In the digital age, the backstage players are no longer operating in a space where nobody can (or wants) to see. Witness, for example, Elon Musk, the high-profile CEO of Tesla, who is using social media to accomplish what companies used to do with press releases. Other CEOs, from Richard Branson to Bill Gates, have found ways to leverage the power of social media.
Decades ago, the business community might pay attention when a CEO spoke, but the larger public would not.But today, some people want to use tools like Twitter and Instagram to follow Bob Pittman, David Field, and Tim Westergren just as much as they do Howard Stern, Ryan Seacrest, or Rush Limbaugh.
The curtain has been pulled back, and audiences now expect to be able to see behind the scenes in every organization — including media companies. This interest doesn't apply just to the C-suite; even off-air Program Directors can engage their listeners through social networks.
But there are risks as well. We've all seen social media posts gone awry. So how can your station and company managers navigate the mine field? Follow the steps:
1. Develop a social media policy.
At this point, most companies already have a social media policy, but if you don’t: Write one, stat! A good social media policy will not only outline what is not acceptable on social media, but will also explain what type of behavior is encouraged on social media. (“Don't do this…”, “Do do this…”) Set aside some time to review the policy in detail with management. Answer any questions they might have, and make sure they understand that this policy applies to everyone in the building — including them. This is a significantly better approach than having random acts of social media drive your strategy.
2. Appoint a social media teacher.
Responsibility for a manager's personal social media account should not be delegated. One of the keys to having a strong social media presence is authenticity. When you delegate your social media posts to somebody else, you're not authentic. These days, Facebook and Twitter are as ubiquitous as the telephone and email. Managers don't delegate phone calls, so they shouldn't delegate their tweets, either. Learn the tools of the trade.
If your manager is not social media-savvy, appoint somebody to teach them. This will be an ongoing process, not a one-shot deal, so it will require some time. Make sure your manager is committed and your teacher has patience.
3. Find somebody who can speak truth to power.
It's not easy telling the boss that she shouldn't tweet something, but if she's surrounded by “Yes Men,” you're courting disaster. Even the best writers need a good editor. So find somebody who has the will to tell the boss when something's a bad idea, and is respected when he does. This might be your social media teacher, but it might not. If your social media teacher is a young kid fresh out of college, you may need somebody else to put the brakes on poorly planned social media posts.
Don't confuse being authentic with being spontaneous. You can plan your social media strategy and still leave room for authenticity. On a regular basis, the manager should sit down with the key players, such as the marketing director, promotions director, and social media manager, and discuss how they are going to use social media in conjunction with all of their other tools.
For example, if your radio station hosts a big concert, the Program Director may want to tease a lineup announcement over social media: a photo of an unnamed band's rider on Instagram, a mysterious tweet about a conversation with a booking agent, etc. All of this could lead up to the big on-air announcement and press release. Note that social media doesn't replace other communication techniques, but augments them.
Just as program directors aircheck on-air talent, every public-facing station personality ought to make a point of reviewing the effectiveness of their social media presence. This includes managers. Gather the appropriate people together (including your designated Truth Speaker) to discuss what worked well and what could be improved next time. The higher up the corporate ladder you go, the more important these review sessions become.
Social media can be a powerful tool in the hands of skilled executives and managers. But learning to use it effectively takes discipline.
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