Brands Need a Plan for Facebook Live

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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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The Panther That Traveled the World

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This is no ordinary panther. It traveled the world in less than a week, but how did it do it? The Florida panther has a limited home range (South/Central Florida), it can’t swim across the world’s major oceans and it would be physically impossible for this endangered feline to accomplish such a bold feat. It traveled the world alright, and its inspiring journey began on social media. For being such an elusive animal, it could not escape the spotlight any longer when it made a decision to visit 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 in 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 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 candid 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, I knew I had an obligation to share his “once in a lifetime” encounter with the world. Little did I know, this photogenic porch panther from Southwest Florida would make it half way across the globe in a matter of hours.

Stories like this only come around so often, but I could not let my excitement cloud my judgement. 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 when deciding to move forward with the story, but in the end I determined the pros outweighed the cons. It brought national attention to an endangered species that desperately needed it. It also sparked an important discussion about habitat loss, which caused a 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 spoke louder than anything I could put into words. Thousands of users made “here kitty kitty” jokes and responded to the photo in a playful manner, but many others came to the realization that it could mean life or death for this panther or the species entirely.

As with any trending or viral story on social media, it faded quicker than it arrived. Local, state and national news outlets covered the story for their own editorial reasons. It was a unique picture to most, to others it made for a catchy headline, but 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 is fully behind a cause or client, don’t let anything stand in your way. Not even a panther.

2008 Obama: Where Art Thou?

President Obama Makes Statement On The SequestrationHow quickly things change after a honeymoon period. I was in love with a, no, the man during my freshman year of college in 2008, and I didn’t even follow politics or listen to NPR news. I’ll admit, he knew his target audience which is key to any successful PR campaign. It wasn’t just a political campaign, but a well-calculated, strategic communications plan to win over an impressionable, young and naive demographic.

Obama used, and still uses social media to relate to me and my fellow Gen Y peeps! Social media! Ask any republican in 2008 what social media was and they’d tell you it’s literally socializing with members of the media (media and Fox News are synonymous in this case). In 2008, we had no clue who this striking, young, questionably American man was but one thing was certain. He was not George W. Bush. I liked the idea of Obama more than his actual plan to turn our nation around. Blinded I was by that damn word. Change. Haven’t seen anything from himin a while (Barack is change in this case. Personification is nifty. Nifty is a fun word. I’ll stop).

As a PR man, Barack’s 2008 campaign is a case study that will be talked about for years to come. A brilliantly executed digital plan, Facebook swag is on full attack and Obama is suddenly cooler than Maroon 5 when they were still together. Still together? I choose not to believe. So the campaign is a success, Obama wins and reality hits. The voter high wears off, and what’s next? He’s still the only one smoking, blowing smoke right in our faces because his team successfully used every great PR tactic in the book to influence our ideas, attitudes and beliefs.

Every brand should strive to do the same, but please deliver on your word so you have more to show for your efforts than a busted healthcare launch and the cutest Portuguese Water Dog I’ve ever laid eyes on.