommend to people who want to start a business in creative communication at the local level?

Be creative, but plan projects. Design is really about solving problems. Think global, and please, be proud to be local.

robot-festival-digital-art

To Rotate or not to rotate? A question for the EU Council Presidency on Twitter


An intersting point has been raised by Matthias Luefkens for Europe Decides about having a rotating Twitter account for the Presidency of the Council of the EU. Considering the management of these accounts, the piece does raise some interesting point. I have left my contribution in their comments section.

Cattura A problem I could already foresee with Matthias’ solution is “what to do with all tweets?”Meaning that, for instance, tweets from @gr2014EU would now look like they were made by @IT2014EU.
An EU Presidency still remains a very team-based or national-based effort. The accounts that get closed after the term do work as archives of their achievements.

What is your take on this? Share it in the comments section below or joined the conversation on Twitter.

Great meeting the digital leaders from the EU Commission Representations

The newly appointed Digital Leaders in the Representations offices of the European Commission in the Member States came to Brussels for training in early December. This presented a wonderful opportunity to meet colleagues from the Representations and to explore the work of the Digital Leaders. Appointing specialists in the field of digital communication and social media is a very important step to coordinate communication efforts between the main seat of the European Commission in Brussels and understand and deal with national and local issues in the all European Union. The Representations play a major role implementing one of the goal of EU institutional communication which is speking with one voice while being united in diversity. It was a great day and hopefully an experience to repeat.

To know more about what the Representations are already doing on social media, have a look at Representations’ Facebook and Twitter lists

The European Commission’s online communication today and tomorrow

I was happy to participate to “Web, Mobile, Social – The Commission’s online communication today and tomorrow” at the Committee of the Regions

listening to Robert Andrecs, Head of Unit “EUROPA Site”, European Commission, DG Communication and Dana Manescu, Head of the Social Media Sector, European Commission, DG Communication.

The European Commission’s online communication has become a significant component of EU political communication. It aims to reach new audiences and connect with citizens and stakeholders on the platforms they prefer and the devices they use. The Commission’s web presence is undergoing a massive digital transformation programme which aims at putting users’ needs first. The new web presence will be “mobile first” and integrated with social media. Find out more about the Commission’s web and social media communication and its plans for the years ahead.

A question that was raised during the debate was “how can the EU communicate with one voice?” This is indeed a challenging issue for institutional communicators of such a simultaneously diverse, intricate but united organization and I believe a similar challenge is raised for other similar international organizations like the UN. This is was a good opportunity for me to mention the European Union’s presence at Expo 2015, the biggest event of 2015 and the biggest event on nutrition ever organized. The participation of the European Union at Expo 2015 is a project managed by the European Commission (more precisely by a task force of the Joint research Centre) but it is a European Union-branded project. In our communication we always refer to ourselves as European Union. This is a challenging task but it definetely helps EU and institutional communicators get an idea of how communicating on common global goals benefits the overall understanding of a European project.

See my intervention at 56:56

Twiplomacy is the Bible of social media professionals in international organizations


The Twiplomacy report is par excellence the guide book to the use of institutional tweeting or, as they better put it, it is an annual global study looking at the use of Twitter by heads of state and government and ministers of foreign affairs.

While some heads of state and government continue to amass large followings, foreign ministers have established a virtual diplomatic network by following each other on the social media platform. Here is the executive summary from this great work put up by Matthias Lüfkens and Marek Zaremba-Pike together at Burston Marsteller. I had the pleasure to meet Matthias and Marek at their presentation of the report at BM’s offices in Brussels last July (See video below and my short intervention at 40:57)

For many diplomats Twitter has become a powerful channel for digital diplomacy and 21st century statecraft and not all Twitter exchanges are diplomatic, real world differences are spilling over reflected on Twitter and sometimes end up in hashtag wars.

“I am a firm believer in the power of technology and social media to communicate with people across the world,” India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi wrote in his inaugural message on his new website. Within weeks of his election in May 2014, the @NarendraModi account has moved into the top four most followed Twitter accounts of world leaders with close to five million followers.

More than half of the world’s foreign ministers and their institutions are active on the social networking site. Twitter has become an indispensable diplomatic networking and communication tool. As Finnish Prime Minister @AlexStubb wrote in a tweet in March 2014: “Most people who criticize Twitter are often not on it. I love this place. Best source of info. Great way to stay tuned and communicate.”

As of 25 June 2014, the vast majority (83 percent) of the 193 UN member countries have a presence on Twitter. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of all heads of state and heads of government have personal accounts on the social network.

Most Followed World Leaders

Since his election in late May 2014, India’s new Prime Minister @NarendraModi has skyrocketed into fourth place, surpassing the the @WhiteHouse on 25 June 2014 and dropping Turkey’s President Abdullah Gül (@cbabdullahgul) and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (@RT_Erdogan) into sixth and seventh place with more than 4 million followers each.

Modi still has a ways to go to best U.S. President @BarackObama, who tops the world-leader list with a colossal 43.7 million followers, with Pope Francis @Pontifex) with 14 million followers on his nine different language accounts and Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono @SBYudhoyono, who has more than five million followers and surpassed President Obama’s official administration account @WhiteHouse on 13 February 2014.

In Latin America Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the President of Argentina @CFKArgentina is slightly ahead of Colombia’s President @JuanManSantos with 2,894,864 and 2,885,752 followers respectively. Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto @EPN, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff @dilmabr and Venezuela’s @NicolasMaduro complete the Latin American top five, with more than two million followers each.

Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta @UKenyatta is Africa’s most followed president with 457,307 followers, ahead of Rwanda’s @PaulKagame (407,515

followers) and South Africa’s Jacob Zuma (@SAPresident) (325,876 followers).

Turkey’s @Ahmet_Davutoglu is the most followed foreign minister with 1,511,772 followers, ahead of India’s @SushmaSwaraj (1,274,704 followers) and the Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates @ABZayed (1,201,364 followers) Continue reading “Twiplomacy is the Bible of social media professionals in international organizations”

A few lessons from the European Digital Advocacy Summit


Digital advocacy is assuming an increasingly important role in Brussels. What’s working to engage European policymakers? Can social media platforms help you find other advocates? Which tools work best? These were some of the questions addressed at the latest European Digital Advocacy Summit in Brussels, organised by the Public Affairs Council.

At the event, public affairs executives shared interesting case studies, insights and best practices as well as EU officials shared their perspectives on social advocacy. This executive-level conference was designed for interactive engagement between participants and presenters. I couldn’t attend the whole conference but I had the chance to sit at the “Successful Online and Media Engagement” part with Bruno Waterield, Brussels correspondent from the Telegraph and Christophe Leclercq founder of EurActiv.com

In this panel a lot was discussed about the Eurobubble (or Brussels bubble), the so-called circle of (mostly foreign) professionals living in Brussels and working on EU affairs. For an international organization, it is certainly challenging to communicate at different levels of governance and reach different target audiences at the European, national and local level. What could we learn from that panel?

  • Use the (Euro)bubble as a bridge, not as a border

I often hear the claim that the Eurobubble (including EU institutions) only communicates to the bubble. This is clearly an incomplete statement since the EU communicates at levels of governance and addresses different groups of stakeholders according to the policies the work on. For instance the European Commission:

Having said that, I am also convinced that people living and working in the Eurobubble do not only communicate within the bubble but they serve as information ambassadors at the national level. The Brussels press corp mostly reports to their central offices in EU Member States and around the world, professionals in various fields often go home and tell people what happens at the European level, civil servants exchange opinions with their national administrations and so on so forth. This is why I prefer thinking about the Eurobubble (whatever that means) as a bridge between Brussels and the rest of the world rather than a self-centred echo chamber.

    • Keep yourself in the loop

What I know as a social media analyst is that I have still an awful lot to learn and that I am bound to keep myself in the loop in order to keep providing valid recommendations and understand how the digital world evolves. There is no short-cut in this learning process. This applies to all professionals working in communication. Spend at least 10% of your time keeping an eye on communication technologies, experiment and make sure you get at least a tiny grasp of what may come next in your field of work and expertise.

    • Use the online to reach the offline

In digital advocacy the offline cannot be separated from the online any longer. These two dimensions work best when they are connected, when they merge. Being engaged online should be (an optional) step one to make “real” connections.

Where you European Digital Advocacy Summit too? Share your views with me.