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

Time for some social media spring cleaning


It is in the job description of all Community Managers to try as many digital and social platforms as possible. Mainly for two reasons:

  • Know what’s on the market
  • You never know at an early stage, which platform is going to fly

This winter has been unseasonably warm in Italy (where I spent my Christmas) so I thought I could aniticipate my spring cleaning. It is time to rationalize and put aside some of the platforms, blogs, newsletters I’m not really following and I lost interest in.

First thing first, I needed to clean up my Twitter followership. I like making connections and building communities. That is actually a significant part of my job. Nevertheless, for my personal network I realized I needed to massively rationalize the information (over)load I receive everyday. Mainly, this information comes from Twitter. To do that I used the free version of ManageFlitter which helped me greatly. There’s still some clean-up to do but my Twitter feed is now way more pleasant and manageable that it used to be and my engagement rate got higher straightaway. Simply, I now manage to follow those accounts that really matter (to me).

Then, it was time to get rid of some social media platforms I wasn’t using anymore or didn’t serve my professional needs. I’m not writing to discredit these companies but just to present my personal experience on a topic common among many communication professionals.

  • Xing – Xing experienced a bit of a hype between 2007-2009 but the growth of LinkedIn from 2010 onwards almost killed this German based social network, that managed to survive by creating their own niche. Xing is a platform for enabling a small-world network for professionals. By displaying how each member is connected to any other member, it visualizes the small-world phenomenon. Like LinkedIn, basic membership is free but many core functions can only be accessed by the premium members. I believe it is still useful in those niche environments and countries (mainly German speaking) where the platform developed. About 76% of all pageviews come from Germany, 90% from the D-A-CH area, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.[7]
  • PearlTrees – Perhaps it’s my fault. I was a Pearltrees early joiner but I never manage to get their USP. Pearltrees refers to itself as “a place for your interests.” Functionally the product is a visual and collaborative curation tool that allows users to organize, explore and share any URL they find online as well as to upload personal photos, files and notes. If this platform has potentials, I didn’t get it. Sorry.
  • Hi 5 – It doesn’t make much sense to have a Hi 5 account if you don’t live in Nepal, Mongolia, Thailand, Romania, Jamaica, Central Africa, Portugal or Latin America. I used it for some time when I travelled often to Portugal.
  • Most Social Media Marketing Newsletters – Social media  marketing (especially US-based) is becoming so obsolete. I can’t even stand witnessing the proliferation of self-appointed social media gurus writing useless guidebooks and charging 1.000s of $ a day for trainings on how to open a Facebook page. I think Europe is maintaining more an “all-comms” approach rather than focussing exclusively on SMM. I was happy to unsubscribe from useless newsletters and I will now stick to people with interesting and practical insights. On the issue of EU affairs newsletters, you can share your opinion on Kosmopolito‘s blogpost What is your favourite EU affairs newsletter

Which social networks have you tried and dumped?

Share it in the comments below.

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”

Screening Twitter privacy policy


Twitter is now officially sending out emails covering its new privacy policy and terms of service, mainly updating its policy to buy merchandise. The email states Twitter has updated its Terms of Service and Privacy Policy to reflect new features they are testing (starting in the U.S.) to allow users to buy merchandise from some of the most popular names on Twitter, without leaving the Twitter experience. Its Terms of Service update now introduces the terms covering use of its commerce offerings. The new terms also describe Twitter users relationship with merchandise sellers, including their responsibility for order fulfilment, shipping and returns.

The email continues to read: And since you’ll need to provide certain information to make a purchase, such as a credit card number and shipping address, the Privacy Policy update includes new sections on that information. You’ll also see provisions relating to commerce services that we’ll be testing in the future, like special offers you can redeem at select stores using your credit card. Twitter is also updating the Privacy Policy to clarify how other parts of our services work, including: That we may request additional account information to help us prevent spam, fraud or abuse. As well as the broad audiences that receive public user profile information and public Tweets, including search engines, developers and publishers. The types of non-private or non-personal information that is shared with others, including reports to advertisers about the performance of their advertising campaigns.

How Twitter collects certain types of information, including location information (such as through IP address or nearby access points), and information when you install another application through Twitter. Twitter may share data with our corporate affiliates consistent with our respective privacy policies, for example, if you use your Twitter credentials to login to Vine, its short looping video service, or to provide better ads through MoPub, Twitter mobile-focused advertising exchange. (Source Online Social Media Net)

What I can see from their Private Policy is that Twitter basically retains the right to use any information on users’ behaviour even from third parties tools (exactly like Google and Facebook). I suppose this is something we already knew. However it is interesting to have a read through the full policy document. Below I highlighted what Twitter retains (in orange), how they use that information (in blue), how they retrieve it (in green).

One difference with Facebook is that their default settings are almost always to make the information a user provides public for as long as they do not delete it from Twitter, but they generally give you settings to make the information more private if you want.

Twitter instantly connects people everywhere to what’s most meaningful to them. Any registered user can send a Tweet, which is a message of 140 characters or less that is public by default and can include other content like photos, videos, and links to other websites.

This Privacy Policy describes how and when Twitter collects, uses and shares your information when you use our Services. Twitter receives your information through our various websites, SMS, APIs, email notifications, applications, buttons, widgets, ads, and commerce services (the “Services” or “Twitter“) and from our partners and other third parties. For example, you send us information when you use Twitter from our website, post or receive Tweets via SMS, or access Twitter from an application such as Twitter for Mac, Twitter for Android or TweetDeck. When using any of our Services you consent to the collection, transfer, manipulation, storage, disclosure and other uses of your information as described in this Privacy Policy. Irrespective of which country you reside in or supply information from, you authorize Twitter to use your information in the United States and any other country where Twitter operates.

If you have any questions or comments about this Privacy Policy, please contact privacy@twitter.com or here.

Information Collection and Use

Basic Account Information: When you create or reconfigure a Twitter account, you provide some personal information, such as your name, username, password, and email address. In some cases, you may be required to provide your phone number, for example, to use Twitter via SMS or to help us prevent spam, fraud, or abuse. Your name and username are listed publicly on our Services, including on your profile page and in search results. Some Services, such as search and public user profiles, do not require registration.

Additional Information: You may provide us with profile information to make public, such as a short biography, your location, your website, or a picture. You may provide information to customize your account, such as a cell phone number for the delivery of SMS messages. We may use your contact information to send you information about our Services or to market to you. You may use your account settings to unsubscribe from notifications from Twitter. You may also unsubscribe by following the instructions contained within the notification or the instructions on our website. We may use your contact information to help others find your Twitter account, including through third-party services and client applications.Your privacy settings control whether others can find you by your email address or cell phone number. You may choose to upload your address book so that we can help you find Twitter users you know or help other Twitter users find you. We may later make suggestions to you and other users on Twitter based on imported address book contacts. You can delete your imported address book contacts from Twitter at any time. If you email us, we may keep your message, email address and contact information to respond to your request. If you connect your Twitter account to your account on another service in order to cross-post between Twitter and that service, the other service may send us your registration or profile information on that service and other information that you authorize. This information enables cross-posting, helps us improve the Services, and is deleted from Twitter within a few weeks of your disconnecting from Twitter your account on the other service. Learn more here. Providing the additional information described in this section is entirely optional. Continue reading “Screening Twitter privacy policy”

A few lessons from #Engagorday


This article was also published on the European Commission’s Digital Team Blog

Engagor Day is an event for all Engagor users and partners which took place in Ghent on May 8th, 2014 at the Eskimofabriek. The goal is to keep them updated on the latest feature additions and everything that is coming up. In other words, the Engagor Roadmap. Moreover, active Engagor users, such as NMBS/SNCB and Thomas Cook UK, presented practical business cases to inspire and inform their fellow users.

Capture

Among the introductory presentations and case studies that were discussed, I particularly enjoyed the contribution from NMBS/SNCB. Jean-Marie Hoffelinck (Advisor Online Communications) and Kim Castro (Community Manager) shared the story about the launch of their public transport company on social in 2013 and how they executed this exciting challenge. NMBS/SNCB is the Belgian national railway operator and autonomous government company formed in 1926. Like all public transport companies, NMBS relies heavily on customer care servicing around 850,000 daily travelers and dealing with a whopping 10,000 tweets per month.

WHAT TRIGGERED NMBS/SNCB TO GO ‘SOCIAL’?

Being one of the first customers of Engagor, NMBS started monitoring back in 2011 to get a better grip on how, when, and where people were talking about the company on social. The volume and type of questions were especially important to get a better sense of the social media landscape. To support their launch in 2013, they realized they had to put a great amount of effort into finding the right team and company ambassadors to fall back on.

Opting for Twitter to establish an extensive social media presence was an obvious choice:

  • NMBS relies heavily on real-time communication. At NMBS, it’s all about context. In public transport, a tweet is often only relevant for 30 minutes.In terms of crisis management, NMBS dedicates all of their efforts to replying in a timely manner and proactively updating travelers with relevant information.
  • NMBS needs to solve travelers’ problems within an instant. For example, when someone tweets, “My train looks rather dirty today,” it’s in their best interest to act on it immediately.
  • NMBS wants to continuously improve customer care and give an accurate explanation as to why things went right/ wrong.

One of the most important starting points was a Belgian crisis which affirmed the importance of real-time communication. In 2011, the @stationschefBMO account was created after disaster struck at the Belgian Pukkelpop festival during a severe thunderstorm. This incident proved Twitter was the perfect medium to inform people when all other means of communication (calling, text messages, etc.) were being cut off.

CaptureMobile, and more importantly, social are great means to provide support in real-time. From that point onwards, they really started noticing the significant success of @stationschefBMO (a personal account belonging to one of their employees). It caught their attention because of the positive impact it had on their image spreading some positive vibes for their company in the social sphere.

Due to snowy weather on March 12th, 2013, train traffic was completely down in Belgium leaving hundreds of people stranded in trains and all the other travelers without any means to get to their destination. The country was plunged into a state of complete chaos, and thousands of tweets flooded the Twitter account of NMBS in just one day.

After the disaster, they realized that “it really takes a challenging crisis before you can solve something” and knew they needed to properly utilize tools to better serve customer complaints, feedback, and sentiment. This was another really important factor that forced them to take action and be prepared for any scenario.

In their presentation, the guys from NMBS presented 5 main recommendations from their experience:

1. Be active where your audience is
Before jumping into social media, determine when your audience wants your brand to be active. This way the community managers of NMBS are available in the right time frame, from 6 am to 10 pm, to provide customer care. During that time period, two people (Dutch & French speaking) are responsible for all the replying.

2. Operate with single points of contact (SPOCS) and detailed procedures
One really important thing NMBS learned is to find and involve internal specialists (or ambassadors) before the launch. What can you learn from them? How will they benefit your social media strategy? The next step is to create internal procedures for following up on a multitude of different questions, complaints, situations, etc. (FAQ’s). Refer your customers to your own existing channels. It’s crucial to direct them to your web pages, applications, etc. with links to cater for short, yet smooth replies.

3. Strive for simplicity in handling mentions
NMBS uses only one SPOC and handles every mention on this account. NMBS really stresses on the fact that you shouldn’t look at how your company and team is organized internally when structuring your social profiles. Creating accounts is striving for simplicity, and if necessary, create only one single account or SPOC.

4. Understand and learn the language of your customers
The monitoring phase of NMBS in 2011 was crucial to help them better understand the type of questions they would encounter, and more in detail, understand/learn the language of their customers. Knowing what the customer expects from you is necessary to translate your own internal, and often complex, jargon into a language customers can easily grasp.

5. Great people make up for great social agents
At NMBS, it’s all about identifying the strengths of the company. No company is perfect and there’s no point in covering up your mistakes. Train your social media team to always reply as a human first. NMBS used a specific training phrase for their social media agents to fall back on: “I’m a person at the NMBS/SNCB and I’m going to help you the best I can”. This motto makes it clear to continuously act as human beings, unafraid to acknowledge that you don’t always have access to the right answers immediately. However, you will do the best you can to ensure smooth replies.

A response to Kosmopolito’s “The inconvenient truth about social media and #ep2014”


Kosmopolito is one of the best bloggers in the eurobubble. He recently wrote The inconvenient truth about social media and #ep2014 which I find a very good and punchy piece on one of the main events of 2014 in Europe. Although I disagree to some extent, I think it is laudable that experts in the field are openly feeding the debate. In his article he points out “10 simple truths about social media and the #ep2014.” See my comments below each point. It would have been complicated to put all this in a blog comment so I preferred writing a dedicated blogpost about it.

1. Social media will only help a few MEPs that have already invested heavily  in their individual social media presences. Using social media  during campaigns may look good – but only a long term commitment can deliver sustainable results. It’s simple:  be authentic, build relationships and engage your audience. But: Using social media in a bad way is worse than not using it at all. Think about it!

1. I don’t find the first point convincing, I actually think it debunks your assumptions. “Social media will only help a few MEPs that have already invested heavily in their individual social media presences.” You are basically saying that the MEPs who have invested on social media will have an advantage compared to those who haven’t. Doesn’t this mean “having an impact?” This is for instance very visible in Italy where the EP elections will be (maybe coincidentally) lead by the two leaders and parties that have the highest followerships and highest levels of investment and engagement on social media.

2.  We live in an echo chamber – the bubble is talking to itself. Nobody listens to voices with a different opinion. You only follow stuff you already like. Result: Social media is not a helpful tool for complex political debates. Welcome to the filter bubble!

2. I disagree to a certain extent. “Following” somebody doesn’t’ necessary mean to agree with that person or institution. However, it is true for most (not all) people, that we live in a social media self-built echo chamber.

3. 75 % of Europeans still get their political information on Europe from TV. “The Internet” is  only the 4th most important resource for political information – and the preferred information sources on the internet are “information websites” – not social media.

4. Social media does not reach people who are already disengaged from politics. And even if there is more engagement it does not translate into a higher voter turnout. Statistically, young people are more engaged on social media but their interest / engagement in the political process is  falling – both  at the national and European level. Suggesting that social media will boost the turnout of young voters may be a false correlation.

4. Disagree. The demonstration of the opposite is still visible in Italy. People who are disengaged and most importantly disillusioned by politics are reached by new political movements which use social media extensively (i.e. Pirate party, and most ALDE) Continue reading “A response to Kosmopolito’s “The inconvenient truth about social media and #ep2014””

#Talkdigital blogging competition: have your say on European digital communication!

The next European elections will take place all around the European Union between 22-25 May and it’s a good time for us all to reflect on the direction we want the EU to take. So we have a question for you – how do you think the EU could better communicate with citizens digitally? If you could suggest one big thing about European digital communication what would that be?

Share your ideas in this blogging competition! The winning idea will be published on Waltzing Matilda, the blog of the digital team of the European Commission, and the author will be invited to speak at EuroPCom2014.

You can submit your entry until 15 June 2014.

Send your entry by email to the Commission’s social media team with the subject “#TALKDIGITAL BLOGGING COMPETITION” or leave us a comment to this post. Continue reading “#Talkdigital blogging competition: have your say on European digital communication!”