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Social media transparency: Would you expect anything else?

Une nouvelle catégorie voit le jour sur notre blog : « L’œil de Bruxelles », des billets « in english » écrit par nos collègues internationaux du bureau Bruxellois… enjoy !

Democracy, transparency and free choice. They are three of the most fundamental and significant social values which remain at the basis of modern politics and life in Europe today. Thus it comes with little surprise that these three subjects have become the ultimate building blocks of a little thing we like to call social media.

Both, companies and consumers have long understood that the days when big bodies tried to influence the masses through mass media have fizzled away. When it comes to social media, transparent information and direct engagement with others rule.  This became especially clear when we attended this month’s conference on « Online Communication: Harnessing the Power of Social Media for Strategic Communication » organized by Quadriga University and the Communication Director. There was, for example, the good but expected presentation from Kodak, whose Madlen Nicolaus delivered on the ins and outs of consumer engagement and showed-off their quirky Cologne flash mob which celebrated Kodak’s 125 years of existence. And there were many other presentations ranging from employer branding and reputation management to crisis communications and the social intranet.

Getting out of the « NATO bubble »
NATO Sec Gen
Nevertheless, with all that was to be expected from the conference, we were still left with some surprises. For example NATO, who is often seen as having a rather hard public image, revealed its efforts to soften some of its edges by 1) linking up with external events such as the International Women’s Day and 2) by launching an original video campaign which can be followed on youtube  since last year. Above all NATO has mastered to get public interest by making the most of its internal structures, where, like in many other big organizations and companies, communication works top down.  Dr. Gerlinde Niehus, the Head of NATO’s Corporate Communiactions, explains that Secretary General of NATO Anders Fogh Rasmussen is a happy twitterer and pushes NATO’s external communications forward through his web presence.

No toying around with Toyota

Toyota, to our surprise, didn’t just talk social media but talked Toyota recall, which had a huge impact on the company and, of course, on Toyota’s external communications strategy. The presentation given by Colin Hensley, General Manager of Corporate Affairs & Planning Toyota Motors Europe was frank, clear and most importantly interesting, outlining how the automotive company dealt with and learned through the crisis. Hensley made it clear that Toyota had not been prepared for a (communications) crisis but also not for a recall of such an extent.  Trying to create consumer trust again, later in the year, Toyota launched its « Your Toyota is My Toyota » campaign, which helped to overshadow some of the negative discussions on social media platforms.

Overall we left the conference refreshed and with many new ideas buzzing around our PR heads. And while many more social movements, campaigns, and communications surprises can be expected to hit social media over the years to come, some of the core elements, such as transparency, freedom of choice and public engagement can be expected to stay.

Sebastian May

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