8 Simple Steps Towards Reaching A Broader Audience

As I have mentioned in previous posts, your country’s achievements may seem wonderful to you and your Diaspora, but if your goal is to make friends for your country, showing off is not enough, and can sometimes be annoying. I mean, if your country has a strong economy and you are promoting that aspect in a country that suffers from high unemployment, you might start pissing people off.

You must show how your country’s achievements benefit the region or city you reside in.

It is classic “What’s In It For Me” only with the mind-set of ‘What’s In It for Them’ elevated by social media, and creating a win for all situation.

For example, let’s say that one of the pillars of your country’s overall branding strategy is its medical field. It is part of your job to make people aware of the fact that you have a lot to offer in that realm. So what’s the problem? Write a few words, add hashtags and attach an article from a website published in your native country raving all about it and post on your Facebook page, right? Sure if you want it to end right there, but if you want to be effective there are more ways to do it, and here is one of them:

  1. Contact the author of the article as well as the hero of the story.
  2. Email the article to local bloggers who would be interested in that content and offer to connect them with the above.
  3. Contact an online medical publication as well as a specific community that would be positively affected by this breakthrough, and get them to publish the story (written by the blogger who picked it up) on their website, newsletter and social networks. Don’t just post it on their page, it works better for all involved if they post it on their website and later share it themselves.
  4. Tell them all that you will be more than happy to promote the post using your mission’s networks as well.
  5. Once it is published, keep your promise and share it on your Social Media Channels using effective hashtags.
  6. Post on your website that the local publication/blog/organization wrote about this amazing discovery in your country, give the gist of it and share the link to where it was published.
  7. Thank the blogger as well as the organization/publication for posting and promise to let them know if and when you receive anything that would be of interest to them and send them the link to the featured article on your website.
  8. Use the information in the article and refer to it in an answer you compose in response to that or a related topic on Quora or any other significant Q&A based social network.

By applying these simple and basic PR moves, you will be able to:

  1. Deliver your message to a broader audience.
  2. Give your country positive exposure.
  3. Make new connections with bloggers, organizations and publications that will in the future be open and willing to receive more information from you and also possibly host or co-sponsor joint events, delegations or co-ops.
  4. Contribute to the local community and show how relevant you are to their day-to-day lives.
  5. Improve your country’s online presence and reputation. The circulation of linked information from one website to another, as well as newsletters, tweets and shares help search engines pick up on you and the story.

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Having an APPtitude

I’ve noticed that recently, governments on both local and national levels have entered the marvelous mobile world by developing apps designed to provide citizens, tourists and expats with relevant information serving their needs.

Such initiatives are important tools in providing service and increasing visibility.

It also helps governments on any level position themselves as progressive, in tuned with the public, moving with the times, and well-organized. Especially in an era when people’s patience is wearing thin and bureaucracy, well bureaucracy never goes anywhere.

Going back to some of my previous posts, those who may be seeking this information are already engaged with your country one way or another and though it helps you strengthen their appreciation of you more, it doesn’t do enough for making new friends.

Encouraging tourism or foreign investments starts by raising awareness to what your country has to offer. In addition to campaigns, conferences and other forms of targeted engagement, I propose a slightly less likely utilization of apps:

Wait for it…: Gaming.

Before you raise your brow or go back to checking your emails, hear me out.

Gaming is not just a lifestyle of junk food and avatars. We’ve all resorted to games conveniently available on our phones at least once while attending a boring meeting or lecture or even on the train or flight on some business trip.

According to an article published on Mashable.com,  In September 2012, 251 million people played games on Facebook, up from 226 million in September of 2011. Beyond the growth rate, the scary part is that those number refer only to  Facebook!

Every game we play, whether on an old-school board game or on a savvy flashy mobile phone have one thing in common: A Background.

A background can be a storyline and or a location in which the game takes place. Why not make the background your own?

Now, obviously if your aim is to improve your country’s image and to increase tourism and foreign investments you wouldn’t want to design a bloody war quest set in your land. But if business capital is what you seek, why not complement your efforts by producing a rollercoaster or runner game set in the downtown business quarter of your financial and commercial capital? Or if tourism is your goal, why not use the beautiful landscapes of your country as a background even for an angry birds style game? Sounds silly? Maybe…but you have an opportunity to make your country visible and attractive without an obvious direct affiliation and positioning one or more of your cities with an already well-known and strong place brand that you aspire to become like or even surpass.

Think about it for a moment. If the game you designed allows the gamer to choose a layout setting or even simply advance to different levels using the same group of cities, the long-term effect of associating the place you are promoting, is that it is in the same league as the other cities in the group.

If your game takes place in Tokyo, London, New York and a city in your country, what does it imply about its economic importance or its fashion industry?

This is not a new concept and is found mainly in track racing games, but it is applicable to almost any genre. The better the game, the more people download the app, the more people consume you regardless of their existing perception of you.

All you have to do is decide what aspect of your country you what to amplify in conjunction with your branding efforts, invest a small amount of money or even have an intern do it for you for free and use your contacts to launch the game.

As far as promoting the game goes – the sky s the limit. You might find it effective to promoting the app by giving people who share their high scores on your Facebook page or a game fan page prizes that support your message.

There is really no need to reinvent the wheel. Move with the times, and give people what they love.

6 Ways to Use Quora in the Service of Digital Diplomacy

A while back, I came across a tweet that promised to tell me what are the next up and coming social media sites I should be keeping an eye out for. Given my bombastic job title, I figured I have to read it, just to be in the know and just in case someone decides to challenge my knowledge. I clicked on the link and scrolled down until I reached Quora. What can I say, I fell in love.

Recognizing the potential, I immediately created an account for my consulate. I named it after my consul general, gave a short description of our mission and started following topics, people and questions.

About a week later, I was proud to receive and message from a Quora admin, telling me that we are the first and only diplomatic mission on the site and that he is looking forward to see how we choose to use it for our purposes.

Though the natural inclination is to answer questions related directly to my country’s political issues and foreign policy, I decided to answer question about topics I knew my country had something to offer to the world. My Consul General was surprised and happy to learn that he is an expert on water desalination, solar power, surfing, stem cell research, desertification prevention, innovative education methods, location-based apps, autism research and so much more.

The best part about it all is that the amount of followers the account has pales in comparison to the actual reach, since the questions and topics have so many followers from across the globe.

The most satisfaction I got was not from the “vote ups” but rather the messages reading “I would have never thought of that, I’ll look into it” and other comments of that nature.

The people I managed to reach via Quora would have never been exposed to this information if I had resorted to post it strictly on the mission’s website, Facebook page or Twitter.

Quora truly enables you to reach an audience based on niche interests, most of who are professionals in those fields and appreciate interesting and informative content that has professional value to them.

 Here are a few tips using Quora:

  1. Beware and be prepared. It is highly addicting.
  2. Follow topics and questions you want your country or government agency to be associated with or that are related to your branding strategy.
  3. Answer questions that can help you promote companies, startups, ideas, academic institutions, artists, technologies all located, invented, developed or heavily used in your country.
  4. Write answers, not articles, but include links to articles, especially if they were published in a source you have an interested in driving traffic to.
  5. If you are asked to answer a question regarding current events or a political issue, treat it as an official statement and abide by your guidelines and directives.
  6. If you are fortunate enough to employ interns, let them research and compose answers according to their personal fields of interest. That will motivate them and help them learn more about your country. For the most part, they are younger than you, and being out of this organic line of work, they will find topics that you would never think about. Don’t forget to go over it before they hit post. You know, just in case.

Preaching to the Choir

The Russian embassy in London tweeted me an article they posted. A few things caught my eye and I will be writing about them in posts to come, but one thing that stuck out like a sore thumb was that according to the article, the Russian (600) Embassy’s following is the 3rd largest in the UK after the USA (21,000) and Israel (7,200). I find that interesting, especially due to the size of the countries, Diasporas, trade ties and of course relations and interests.

But how accurate is that? Do we measure only pages that state that their belong to the embassy or consulate? What about pages created for niche markets, festivals or other events?

With this thought in mind, I took a brief look at many of its affiliated pages and I realized that while it is remarkably active in social media, Israel doesn’t fulfill its potential, and stays preaching to its own choir.

After successfully establishing Facebook pages for the embassies and consulates around the world, the Israel foreign ministry and staff, as well as affiliated advocacy groups have turned to setting up unique pages focusing on specific aspects they want to amplify in an attempt to reach out to a broader audience through what would be their own fields of interests such as art, fashion, technology etc. The pages are filled with colorful images, messaging and useful information.

After the initial fan drive effect wears off, their fan base remains pretty much stagnant and they find it very hard to expand. Why? I believe it is rooted first and foremost in their very first step: naming the page. The names they choose are almost always directly indicative of Israel – either including the word Israel or a Hebrew word in English lettering.

The content too, is restricted to Israel, and thought there might be abundance and variety of content the country has to offer, it is very limited and consequentially limiting. The direct affiliation with the country, as well as the lack of local content, deters, to my belief, many potential fans.

I bet that if we take 5 of those pages, averaging in 1,500 fans, and cross them, we will find a 70% overlap in both fans and content, leaving only a few of the fans following purely out of niche interest.

Excluding a few, only people who are actually looking for information about Israel will end up finding and possibly liking those pages and will be exposed to the information the country is trying to share with the world in order to broaden the conversation about it and improve its overall image. That leaves the true target audience – the unaware, the unconvinced unengaged.

Understanding this very basic point can easily give them more for their money, which is invested less in Facebook ads and more in the people who are paid to maintain the pages. By the way, those people have many other responsibilities and are not fully minded and geared towards this task. Most of the time, it is a task they picked up on the way, and they don’t all have marketing or PR backgrounds. In many cases, the job is left to interns who do their thing and leave after 3 months; therefore the very important strategic element, tone and continuity are left behind.

This is of course not restricted to Facebook.

I think that breaking out of the paradigm of Facebook + Twitter = social media is imperative. But I’ll get to that in later posts on this blog. But as I said, first things first. If you have an image problem, why the hell would you name a page that is supposed to attract those who wouldn’t normally flock to you, after yourself?

An Introduction

Every diplomatic mission has an ultimate goal based on their country’s strategic interest. Simply put – it is all about making friends.

The challenge for any representative is to get the message across. However, a successful diplomatic effort gets others to convey the message for you.

Diplomatic missions all over the world have recognized social media as an efficient tool to achieve their goals, but I feel that they are using new tools, old school style, failing to understand and utilize the very essence of social media marketing.

Diplomatic missions – embassies, consulates and delegations are still preaching to their own choirs with very little success in reaching out to new audiences which are and should be their top priority.

One can argue that the choir’s broader network does get exposed to the content, but is that really the case and if so, how effective is it?

The initial fan drive’s importance lies first and foremost  in beefing up your following so that you, as a government don’t look pathetic… I found that the easiest way to do that is by asking your friends and relatives who you left behind at home to like your Facebook page or follow you on Twitter. They won’t all do it, of course. Not everyone wants to show that they LIKE something that the government is doing. But I told people it would be a great way for them to keep track of me and what I’m doing. Who would have thought that they would be interested? Lucky for me, they were!

Cultivating your natural audience is important, especially when you are at an early stage of building your following. But once you have done that, the real hard work begins, and that is keeping your audience engaged and motivated to share your content out of interest, and eventually branching out to new audiences who you would have never thought possible to reach.

As we progress in this blog, I will be examining as well as sharing mine and other professionals’ insights on this matter as well as the many issues and challenges not only in building a following but also engaging and fulfilling strategic goals via digital diplomacy.