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


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.

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.

Photo: Valentina Macciotta

#MyExpo2015 Awards – Best Content Centre

My Expo 2015 Award for Best Content Centre goes to the German Pavilion.

TheIR exhibition focuses not only on pioneering projects and solution approaches from politics, business and research, but also on the great dedication from society at large. With many surprising examples, ideas and its motto “Be active”, the Pavilion seeks to awaken the joy each individual can find in taking action and making a personal contribution. The Pavilion is therefore in many ways an invitation to its visitors to join in.

The exhibition takes visitors on a journey covering the basics of nutrition. In six rooms that each focus on a different area, the German pavilion creates awareness of nature as the basis of our nutrition and, at a multitude of stations, presents solutions and ideas from Germany for food security in the future, many of which are unusual and surprising.

Fascinating technology made in germany

Innovative technologies also play a major role in the German Pavilion. The “SeedBoard” in particular is an entirely novel and surprising exhibition experience as it gives visitors the opportunity to discover the topics and contents in a very individual way. It is a personalised “Field of Ideas” with which visitors can call up media, start films or navigate through a variety of con- tent formats. The pavilion visit thus becomes a very personal adventure which, at the same time, makes it possible to directly experience fascinating technology made in Germany.

German Pavilion Expo 2015 - Cardboard + hansd

Research container

The German Pavilion offers a view into some of its most innovative research projects working on solutions for securing our food supply in the future. Several containers integrated into the pavilion façade allow visitors to take a look “inside” the work currently going on in these projects with their new ideas and solution approaches.

German Pavilion Expo 2015 - Content centre Cardboard

A playing field for children

Children also have many possibilities to join in and be active in the exhibition. In addition to dedicated children’s thematic stations, there is also a special route waiting just for them where they can set off and look for tomatoes for a tomato sauce, and, in doing so, learn a lot about nature and our food.

German Pavilion Expo 2015 - Content centre (3) German Pavilion Expo 2015 - Content centre (4) German Pavilion Expo 2015 - Content centre (10)Water Clean + unpolluted

As the source of all life, water is an extremely precious commodity and needs to be handled carefully. This room displays ideas and solutions for the efficient supply and environmentally friendly usage of this vital resource.

German Pavilion Expo 2015 - Content centre Squid and OctopusSoil: Fertile + productive

Soil is the basis of our nutrition and a complex ecosystem that supplies plants with all the nutrients they require. Protecting and maintaining soil is therefore essential for food security in the future – and the theme of this room.

German Pavilion Expo 2015 - Content centre

Climate: Stable + life-sustaining

Climate plays a crucial role in the profitability of agriculture. Using project examples from Germany, the exhibition shows how the necessity of greater harvests can be harmonised with the necessity of sustainability and climate protection here.

German Pavilion Expo 2015 - Content centre (9)

Biodiversity: abundant + precious

The variety in nature is our insurance against changing environmental conditions. Understanding, preserving and making use of this diversity is one of the greatest challenges of our time. This room offers insights into exciting ideas and solutions created in Germany.

German Pavilion Expo 2015 - Content centre (11)

Food: Secure + sustainable

What would we like to eat in future? What expectations do people have of food production today? In this room, visitors are confronted with these questions in the midst of the great diversity of food that is produced and consumed in Germany.

German Pavilion Expo 2015 - Content centre Food Secure and sustainable

My Garden of Ideas

This is a place full of ideas and activities, a colourful and vibrant place in which visitors can discover new and surprising things all over the place. It shows how our ideas and actions can have a positive effect on the way we deal with nature and on our food.

German Pavilion Expo 2015 - My Garden of Ideas

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”.

#MyExpo2015 awards – Best Concept

My personal award for Best Concept at Expo 2015 Milano goes to the Monaco pavilion. It was one of the first pavilions I have visited and even after experiencing them all, I kind of struggled to find others that would embrace such a strong concept in a relatively circumscribed space. The reason for the success of this pavilion is the combination of innovative design and architecture, a great visitor’s experience related to the themes of Expo through edutainment and an important post-Expo heritage project.

Furthermore, one of the strong points of this pavilion is the excellence displayed by their staff. Professional, stylish and very well-prepared. This is not an easy task in the scorching hot summer of Milan and when seeing over 200.000 people every day… However, you’ll never see their staff out of line. This is a distinguished sign towards the quest of perfection when branding and presenting the image of a state to the world.



The entire Monaco pavilion has the goal of becoming a hangar of ideas. The space includes eleven distinct exhibition stations created entirely with wooden shipping crates to symbolize the projects that will be ready to be “shipped” around the world thanks to Expo 2015. Each station presents a different theme related to environmental protection, from sustainable fishing to deforestation, the jellyfish invasion and ocean acidification, as well as cooperative initiatives in Madagascar, Burkina Faso and Mongolia. The whole area combines the appearance of a typical warehouse with a maritime atmosphere: in fact, the pavilion uses sound effects reminiscent of the waves crashing on the beach, highlighting Monaco’s strong connection to the sea.The interior walls of the containers will conserve their original colours and the floor will stay grey and rough, reinforcing the idea of the world of transport and hangars.The entire exhibition area was designed as a free-flow space to reflect the multiplicity of points of view that exist around the themes of ecology and recycling. Visitors can select from different entrances and cross through the areas in different ways, moving freely through all of the interactive thematic stations.After the exhibition hall, visitors can then visit the restaurant area: the purpose of the architectural style is to maintain a totally continuous effect, and here the wooden crate theme returns once again.But then the atmosphere changes: we are no longer inside a warehouse but instead in the middle of a typical Monegasque market.


Recent scientific research has demonstrated a significant increase in the presence of jellyfish in the world’s oceans caused by the negative impacts of humans in the environment. In several areas this increase has caused interruptions in electric power plants, as well as damage to fisheries and tourist destination beaches. Visitors to this station have the possibility to expand their knowledge of this species through diverse multimedia supports. The visitor will be greeted by infographics presenting the consequences of the invasion in an approachable and intuitive manner, emphasizing how overfishing may contribute to the proliferation of jellyfish, which in turn could result in the end of fishing.


As I mentioned earlier, one of the reason I award the Monaco pavilion for Best Concept is their post-Expo heritage. The pavilion, completely transformed (building and equipment), is at the heart of an ambitious sustainable development project, entirely autonomous for the benefit of the Burkinabe Red Cross and the countries of the Sahel region. The complex of 6,5 hectares consists of the transformed pavilion, accomodations, meeting rooms, dining area, sports fields, a nautical rescue training area, a vegetable farming zone and a solar panels field. The center will provide training in first aid and vocational training. It will also accommodate gatherings, events and conferences. 85% of the pavilion functions are retained. The building meets the norms for the High Quality Environmental Standards (HQE).

To raise awareness about this project, the Communication Team of the pavilion came up with a brilliant idea. Making different Expo 2015 Milan pavilions build a Lego model of a container. Nineteen containers were actually used to create a part of the structure. Containers are the most commonly used mean of transport in the entire world and a universal symbol of exchange and multiculturalism, representing for us a concrete example of creative recovery. To highlight this creativity, the Monaco pavilion thought to “friendly challenge” other Expo pavilions inviting all of them to build the little container. All the videos were displayed during the official event of the Red Cross of Monaco last 12 September, to present the Second life of Monaco Pavilion that will be dismantled and rebuild in Burkina Faso as a training centre for the local and the monegasque Red Cross.

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.



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.


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.


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!


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




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!