06 September 2014

Ebola shows how (not) to communicate in a health crisis

IFRC - the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies - has spoken plainly about communication problems during the Ebola outbreak in Eastern Africa.

Ebola is scary because there is currently no proven cure. This has led to panic and strict controls, including border closures. That has limited the options for agencies, like IFRC, that are trying to help solve the crisis and treat the victims.

Though this story is full of development sector jargon, the message is clear: get people involved at all levels and don't just issue commands, but also listen and get local people involved.

"the communication approach in these circumstances should be “less top-down and less giving orders,” and not just limited to the agencies and their volunteers on the ground. It should be a multi-stakeholder effort, involving the corporate sector, the media and community leaders, with the government in a lead role. [Everyone] has a role to play here."

Read more on Devex.com

30 April 2014

40 ways to improve your social media posts

A simple but powerful list. What are your secret tips?

1. Write with a consistent, natural and conversational tone of voice. 
2. Focus on your readers. Understand their interests, needs, desires and motivations. 
3. Focus on timely topics but add your own voice. 
4. Add value to a post by encouraging discussion, asking a genuine question (advice or opinion).
5. A post should be clear and easily understood.
6. Avoid simply promoting your own company or work. 

Twitter (follow me: @Scott_McQuade)
7. Post 4-10 times a day.  
8. Avoid repeating a tweet more than once a day. Don’t automate the same tweet.
9. Include 1-3 relevant hashtags in tweets to help people who search by key words.
10. Include links, to get 86% more engagement.
11. Use images for twice the engagement rate.
12. Shorter tweets get read and re-tweeted more (under 100 characters).
13. Use no more than 130 characters, so people can retweet and add hashtags etc.
14. Live tweeting of events helps people follow along: nominate a clear, simple hashtag.  
15. Post during working hours for 30% more engagement.
16. Ask for re-tweets of important posts: it drives 12x more re-tweets. 

Facebook (like my Facebook page
17. Consistent quality matters more than quantity.  
18. No more than 4 posts a day.
19. Short messages work best. Long messages are okay if they’re compelling.  
20. Timing matters, but your audience is international. Spread posts throughout the day. 
21. Don’t forget weekends! Readers are more engaged when they have more time. 
22. Photos attract readers, responses and re-shares. 
23. Emoticons receive a 59% higher engagement rate, but use sparingly.
24. Explicitly ask readers to like/comment: it drives higher engagement.

Google+ (put me in your Google+ circle)
25. Include an image to grab attention.
26. Include links or post web articles (web links usually include images).
27. Pose a comment or question to encourage discussion.
28. Monitor discussions and return to the post to interact with readers.
29. Hashtags are automated, but make sure they are appropriate and delete if needed. Include 1-3 hashtags at the end of your post, but only if needed.
30. Keep it short: 1-3 paragraphs. Only a few lines are immediately visible, so get to the point.
31. Share with specific circles as well as making posts public. Include usernames in the post or comments to draw their attention or give thanks, but do it sparingly.

LinkedIn (if I know you, let's get LinkedIn)
32. Only share high quality content. 
33. Share new, informative material. Readers are happy to learn.  
34. Be a thought-leader by only talking about your area of expertise. Join relevant communities.
35. Only discuss professionally relevant topics. LinkedIn is not a general discussion forum.
36. Start conversations with a thought-provoking statement or question. 
37. Avoid simply promoting a corporate initiative or service or posting a news story. Instead, put it in context, pose a question and invite comments.
38. Prepare to engage with discussants: don’t post and run. 
39. Don’t simply post a link to a website. Put the content on LinkedIn for better engagement.

40. Share your expertise: add your own tips below!

Most of these commonsense principles also apply at Tumblr, YouTube and other social media sites.

27 March 2014

Plan well for maps

Maps are a great way to illustrate an issue, yet they can be fraught with challenges.
Many advocacy and information campaigns use maps to get collaborators involved - reporting on stockouts of medicines, or incidents of violence, for example. Maps are very helpful for outbreaks of disease, or in cases of disaster. Animated maps might help you explore geo-specific trends.

But there are some key questions to consider before you start - like getting access to an accurate map and how much it will cost. There are plenty of disputed borders in the world and tracking those takes time and money, so map owners typically want to be paid. Free maps might carry branding or other limitations, though there are a bunch of useful free options available.

Once you have a map, you need to consider how to get reliable data and how you will keep the map going. Fundamentally, how does the map fit into your communication?

In a blog about mapping violence against women, advocacy specialist Dirk Slater of Fabriders explores options including the mapping tools Ushahidi and Crowdmap. Dirk also discusses some key issues that you should consider before spending time and money on your project:
  • How can mapping support your campaigns and missions - how will you use it, how will it be maintained?
  • Take security very seriously: consider how to get quality data but avoid identifying people where information is sensitive. This inclues verifying the people who provide information.
  • Consider the cultural relevance of maps: do your audiences use maps, and how do they read them? Do they expect street map view, or satellite view? Topographical or political?
  • Consider how the map will be used. Will it show off your data to good effect? Will it influence people? How does the map connect with your strategy? 
Dirk also provides links to some further resources: questions to ask yourself before deploying Ushahidi, cleaning data, how to use icons, and how to verify users.

See: What I’ve learned about mapping violence