Social media and the web of access provided by Web 2.0 have had a profound impact on how organizations function. And while corporations were early adopters, government agencies and nonprofits have now caught up and are fundamentally changing the way they connect to the people they serve.
But there are pitfalls to instant communications.
As anyone who has sent an email and wished they hadn’t knows, in a Blackberry world, it is all too easy to push something out of our in-box and into someone else’s without taking much time to think about that transaction. We need to remember that we represent a brand–for ourselves, or perhaps as a staff person for a government entity or board volunteer for a nonprofit. We need to remind ourselves that however trivial it may seem, every piece of information we send communicates something about our brand.
I thought about this recently when I sent an email to the head of an organization with whom I’ve been involved for five years with a concern about a staff policy with respect to its “customers.” Within seconds, he had forwarded my email to those very staff whose actions concerned me (note to self: mark such emails Confidential). He later explained that he was busy getting ready for an upcoming conference and didn’t really have time to deal with it himself and wanted to be sure the matter was handled. The takeaway I got from that interaction–rightly or wrongly–was 1) he was overwhelmed by the job; 2) he didn’t value the direct communication of an involved supporter; 3) he wasn’t a great communicator.
We can all be more mindful of how quickly we press that “send” or “forward” button, whether we represent only ourselves or an entire organization.
On the positive side, the instant message world offers new opportunities to promote your mission and brand. Many organizations routinely change the “tag line” for staff emails to include current campaigns, web links, new You Tube videos, twitter feeds, etc. But there are just as many who miss the opportunity and have staff who send emails with no information at all.
Here are the kinds of communications that are often overlooked, but which your staff (and board) should always consider affects the perception of your brand:
1. Letters to Your Constituents/Community. Especially those updating people on an important issue (for example, how you are handling swine flu with respect to your upcoming conference)
2. External Emails. Every staff person should have contact info, tag line, web links, and any other relevant link-of-the week on their emails to keep your constituents up to date. Anyone with a Blackberry should be careful where they point that thing!
3. Internal/Staff Emails. Be sure it’s clear these are for internal consumption only, but still think about how it would look posted on your website.
4. Staff Blogs. This is becoming a significant issue for hospitals, law firms and universities, since many doctors, legal experts and professors have their own blogs. And while they are independent individuals with opinions, they also must operate within the framework of their institution (not to mention federal laws like HIPPA).
5. You Tube Videos. Be sure you have permission from anyone in your videos and any music or voiceover talent you use in them to be on the Internet (often, organizations create internal videos and the licensing for the music and narrator, as well as the permissions for on-camera appearances have not been cleared for internet use).
6. Facebook Pages. Many organizations are now encouraging staff to post to their FB pages and to show a more personal side. Just think about exactly how personal you really want to be in a work context.
7. Twitter Feeds. Thankfully brief, these should still link back to mission and direct readers to your other brand presences.
Your brand can both benefit from and suffer from our Web 2.0/Blackberry world. Taking the time to think through your electronic brand extensions is now mission-critical.