‘Turned on’ environment!

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The social media empowered environment is what we call “turned on” or “always on” and it doesn’t make it any better with the new trend of citizen journalism; the world is truly on the go…… it is turned on!

Solomon Serwanja, NTV Uganda, wins the national news reporting (broadcast) award
Solomon Serwanja, NTV Uganda, wins the national news reporting (broadcast) award

Last night, the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) Uganda recognized and honored the cream de’ la cream of journalism in the country that are meeting standards in the way they communicate ethically and as one of the Directors of the Center, George Lugalambi twitted via @glugalambi “The general quality of entries was good and showed a trend towards more analytical journalism #ACMEAwards13” such a comment coming from not just an Academic but experienced communicator says a lot. The fact that our world is ‘turned on’ but are still able to reach out to audiences /publics means we are not letting the profession of Communication go to waste even amidst the ‘always on’ world of Citizen Journalism. Through my extensive experience working in corporate communications I have noted that PR needs to be grounded in finding organizational stories and telling them in the most appropriate way, whether that is using traditional media relations, social media or face-to-face briefings and our conduits of this communications is vital even in this ‘turned on’/ ‘always on’ environment of millennialism. Journalists being one major channel, the quality of their work counts and is a necessity to our profession. The effectiveness of our communications in such an environment continually requires us to be proactive and strategically planned story-telling, for instance if a brand’s reputation is damaged, the story you tell is vital to how your organization can rebuild its reputation. Reputations can plummet rapidly, however getting it back is a slow, laborious process and as one of my favorite quote goes “We can afford to lose money, even a lot of money but we cannot afford to lose even a shred of reputation”- Warren Buffet.

In view of The Starbuck’s tax scandal who knows if media also contributed to the fall of Enron despite the company’ failing to identify its risk in time – Just saying…… the way in which the media’s was telling the Starbucks tax scandal story on the actual events and Starbucks inability to control or tell the right story meant huge loss of public trust and a huge loss of morale among staff hence protestors intimidated employees at one of London’s best Starbucks outlets and made them unable to do their job because of the way the story had unfolded. Just as the Corporate Communications Head of Starbucks did his duty to resolve the issues being played out in the media, and so is our role and doing this means getting the communications right between the organization’s key stakeholders. Getting out the facts of the issue is vital and this works seamlessly when Communications custodians liaise or sit on the organization’s board – and being able to craft your PR strategy around telling the story of what really went on to end up as a crisis. Unpicking the back-story, of the National Insurance Corporation Limited (NICL) vs Makerere University Crisis presented me with a complex financial story which couldn’t be told easily. So my initial strategy was to undertake a series of Question & Answer sessions with key stakeholders on a personal level. This enabled NIC to hear directly from journalists, shareholders and consumers alike and allowed the organization to take feedback; opinion and recommendations of what all stakeholders thought and incorporated our ideas into the issues management strategy with the support of the management and board not to mention expertise of the director, communications from the IGI Group. Given such a scenario a few years ago when the environment was not as ‘turned on ‘as it is today, the NIC brand would be in fiascoes. Important to note; we are story tellers and spinning yarns about our services and our brand is what we do. It doesn’t matter if that story consists of only images or is a story so individual and unique that it becomes universal; or maybe the story comes to life as a product capable of leveraging the scale of our stores. Even the better when told via social media cautiously with a 24/7 gatekeeper to mitigate viral damages. Finding the right story, working out what we want to say and how we say it and making it stick isn’t always easy, however. To help address these issues a handy checklist of questions that I use to ask myself can be helpful: • What is the angle? • What is the viewpoint? • Does the story sound good – does it go ‘pop’? • Does it work for social media? • Does it work for broadcast media? • Who are your case studies? • Who will tell the story for you? • Who are you going to use to tell the story? • How easy can you make that story for the journalist?

“we are story tellers and spinning yarns about our services and our brand is what we do. It doesn’t matter if that story consists of only images or is a story so individual and unique that it becomes universal; or maybe the story comes to life as a product capable of leveraging the scale of our stores”.

Given our ‘turned on’ ‘always on’ environment, following the story-telling approach will not only help effective communications, it will help drive the bottom line of the business. For me to describe my day today PR environment, I would simply say it is about “creativity, disruption or disorder”, it is “the ideas that come from Public Relations that give your organization cut through” so stay proactively ‘turned on’ whilst communicating effectively.

Share your ‘turned on’ comments. Thank you.

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