Challenges for Corporate Communications in the Digital Age

Why should a company invest in communication and content? Basically, every head of communication in an enterprise has to come up with valid arguments to answer this question when asking his CEO for a higher budget.

Ansgar Zerfaß, communication expert and professor at the University of Leipzig, conducted many studies in Corporate Communication. One of his major studies is the “European Communication Monitor“, the largest transnational survey on strategic communication worldwide.

Main questions he tries to answer are „With whom and how much should a company communicate?“, „Who is responsible for the communication?“ or „Why should you produce content if you are specialized in goods?“

Taking time to analyse Stakeholders’ needs
“These questions seem to be very simple but indeed, you really need to think about them a lot“, says Zerfaß. According to him, producing content has a great impact on brands, image and reputation. Stakeholders demand communication to be up to date and to keep the connection to an enterprise. On the other side, if an enterprise is deep into content-production, it also needs to consider the context of its content in its particular branch and economic environment.

Referring to his findings in the latest „European Communication Monitor“, 87% of communication professionalists report a rising importance of communication for organisational sucess within the last twel months. In contrast to that, only 15% of the communication budgets have been increased.

Communication Department vs. Top Management
According to Zerfaß, a major reason for low budgets is a lack of understanding within the top management. 75% of the interviewed communication professionals admitted having difficulties to prove the impact of communication on organisational goals, which can lead to a separation between the top management and the communication department.

Nevertheless, you shouldn’t hang your head if you’re not in complete agreement with the top management. Remember that other employees, consumers and bloggers are still very important gatekeepers who can impact your companies success on a broader scale.

Written by Jennifer Naumann (@JennyNaumann)

“Sweden is more than ABBA and people dancing around with flowercrowns” – The Curators of Sweden: a story doing project

How do you make people trust a country? That is one of the main questions for Frida Roberts who is Head of Communications at the Swedish Institute and responsible for promoting Sweden around the world.

She starts her talk at CSForum14 by explaining why spending money on professional communication for a country is important: “Due to globalization, the competition for attention is fiercer than ever before. It is like a global arena.” Her approach to promoting a country is to not only use Storytelling, but to go a step further and use story doing – “Do good, talk about it and repeat.”

Roberts’ team at the swedish institute tries to stick to their mission statements “Awareness, interest and trust” while promoting Sweden with print and online communication, exhibitions, seminars and more. But to what extent is it possible to actually control brands in today’s complex digital environment? According to Frida Roberts, there has been a complete pattern shift from brand owners to brand users. “Someone once said that brands are a bit like children. You have control over them for a few years but then they walk out in the world and you have no more control over them. I find that to be very accurate.” The key challenge for the communication of the country Sweden and for brands in general is that seven out of ten people listen to strangers when it comes to brands, but only one out of ten trusts the brand itself. So the question is: How can you build up trust and give evidence that your brand is trustworthy? Roberts thinks you have to show yourself vulnerable as an organization. You have to make people connect with your brand, engage in it and you have to reach them on an emotional level. The Swedish Institute used these approaches to launch a one of a kind project: Curators of Sweden.

A unique project
“Curators of Sweden” is the country’s official communication channel on Twitter – it was the first and the most successful project of it’s kind. Before going deeper into what the project is and how they did it, Roberts tells the audience that it was the most intense and frightening experience in her work life. “I learned a lot… the hard way.” The Swedish Institute saw Sweden as open, authentic, innovative and caring – in one word: progressive – and those were the core values that they wanted to represent with their project. The whole concept of “Curators of Sweden” embraced the idea of Story doing as and advancement of Storytelling. The outcome was what was described by Fox News as “the world’s most democratic twitter account”. Every week, a different swedish citizen takes over the official Twitter account and shows his or her life and the way that she or he see their country and the world. After being launched, the project got an overwhelming response: over 65.000 followers from more that 50 countries. People loved it because it was new, unconventional and funny. It was a risk to let non-professionals handle the communication for a whole country, but it also was a vow to democracy and the freedom of speech. There have been controversies, for example after an incident where a curator posted a racist tweet and the media went crazy, and Roberts thought the project would be over. But somehow, the team at Swedish Institute always managed to get it back up again.

Amateur twitterers, professional discussions
The project got a lot of media attention, some thought it was genius and some thought it was insane, and doubled the follower count of @sweden within a month of letting the people of Sweden take it over.

The biggest surprise to some might be that the amateur tweets weren’t too different from what professional communications would have done: a topic analysis of all of 2012’s tweets showed that the topics discussed corresponded to the ones that the Swedish institute prioritizes in its communications as well (tourism, culture et cetera). The project shows that there has been a shift in communications from storytelling to story doing. It was courageous and innovative and has kicked off a global movement: “Rotation Curation”.

By supporting an uncensored dialoge about Sweden on the platform, the Swedish Institute succeeded to show an authentic image of the country. They gained people’s trust in the brand Sweden by humanizing their communication and making the brand vulnerable. People trust people – so you have to make people tell your brand’s story.

“The Curators of Sweden” is an ongoing project and will hopefully stay as successful as it is in the future – and for those who were wondering: Everyone can nominate everyone to be the next curator. A nomination committee chooses someone who is good at social media and tries to keep a certain diversity in its choices. They never have any problems finding the next curator: in Sweden, it is an honour to officially represent the country for a week.

written by Gina Kliche (@hey_gina_k)

Data are no facts but metaphors

“Data can tell great stories”! With this thesis Jörg Blumtritt starts his talk. First, he defined data and the, in his opinion, misleading understanding of data as facts. For him data are first, part of our reality, second, a description of objects in the real world and third he states that people make data.

If you like to get more insights of the talk, please also look at Frank Hamms live blog.
To conclude, Blumtritt encourages us to draw correlations from data but not any causal relations, because in his opinion data science works differently today: We should see data as metaphors. Metaphors connect aspects that are not identical. This means you can use them to explain ideas or aspects you have in mind and tell a story with them based on the metaphor the data gives you. This could lead to greater importance of data for communication. A sceptical view on the data is necessary, of course. Nevertheless, his idea is to use date to tell stories and connects topics more easily.

Video Interview with Sadia Latifi

Sadia Latifi is a content strategist at Pinterest but her position is called writer. She says: “Every good writer is a content strategist.” However she does a lot more than writing: she works on the company’s internationalization and monetization efforts. Today she explained us how her team managed to bring Pinterest to 33 languages in just 8 months.

If you missed Sadia’s presentaion “Going Pinternational” you can catch up some interesting facts in the following video. And if you still want to learn more about “Going Pinternational” you can find Sadias whole presentaion on Slideshare.

produced by Vanessa Stern (@VanessaDstern) and  Svenja Klassert (@Klasserts)

Video Interview with Margot Bloomstein

Why is it good to say „No“ sometimes? In her witty presentation, Margot Bloomstein from Appropriate, Inc. led us from the invention of the first gas station in Germany (Wiesloch, by the way) to the challenges Content Strategists are facing today. For all of you who´ve missed it, here´s a short video interview – enjoy Margot Bloomstein´s thoughts as much as we did!



produced by Katharina Cichosch and Vanessa Stern (@vanessadstern)

Content Strategy Master Class – Cooking Content Strategies with COPE

Isn’t it astonishing how four letters can include a whole concept of Content Strategy? COPE, or in detail „Create Once Publish Everywhere“, is commonly used by content strategists by this time.

Overall, the expression describes adaptive content which can be published on various platforms. Responsive Websites, Mobile Apps or Blogs: Nowadays, content is the centre of attention, but it needs to be published on different platforms to reach different target audiences.

Personalised content
During her workshop, Rahel Anne Bailie, content strategist herself, emphasized the central aspects of how the concept of COPE can help to create content. Besides content findability and the type of channel, personalisation plays a major role in providing cross-media content. But how can you generate personalized content? Here’s a list of things you should ask yourself:

Is the content I produce

…from the right source?

…on the right platform?

…aimed at the right market?

…addressed to the right people?

Is it published

…at the right moment?

…in the right geography

…in the right channel?

…in the right format?

…in the right language?

…in the right version?

…in the right media?

…at the right time (literally)?

COPE with “baked” or “fried” architecture
There are two methods to “cook” with COPE: implementing a “baked” or a “fried” architecture. The “baked” architecture is technology driven. It depends on a central database to store different types of content that can be used on different platforms or in a different context. This works with common content management software and is therefore easy to use for authors. However, since the rules are “baked in” it depends on developers to customize the tools and changes are likely to be costly and complex.

© Rahel Anne Bailie

The “fried” architecture is author-driven and offers a wider range of scope for design. Authors only have to create content components which will then be managed by the CMS and transformed for the output as needed. However it is crucial that the authors understand the technical side of their content – and use a special software.

© Rahel Anne Bailie

Nevertheless, it is still a challenge to address specific target groups and being able to „reuse“ content at the same time. Hence, Rahel Anne Bailie is willing to motivate every other content strategist: Don’t jump to conclusions and don’t think of the (technical) solution at first. Think of your content and the solution will be apparent.

 Written by Jennifer Naumann (@JennyNaumann)

Workshop: How to create a corporate blog successfully

Meike Leopold is a consultant for corporate communication. Even though focused on corporate blogs, her workshop was a great blogging 101 and interesting for beginners as well as for advanced bloggers.  

twitter screenshot corporate blogs

Too many people still think of blogging as a hobby and underestimate the complex process behind it. But making a good corporate blog is not as easy as many people think and it is not as cheap as many expect. It requires skilled staff, a lot of time, quality content and a detailed concept behind it. Only then you can succeed in strengthening your reputation, setting the agenda and developing a communication channel with your clients and stakeholders. To ensure all that works out you need to organise the tasks of the blogger team well.

Meike Leopold’s advices for organising your blog content and team:

1. Set quantitative goals, like “During the first six months we want to do two posts per week. During the next six months we want to do two 4 posts per week”.

2. Identify relevant topics for the following 3-6 months.

3. Always look out for chances to communicate with the employees! Talk to people during lunch breaks etc.

4. Detailed planning is important. Who does what when?

5. Organise your content properly. Make sure that you don’t just write your texts but also get your pictures in time and that you can use them legally.

6. Connect your blog with social media.

7. Use SEO.

8. Regular monitoring and performance measurements are necessary.

9. Do regular brainstorming sessions.

10. Stay always open for new ideas.

If you want to know more about corporate blogs or Maike Lepold’s work, you should check out her blog and Twitter.

screenshot twitter shakespeare

written by  Svenja Klassert (@Klasserts) and Lea Pfeiffer (@_LeaPfeiffer)