Digital and social media is a landscape littered with an incredible amount of garbage. It is a world where thoughtful content, insightful ideas and honest communication struggle to find a home.
It is a difficult world for the quality-focused business or organization to navigate. Without really intending to, some fall into many of the habits that their lesser counterparts employ, such as:
Click bait: salacious content with the sole purpose of getting someone to click the link and arrive at a specific landing page
Direct, maybe even deceptive, sales pitches on social media: “10% off today only” or “come buy our new and improved widget”
Inane, self-serving content – any content – just to keep the social media channel fresh and make them look good (corporate bumph is a popular choice such as “we just won an award” or “great dinner with the Minister of Finance last night”)
The storm: keep the posts flying with any of the above
The middle section of her home collapsed because permafrost beneath it is melting. A fishing ground used by her family for decades, if not centuries, is no longer accessible. Talking with this young woman from Nunavut, it quickly becomes clear that climate change is not an abstract, it is a fact of life.
From Churchill to Sudbury, from Yellowknife to Iqaluit, we at RMA have had the chance to work with some remarkable people across the north. We’ve worked with people who are, for example, studying migration patterns, doing environmental assessments for natural resource projects, flying Twin Otter aircraft or trying to solve energy, healthcare and social issues in northern and Indigenous communities. Like the woman from Iqaluit in the above example, many of these people have fascinating stories to tell.
In our previous articlewe talked about how one of our long-term clients, the University of Toronto, stopped issuing press releases in favour of authentic storytelling. They created a content hub that looks very much like a media newsroom.
The University of Toronto doesn’t do the news release thing anymore. They now produce real stories and use RMA to prepare their spokespersons. How do you engage with media in a post-news release world?
Let’s say you have a great story to tell. It’s a story that is interesting, relevant and even exciting. As with all good stories, it reveals something about you as the author or the teller. You want a lot of people to hear it.
Way back in the 1900s it was a routine practice to put your story in a news release and pay a big company to send it out to all of the relevant news outlets.
So much of what passes for communication training these days is focused on making you appear as something you’re not. With apologies to J.K. Rowling, we call this approach “the dark arts of communication.” Public speaking and presentation skills courses are among the biggest offenders.
Many people leave some of these courses feeling like they’ve just been taught how to act. Hit your mark. Make the correct gesture at the correct moment. Say your lines with great affect.
People feel uncomfortable during these public speaking courses. They will certainly feel uncomfortable afterwards when they are next asked to “perform.” They will fear that people will see them as being phony. They are probably right.
Renewable energy projects that weren’t built. Much needed power plants that never came online. Improved food production stopped in its tracks. Vaccinations that were never administered. All of these are examples of how extremely competent subject matter experts and leaders of technical industries had the carpet yanked out from under them because of poor or absent communication and public engagement.
You can also see it at play on a smaller scale within organizations when new projects or initiatives are derailed because staff, customers, stakeholders or the public were not engaged in the process.
The art and science of economic development communications is often overlooked by the very organizations who need it most. As a communications agency with clients in all levels of government and from economic development organizations, we have gained some insights.
In celebration of International Economic Development Week, here we outline some of the top tips for those wishing to communicate clearly and effectively about economic development projects in 2018 and beyond.
How organizations take on costly and unnecessary communications risks
A reporter calls Andrea at Complexity Professional Services (ComplexPS). Andrea says, “I’ll look into it and call you back before deadline.” Then she and several others scramble to put together a response.
She prepares a clear response in plain language that quickly gets bumped down into jargon and emptied of any real content during the internal approval process. Just before the reporter’s deadline, she sends an e-mail or calls the reporter to provide the empty statement and a link.