In preparing for my exit from TBD (more on that later), I’ve been training those who will be taking over my duties in communicating as the brand. I thought it might be useful to those who are learning this at their own news organizations to include my training documentation and thoughts on the blog over the next few days.
Note: I’m no social media guru or anything (they don’t exist anyway), but I have quite a bit of experience at setting social media strategy, establishing a brand identity and communicating as a news brand from my time at the Cincinnati Enquirer and TBD.
Most of the individuals I’ve been training for this are fairly experienced Twitter and Facebook users, but they have no experience in using social media as entities other than themselves. It makes quite a difference. When communicating as The Voice of the Organization (cue dramatic music), one has to essentially channel the persona of the brand and speak in its voice.
While it really isn’t possible to keep the exact same voice when several people are communicating as the brand, a steady brand persona can be maintained if you have a plan in place. So let’s get into all that first.
#1: Know Who You Are
The key to communicating as a news brand – especially when many people are behind the curtain – is to have a set persona in mind. If the brand were a person, who would they be? What are their interests? How would they talk? What would their priorities be?
For TBD, for instance, the brand persona is that of a conversational, young, urban-dweller who is in the know but isn’t a know-it-all. The tone is casual, straight-forward, occasionally snarky or sarcastic, but only in the context of funny or feature news. He/she is sort of geeky, curious and enthusiastic to receive and share info.
Some brand managers will establish full identities for the brand, specifying how old he/she would be, where they’d live, economic status, etc. In the case of Colonel Tribune, for instance, a whole identity and background was set up to serve as the account persona. While you don’t have to go into nearly as much detail, it’s good to have answers in mind for the following:
- How conversational should the tone be?
- Who is my audience and what tone will they expect?
- What sort of tone is right for my content?
- Am I a friend, a voice of authority or somewhere in-between?
- How much two-way communication am I doing?
#2: Set a strategy
There’s nothing worse that following the Twitter feed of a news organization without a strategy. It’s plainly obvious to anyone thats following (especially if they happen to be the competition) if you’re flying blind: Tweeting local news on a national account, sending out misleading links to stories that are out of your area (or off your website), re-tweeting whoever and whatever strikes your fancy, etc.
A strategy for communicating as the brand can be as detailed or simple as you need it to be, but consider these questions when laying it all out:
- Is this intended to be general interest or niche?
- Is this for breaking news, or more finished stories?
- What is the expected coverage area for this account?
- If you have multiple branded accounts: How do they work together? Does the same info go out on both at any time?
- Who is my audience? What do they want? (You know, a survey never hurts….)
- When is my audience online and most able to use this information? (see analytics)
- Who is my competition? What do I like or dislike about their brand presence?
- Do I re-tweet? Who do I re-tweet – and why?
Once you’ve stablished the kind of news and reader the account is for, set a strategy for what you’ll send out and stick to it.
Other brand managers, what would you suggest to help set a tone or strategy?
More info: Tips for Tweeting/Facebooking as the Brand, Guidelines for Audience Interaction as the Brand
Where can we expect to see you next? (P.S. Mashable is hiring.)
Expect an announcement to come soon. I’m in the process of making a final decision in the next couple of days, but I am staying in D.C., which is nice.
I manage the tweeting for Seven Days, a weekly paper in Burlington, VT (@Seven_Days). I would say that it’s important for a news brand to retweet others from within their community. We focus on Vermont news, so I retweet messages from others in Vermont. Sometimes they’re news stories from other local news outlets that are covering the kind of stories we aren’t. Sometimes they’re retweets from regular tweeters who are providing updates from breaking events, citizen-journalism-style. And sometimes they’re just fun or unusual observations from local tweeters, because not everything needs to be a link. Essentially, it’s how we recognize our role not just as reporters, but curators.
Short version: The retweet is an important part of your brand’s persona, and it helps your brand to be a part of the community you want to reach if you’re doing it right.
I couldn’t agree more. The re-tweet is a key ingredient to really being a part of the Twitter ecosystem and it’s great that you’re doing that. I would never advise anyone to avoid re-tweeting. I would avoid haphazard re-tweeting of unverified/unreliable info or tweets that have no relevance to your followers. If they can’t tell why it was re-tweeted, they might just see it as spam.