Keep calm and get a communication student to therapize you

Somehow unexpectedly, at least three students (that I know of) are now in the process of writing their Master Thesis about the digital communication of the European Union pavilion at Expo Milano 2015.

Why do I say unexpectedly? Because, it is a very specific project which requires a lot of research behind the scenes. But hey, it was a very successful project both in terms of numbers and innovation and a totally disruptive communication idea for a European Union institution.

As flattering as this was, being interviewed by students on the work I do has been incredibly enlightening. I got literally “therapized” by one of these students who I recently met. Apart from being absolutely sure that this girl will go places, I was utterly impressed with her level of attention to details, analysis and the ability of choosing the very right questions.

Finding out that someone has read each and every post you wrote (and I mean this literally) puts you under pressure.

“So I noticed your strategy changed between 2013 and 2014 and I could definitely notice a different hand writing new content around October of that year…” Gulp…

“Also why in a number of Facebook comments I saw no reactions while I saw firms responses on other issues…” Double gulp…

“Yes, I have been following you on social media, trust me I do my homework…” Triple gulp

It was something in between an interview and a parliamentary hearing, especially when you are asked to justify things you haven’t actually paid much attention to.

Whenever you get an external view on your work you capture some things you normally wouldn’t in your own mindset.  Or perhaps you wouldn’t have the courage to admit to yourself. I have recently experienced some big changes and I see every day how this affects my work, my thoughts and my life. We all need, every now and then, to change our mindset and do something out of the ordinary or we end up getting stuck in a rut and kill our creativity. Flexibility and the desire to create beautiful things is the bread and butter of what we do and it is very hard to keep this desire alive when things get “too comfy.” Stability can be your worst enemy if it doesn’t bring new challenges.

We have got to be open to criticism and think that not all we do is perfect and accept good advice from those who demonstrate, with their actions, that they deserve our attention and professional respect.

To cut a long story short, do get a student to write about your work. It’ll step up your game. Guaranteed

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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

Expo, giornalismo e social

Ho avuto il piacere di fare due chiacchiere con Cinzia Boschiero sul lavoro svolto dal padiglione dell’Unione europea a Expo Milano e sulla posizione del Community Manager. Ringrazio Cinzia e vi invito alla lettura del pezzo

In questo nostro viaggio sul  giornalismo ai tempi dei social, non poteva mancare una puntata dedicata a uno degli eventi, anzi l’Evento, che più deve fare i conti con la comunicazione: e cioè Expo 2105.

E lo facciamo con un collega Marco Ricorda che al Padiglione Europeo  ha la responsabilità della comunicazione digitale. Allora Marco, spiegaci bene cosa fai ad Expo, e perché ti definisci  un “community manager”? Una parola impegnativa…

“Sì, una parola impegnativa. In quanto questo ruolo viene spesso confuso con altri ruoli, attinenti alla gestione dei social. Io invece come community manager del Padiglione Europeo,  in un ufficio proprio davanti all’Albero della vita a Palazzo Italia,  mi occupo di gestire la comunicazione digitale del nostro progetto…

Senti, ti interrompo un attimo e approfitto del tuo particolare osservatorio. Come sta andando Expo 2015?

“Benissimo, io sono impressionato da questo oceano di gente che vedo sempre dalla mattina alla sera. E’ una marea. Io mi aspettavo un flusso altalenante. Invece è un flusso  continuo e bellissimo con punte di 250 mila visitatori al giorno.  La parola che mi piace usare è: contagioso:  un flusso contagioso di gente. Soprattutto queste scolaresche  fantastiche, con bambini  anche delle scuole elementari, che apprezzano lo stare insieme. E poi gli educatori, i maestri, che a loro volta  rilanciano  il fattore educativo di questa esposizione”

Bene, tornando al tuo ruolo dicevi che ti occupi di gestire la comunicazione  digitale del Padiglione europeo.  E  che lo fai come Community manager.  Perché questo ruolo è così importante?

Perché ormai la comunicazione digitale non utilizza più i social  come mezzi di  trasmissione e  di informazioni già pubblicate, Non fa cioè broadcasting,  ma vuole creare e consolidare  una”comunità di utenti”.  Nel nostro caso una comunità interessata a ciò che l’Unione europea fa  a proposito dei temi di Expo, su tutto ciò  quindi che implica la nutrizione del pianeta”.

Ma com’è questo progetto?

“Il progetto ha una caratteristica particolare.  Mi spiego. Forse non tutti sanno che l’ Unione europea non ha un ufficio, un riferimento fisico.  C’è la Commissione Europea, il Parlamento e  il Consiglio europeo, ma non puoi telefonare all’Unione Europea. Noi siamo quindi il primo vero progetto comunicativo  interistituzionale. Siamo qualcosa di unico.  E solo la piattaforma che  fornisce Expo ci permette di parlare a nome di tutti. Dunque io gestisco le community di tutta l’Unione europea e non solo delle singole istituzioni…”

Okay. Banalizzando per i non addetti, tu a Expo  sei il raccordo  tra Unione europea  e tutti coloro che sono interessati alle sue iniziative sulla nutrizione del Pianeta. Va bene, ma prova a spiegarci come lavori. Se hai una notizia fresca che dal Padiglione Europeo  vuoi far arrivare a tutti, cosa fai?

“Beh,  in realtà il grosso del lavoro è già stato fatto. Arrivare a un avvenimento come Expo richiede un grande allenamento… Dunque sono diversi mesi che sto creando comunità, soprattutto con gli altri padiglioni dei paesi dell’Unione Europea, per creare canali di comunicazione rapidi.  Faccio un esempio: voglio far sapere  ai nostri utenti di una  visita ufficiale al nostro padiglione? Bene, ricevuta questa informazione,  la giro subito con i nostri  social alle comunità che abbiamo  già creato.   Ormai si è creata una attesa. Abbiamo 50mila fans su Facebook che sanno di cosa parliamo e si aspettano che questi contenuti vengano forniti  in tempo reale. Siamo anche molto forti su  Twitter dove naturalmente la comunicazione è più immediata, meno ricca di parole, ma l’effetto bilaterale è molto più potente. L’utente twitter si aspetta subito una risposta”

Ogni Social ha suo pubblico?

“Sì, certo, e il pubblico viene chiamato appunto comunità. Su Facebook è molto importante l’aspetto visivo. Un post su Facebook senza una bella foto non raggiunge  tutta la comunità.

Su twitter invece il flusso informativo deve essere più regolare, frequente, ma non deve essere uno spam. Dunque ti avvicini  a persone che sono abituate a ricevere un flusso costante di informazione,  ma a loro discrezione. Su Instagram l’elemento visivo è ancora più importante che su Facebook. Il testo è un complemento, ma l’essenza dell’immagine deve dire al visitatore cosa può aspettarsi da una  vista al nostro padiglione o da altre iniziative. Dunque ogni comunità ha metodi di comunicazione diversi e questo per noi è molto  importante da capire e da riutilizzare”

Bene, tante opportunità. Quali sono invece gli svantaggi lavorando sui social?

“In realtà, io ci trovo solo dei vantaggi. Gli elementi negativi sono così pochi che spesso vengono messi sotto il tappeto. Lo svantaggio maggiore  è soprattutto la scarsa controllabilità  dei social. Noi abbiamo una nostra  hashtag che però non ci difende da una eventuale valanga di twitter mirati a bloccare il tuo canale d’informazione. Qui siamo ancora vulnerabili, ma ci stiamo attrezzando rapidamente”.

Ultima cosa:  qui parliamo spesso di come i social stanno cambiando il giornalismo, tu che sei in prima linea cosa ne pensi?

Penso che tutti gli operatori dell’informazione devono adattarsi. Si andrà sempre più a digitalizzare a e velocizzare  la nostra informazione: e  soprattutto gli utenti saranno sempre più esigenti nel riceverla.  Una informazione  rapida, digitale e condivisibile in tempo reale. Questa è una esigenza  più del pubblico  che del fornitore di informazione, ma solo i fornitori che si adatteranno possono  sopravvivere al cambiamento.  La sfida è soprattutto a livello televisivo. Giornali on line e radio hanno fatto grandi passi avanti. Ma a livello televisivo si può fare di più integrando la dimensione social con quella televisiva per raccogliere in maniera  efficace il cosiddetto feed back. Molte televisioni sportive sono già  avanti, avendo anche la possibilità  di raccogliere le sollecitazioni di un  pubblico  molto passionale.

Per l’informazione  molto bravi sono anche i colleghi  di Al Jazeera  che  offrono un  ottimo esempio al riguardo: nell’integrazione cioè  tra social e tv.  Il riscontro  con l’utente è un tesoro per il giornalista e soprattutto  per il conduttore televisivo”.

Russian pavilion visits the European Union at Expo 2015 Milan

The Russian pavilion at Expo 2015 Milano is pretty amazing in terms of what it offers to visitors. A great design, beautiful shows that open up your eyes towards the tradition, the heritage and the prospects of the country and, last but not least, the best, most active and dynamic communication team of this unique World Expo.

During their mascotte tour , a lovely bear named Mishka (who’s having tremendous success in Expo), around the pavilions of Expo, I was given the chance to explain in a nutshell what is the main message the European Union is trying to convey to the millions of visitors that have spilled over the Expo site, but also to those who can’t make it to Milan. To grant a sustainable future in terms of food and nutrition, it is necessary to combine tradition and science in a way that guarantees the respect for the earth for ourselves. Access to food will be available to all only if we collaborate.

Russian_pavilion_visits_European_UnionThe story of “The Golden Ear” answers the question: is it possible to obtain food security through good cooperation not only among countries but also between science and agriculture, and between innovation and tradition? In fact, the protagonists are a researcher and a farmer: two neighbours who are quite different, a metaphor of the European Union’s motto: unity in diversity.

Great thanks to the colleagues of the Russian pavilion and to Maria Yudina for conducting the interview.

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Social media treasure hunts that work

The Social Media Team of Expo Milano provided their Communication Network with another beautiful gathering, this time hosted at the lovely atmosphere of the Bio-Mediterrenean Cluster.

As usual, this was a sensational opportunity to interact with all the professionals involved in the field of communication in the biggest event of 2015, in an attempt to create a space to interact, exchange ideas and bring about inspiration for content.

Apart from the usual customary eating and drinking, the Expo team organized a pretty entertaining treasure hunt. Ten captains were named (I was sooooo honoured to be one of them :)) and respective teams. Every team had its own hashtag (in our case #teamlampedusa). A riddle was published on Twitter with a clue. If the team got the right answer, a second riddle was published and so on…until the final riddle.

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You know, community managers are quite competitive people. Always trying to get more followers than others, more likes, more engagement and obviously this treasure hunt could not have been more awesome.

Ah I almost forgot…we actually ended up last in the treasure hunt…but had massive fun at the Greek pavilion. The photos below speak for themselves! 🙂

#MyExpo2015 awards – Best Communication

My personal award for Best Communication at Expo 2015 Milano goes to the Russian Pavilion

Why? Three words:

  • Innovation
  • Creativity
  • Engagement

The communication team of the Russian pavilion is doing an outstanding job in promoting their activities, their brand and encourage people to visit them. Considering their followership and their visitors’ count, I guess their communication is totally working. Apart from the simple investment in communication outreach, their efforts in branding their presence at Expo displays some pretty unique features that definetely make them stand out from the crowd. This happens in an enviroment where already thousands of very capable communication professionals have gathered. Ergo, I take my hat off in front of this team’s terrific effort and results.

Innovation

Being innovative means being either unique or the first to do something. The Russian pavilion have done that with Russia Expo 2015 TV. which is a pretty awesome and effective idea. Often conducted by Masha, their TV is very interactive. It is not just broadcasting the activities of the pavilion but it engages with visitors, guests, VIPs and, most importantly with many other Expo stakeholders (Expo organizers, other pavilions and partners). This product does requires a bit of effort, a dedicated audiovisual expert… and a lot of personal touch but overall it is an absolutely great channel and the return on investment is pretty interesting. Keep it up!

Creativity

The quality of their images is always great and artistic. I think they have the best Instagram account at Expo… (after the one of the European Union pavilion :)))))))) Their photographer is absolutely outstanding both at getting natural reactions and poses from the visitors but also in creating more arty and appealing images of their pavilion…and especially their cute and beautiful mascotte Mishka

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Engagement

Always “sul pezzo” no matter what. You tag them – they react. You mention them – they react. You think of them – they think you back 🙂 This way of working on community management takes great dedication, but this seems not to have discouraged their super engaging, fun and informal attitude. For me, they are the best comms team and it’s beautiful to see it’s a team of only women. ExpoRussia2015_InstagramA true example of women in management. Keep up the good work! Apart from their digital work, their communication staff organizes lots of networking event in their beautiful terrace, which certainly help bridging digital with traditional networking activities.

 

There are three more months to go and three more months to do amazing things!

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Expo 2015 Milano – consigli per gli utenti

It was absolutely wonderful to meet the people behind the Facebook Group “Expo 2015 Milano – consigli per gli utenti“. A true hub of information, facilitating people to fully enjoy the beauty of Expo Milano 2015 and an active community of enthusiastic visitors at the biggest ever event on nutrition.Expo_consigli_per_gli_utenti

The meeting was an opportunity to discuss communication challenges and opportunities and have a productive exchange of opinions over the potentials of institutional communication towards citizens.

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Getting the Expo Milan 2015 Community Managers together

Last 20 May was a great day for me and for all the Community Managers working at Expo Milano 2015. I was invited to share my experience in live-covering Europe Day at a social media workshop in Expo.

Europe Day at Expo Milan was a true success and as Head of Social Media Stefano Mirti said “the great thing about the European Union pavilion is that they were really ‘social.’ They managed to perform activities and engage with people in ways that only social media allows.”

It was for an honour to hear Stefano’s words and I take my hat off in front of the guys of the Social Media Team at Expo. They are doing a terrific job not only in informing and engaging visitors at the biggest event of the year but they are creating a proper solid network of digital communication professionals. Bridging the gap between human and digital relations among people is the main purpose of social media.

What I wanted to stress in my presentation was that, no matter how well you can get prepared for live-covering big events, you need to be able to change strategy promptly. Social media nowadays requires flexibility and a reactive mind. All that matters at the end of your event is the overall success and the bonding you create with your team mates. Yes, I say “team mates” because the work we do as community managers is very similar to what sports teams do when they prepare for a big game. All that matters at the end, after the game is over, is represented by the picture below.

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The more people digitalize their relations, the more people are surprised to physically get together or even receive a phone call. These regular gatherings, that the Expo team has been organizing, is a great example of what more and more networks of professionals should be doing both in the public and the private sector.

Special thanks go to Mariella Merlino and Manuela Bonfiglio for making this network happen and to Giacomo Biraghi for his continuous effort in making people aware of the great opportunity that Expo Milano represents for Italy, Europe and the world.

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).

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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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