Brands Need a Plan for Facebook Live

As any public relations professional will tell you, strategy, calculation and precision are ingredients guiding every decision that is made during a communications campaign. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) goals are set, objectives are established and tactics are identified to show how these goals and objectives will be accomplished throughout the duration of the campaign. A well established communications plan will help guide your efforts throughout the campaign, and a similar plan will also help achieve success using Facebook Live, the social media giant’s live streaming video feature. Facebook Live is now available to all Facebook users, pages and brands, and it’s important for social media coordinators and managers to develop a “Standard Operating Procedure” to help your organization remain consistent, efficient and prepared as you begin using Facebook Live to promote your brand.

The FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute has been exploring Facebook Live and discussing its potential benefits for promoting fish and wildlife research throughout the state of Florida. As the social media coordinator for the institute, I led efforts to create a framework for Facebook Live as it relates to the overall social media strategy for our brand. Over the past two years we’ve implemented more video into our content plan, and live video offers another exciting avenue to engage our audience in unique and interesting ways. To help other organizations that are making the leap into live video, I’ve included our new communication plan specific to Facebook Live. Instead of going in with guns blazing, we’re building a road map to help us effectively use Facebook Live as a vital brand building tool for years to come.

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A Panther Traveled the World

panther editThis is no ordinary Florida panther. It traveled the world in less than a week, but how? It has a limited home range (South/Central Florida), can’t swim across the world’s major oceans and could never accomplish such a feat. What’s the catch? Well, its journey began on social media. For being such an elusive animal, it could not escape the spotlight when it visited the porch of Phil Hendra’s father, who lives in Fort Myers, Florida. This incredible photo was taken, we shared the story on our Facebook page and the rest is internet history.

I first encountered this photo on Facebook in late March, and there was misinformation spreading across social media concerning where the panther was sighted. The story had legs by the time I got to it, and over 2,000 people had already shared a Facebook post with incorrect sighting information. I had to be proactive at this moment or we would quickly lose our ability to control the message and release correct sighting information on behalf of the agency. I contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) panther biologists, who confirmed the sighting location to be in Fort Myers and not in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties as some local news outlets had reported. Our biologists put me in contact with Phil Hendra, the man who saw the panther on his father’s porch and took the special photo. Mr. Hendra gave me permission to share his image on our Facebook page, and he also provided more details about the sighting and talked about his experience at great length. Everything fell into place that day, and I spent the rest of the afternoon fact checking, gathering additional information and obtaining quotes to include in my draft. I was inspired after hearing about Phil’s experience with our state animal, and I knew I had an obligation to share his “once in a lifetime” encounter with the world. Little did I know, this porch panther from Southwest Florida would make it halfway across the globe in a matter of hours.

Stories like this only come around so often, but I couldn’t let my excitement cloud my judgment. There were potential issues that needed to be addressed before deciding to go public. Will there be public safety concerns among local residents once they find out a panther is roaming their neighborhood? Does this photo highlight a failure of the FWC to properly manage this species in the first place? Will this content encourage people to actively seek out the panther and try to harm it?  I had my doubts about moving forward with the story, but the pros outweighed the cons in my eyes. It brought national attention to an endangered species that desperately needed it. It also sparked an important discussion about habitat loss, which caused near extinction of the species years ago and continues to be a problem today. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before we completely wipe out the only remaining habitat the Florida panther has left. Human-panther encounters are a direct result of this habitat loss, and the image had an impact that was hard to even measure. Thousands of users made jokes and responded to the photo in a humorous manner, but many others realized the severity of the situation and felt compelled to share this story.

As with any trending or viral story on social media, it left quicker than it arrived. Local, state and national news outlets covered the story when it broke. It was an eye-catching image which immediately grabbed your attention. It undoubtedly became the symbol of a larger issue that may be too late to fix. It’s any social media manager’s dream to receive as much press and attention as we did during that time, and our brand reaped the benefits as a result. If you have a great story to tell and your heart and mind are fully behind it, take a chance and see what happens.

Obama Embraced Social Media. It Won Him Two Presidencies.

My relationship with Obama can be described as a honeymoon period that never ended. I admired this man since my freshman year of college in 2008. I didn’t follow politics or listen to NPR. I didn’t know who he was until his presidential run. But when I first heard him speak, he had that swagger that was hard to ignore.

His communications campaign and use of social media captivated me beyond belief and motivated me to pursue a career in public relations. It had a profound impact on my life and career. It also forever changed politics in the digital age.

It wasn’t just a political campaign, but a well-calculated and strategic communications strategy targeting young, educated students on the platforms they used most. It ultimately won him the 2008 election and helped build a larger online community that helped him win a second election in 2012. Social media outreach also allowed the Obama campaign to collect important data on his audience and use that data to create content and strengthen the campaign as it gained momentum. Volunteers signed up to help with campaigning, followers gave up their personal information for tickets to rallies and other events. Politicians worked hard to get this kind of information from voters. Obama got it with little to no effort, but his supporters didn’t care. They were a part of something big, a blue wave that reached every corner of the internet.

It helped that Obama was the first presidential candidate who was not a baby boomer. He was young, charismatic and open to new technologies and ways to bolster his support online and in-person. Social media offered everything Obama and his team needed to reach constituents and engage with voters.

It also allowed him to speak to his followers directly without the need for traditional outlets like TV, radio and newspapers. He set the foundation for government communications campaigns and ushered in a new approach to campaigning online in the 21st century.

That 2008 campaign broke a lot of new ground on platforms that were not widely used when he ran his first presidential campaign. That’s what makes this accomplishment even more special. With very little experience and knowledge of social media and how it could be used, Obama still realized its potential and poured a lot of time and resources into it. It’s what made Obama such a great leader as our president and a visionary in the social space.