I’m glad someone else is also saying it. “It Is Time for Brands to Bring Their Social Media Home”. Frank Eliason wrote this great article for Social Media Today – and it has (almost) everything: A little history of social media and how it’s evolved from actual personal communication to hype to push to content marketing to brand overflow. And it touches on the one thing that’s still sorely missing in companies’ social set-ups. The mindset, the culture and empowerment of employees. The article is rather long, but absolutely worth the read. I want to focus on the one aspect that’s near and dear to my heart, though, and that I’ve been advocating throughout my career.
“Your employees are the greatest assets for most companies, but we often fail to empower them to talk in social media. This is a big mistake; you’re overlooking one of the greatest ways you could build trust in the brand. Instead of having policies that say no, teach them, help them”, writes Eliason. When I built up social media communications at Microsoft Germany, this was the route I chose. Microsoft had always had the mentality of letting those people speak that actually know what they’re talking about instead of insisting on the one voice/one speaker policy. Managing or overseeing these people’s communication from a PR standpoint was a lot easier without Facebook, Twitter and Co, of course. But when we decided to professionalize social media, we faced and ultimately embraced those circumstances. Instead of restricting access or forbidding employees to communicate with their respective (product) communities, we started the shift towards a new communications model. “One story, many Voices”. Ultimately, we had 130 social media channels in Germany alone.
One Story, many Voices
What this means for companies and especially for their comms departments: A big change in attitude. PR is no longer the sole communicator, PR is no longer the micro-master of all things comms. PR has to evolve into a central service function. Enabling, training and supporting all employees to be the best and most authentic communicators they can be for the overall benefit of the company.
What PR should do
Here are some concrete actions PR departments can undertake that fall into the Social Governance category:
- Establish a Social Media Council: get all departments on board; create awareness, understanding and funding for social within the entire company
- Establish a Central News Service: While many voices should communicate the stories, PR should be the one to define them and deliver media kits to all employees so many voices can communicate the same story in a similar if still authentic and personal fashion.
- Establish a (Social) Media Kit: It sounds super easy, but creating a simple media kit or media alert to centrally inform employees of campaigns, upcoming events or warn them about potential crises.
- Establish a Central Webmonitoring Service: Nothing is worse than employees that tweet or post uninformed. PR needs to make sure all employees are aware of potential communicative landmines and generally know what’s going on on the interwebs. A central webmonitoring service can accomplish just that.
- Train Your Employees: While your employees should still be free to communicate authentically, they also need to be trained on the specific requirements of the different channels and legal implications (Germany = imprint, for example) amongst other things.
I frequently talk about Social Governance and the new role of PR. My most recent presentation on the topic is aptly titled “The Future of PR – It’s Life or Death for Us”.