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Caribbean elections will be won or lost with Social Media, says Media Strategists

MONTSERRAT/UK – Two digital media strategists believe that how Caribbean political parties use social media in the coming years will impact their chances at the polls come Election Day. Nerissa Golden of Goldenmedia and Ursula Barzey of Moxee Marketing say over the next 18 months more than 10 Caribbean countries and Overseas Territories will be heading to the polls to elect new governments, and not including a definitive social media strategy in their campaign could mean a loss of power for incumbents to parties prepared to win by any means necessary.

Nerissa Golden is a media strategist and business coach based on Montserrat.
Nerissa Golden is a media strategist and business coach based on Montserrat.

“Social media has become the most immediate and affordable means of communicating. While Caribbean governments have initiated the use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, there is this sense that it is to follow a trend without understanding it is the space in which the electorate will deliberate on whether they want to reelect the same team or put new people in power. The present governments have been in power for four or more years and within that time, the power and influence of social media in the region has been amplified significantly. This means you can’t use it on the fly hoping for the best but be very intentional about the goal,” explained Golden, the author of Like. Follow. Lead: Mastering Social Media for Small Business.

According to Internet World Stats, the Caribbean has an estimated 13,480,693 Internet users as of June 2012, with 6,674,100 using Facebook – the most dominant social platform with over 1.15 billion active members. Facebook remains the most popular platform for Caribbean nationals with Twitter in second place. The nation of St. Kitts & Nevis was found to have the highest internet usage for the region with more than 79% of residents online, according to World Development Indicators.

Ursula Barzey, who recently launched the luxury brand portal Caribbean & Co., said in 2004 Barack Obama, then a long shot candidate for the US Presidency, developed an effective online/digital campaign which made heavy use of social media. They repeated and expanded their social media campaign with his second run for office, which was again successful.

However, as most candidates won’t have the financial backing or extended team like President Obama, they should consider a few things before campaigning on social media.

Ursula Barzey heads Moxee Marketing, a digital media company based in the UK.
Ursula Barzey heads Moxee Marketing, a digital media company based in the UK.The strategists suggest that political parties should ask and answer the following questions:

1. Do we have the required expertise to launch an effective social media campaign?

“A poorly executed social media campaign can do more harm than good,” says Barzey. “Having someone on their team who actually understands how to use online/digital marketing tools effectively is critical. With that person in place, two things should then happen. First, the entire team should be briefed/trained on what’s required to effectively implement social media as part of the campaign. With that training complete, the online strategy should be enhanced to include social media.”

“Being on social media doesn’t preclude maintaining a traditional website and other communication mediums, adds Barzey. “As the campaign trail heats up, all related content should be curated on the website, and then shared via social media. Curating on the candidates own website ensures that potential voters and donors can easily learn more about the candidate and their positions on the issues. Also journalists and bloggers covering the campaign have a reference point for background information.”

2. Which social media sites should we be on?

“Maintaining a successful presence on social media sites means being an active participant. It’s not just about pushing the candidates’ message out but being responsive to queries from voters and journalists,” notes Golden. “To ensure that it doesn’t become overwhelming, the social media manager should launch on the two main social media sites: Facebook and Twitter which are massive hangouts for potential voters, donors, journalists, and bloggers. Add YouTube to the mix for showcasing video recordings of political speeches, statements, campaign rallies and campaign advertisements. With an expanded team, candidates can consider establishing on other social media sites like Instagram and Flickr for images.”

The more platforms you add, the more support you will need, the strategists agreed.

3. What is the message to be communicated and how often?

“It’s important that the social media presence for candidates remain active throughout the campaign. So don’t just build up to the launch and then go quiet. Create a content/social media calendar for distributing the campaign message consistently via social media channels. Also, be part of the conversation and remember that once you place something on social media, you really can’t take it back even if you delete. This means, the person assigned to communicating the campaign message must be polished but also personable,” Barzey says.

4. How will the campaign handle a crisis?

“In an ideal world, things will go smoothly with the campaign and there will be no gaffes or scandals to speak of. However, social media can sometimes make a mountain out of a mole hill, so candidates need to be ready with a plan of action to move the conversation along and ideally back on message. That all starts with being empathetic and responsive,” says Golden. “You don’t ignore a negative comment, see it as an opportunity to engage in positive dialogue to clarify your position as the problem solver.”

Golden also recommends that politicians not overlook the Diaspora Effect. “Although they cannot vote in local elections, family and friends in the Diaspora can be a major influence in deciding who will win. The Diaspora use social media consistently to search, share and celebrate what is happening at home, often before many on the ground are aware. If they are able to grab the passion and purpose of a candidate and share that message within their network, the result is that those at home will give consideration to the officials whose names and images come up more consistently and effectively in the spaces where they spend the most time, which is online.”

Both strategists recommend that campaigns should have both a party platform as well as social accounts for each candidate. The individual pages should reflect the brand and message of the party but present a more personal look at the candidate running for office. These personal pages should then follow the politician into office.

Follow Nerissa Golden @trulygolden and Ursula Barzey @MoxeeMarketing on Twitter for social media tips.

Richard Branson’s Gift to LIAT and How You Can Overcome Negative Press

Liat exteriorbranding2
Official LIAT (1974) Limited photo

Montserrat – As someone that grew up flying on the Caribbean airline LIAT, I hesitantly clicked that now famous link to Richard Branson’s tweet to find out what an irate passenger had to say about them. While quite funny, the letter which you can read in full below highlighted some now familiar experiences that many have had or heard tales about.
It is the reason the airline’s acronym has come to mean many things such as Late If A’Tall (in Antiguan vernacular); Leave Island Any Time; or Luggage in Another Terminal.

However, LIAT is not the first and won’t be the only airline to ever get bad press. In fact, the story stemmed from the fact that Branson has had a negative letter about his own airline’s cuisine in the past.

We don’t usually like getting negative feedback but even negative feedback can be good. In fact, customer feedback should be viewed as your friend. In support of continuous improvement, feedback gives you evidence of what you are doing wrong or doing right. In a world where the bad is celebrated in the same or in greater proportion to the good, a situation such as this could possibly be the gift you need to push your business to the next level.

In this molten world of social media, you also don’t have days and weeks to go out and create a marketing strategy to combat negative press. You’ve got to move and respond in a way that says you are listening to your customers and are always ready to provide a solution to the problem.

Read the letter from Arthur Hicks here and then further on to ways you turn bad press to good use for your business.

Dear LIAT,
May I say how considerate it is of you to enable your passengers such an in-depth and thorough tour of the Caribbean.

Most other airlines I have travelled on would simply wish to take me from point A to B in rather a hurry. I was intrigued that we were allowed to stop at not a lowly one or two but a magnificent six airports yesterday. And who wants to fly on the same airplane the entire time? We got to change and refuel every step of the way!

I particularly enjoyed sampling the security scanners at each and every airport. I find it preposterous that people imagine them all to be the same. And as for being patted down by a variety of islanders, well, I feel as if I’ve been hugged by most of the Caribbean already.

I also found it unique that this was all done on “island time,” because I do like to have time to absorb the atmosphere of the various departure lounges. As for our arrival, well, who wants to have to take a ferry at the end of all that flying anyway? I’m glad the boat was long gone by the time we arrived into Tortola last night — and that all those noisy bars and restaurants were closed.

So thank you, LIAT. I now truly understand why you are “The Caribbean Airline.”

P.S. Keep the bag. I never liked it anyway.

Hmm, Hurts just reading it…

LIAT-airlineHere are some six ways you can turn bad press to good use for your business:

1. Acknowledge the complaint. This particular letter was printed in April and we don’t know if it was ever acknowledged by the airline. Responding kindly to a letter from an unhappy customer sends the message that they were heard and they are important to you. Whether it was posted on your social media account, to a newspaper or directly to your company, let that customer know that you received it and if possible what steps you are taking to rectify the issue they raised.

2. Mine your complaints and bad press for gold. If you find a recurring theme in the messages you receive about your company’s service, then it is time to do something to improve it. To continue to ignore highlighted issues leaves room for more tweets and viral letters such as this and most definitely to the loss of valuable customers.

This irate customer managed to touch just about every major issue that the airline has been known for over the years. For the Caribbean people in my social media circle, it was both the sense of shame that it had been made public in such a massive way, but there was also total understanding as it has become an expected experience for anyone choosing to travel on the airline. Review your customer service policy, rates, products, whatever is the critical focus, find ways to improve it and let people know when you do.

3. Talk back publically. The message was made public so you do the same. This is not the time to ignore or be offended. Certainly do not go on the defensive about the negative stories. Now that it’s been shared millions of times, people want to know what you plan to do to rectify it. Respond to queries posted on your social media pages, and if a press conference is an option, organise one which can help you clear up a negative issue and clarify any erroneous information published.

4. Make an offer to your now expanded audience. Now, at the start of the long school break, many are deciding whether to make that trip to a neighbouring island. This is a great opportunity for the airline to celebrate those 21 Caribbean destinations that many of the rewritten articles pointed to. This story was shared the world over and many may have never been to the Caribbean; what a great time to introduce them to the islands and the positive experiences they can have here. No matter your business, you can make an offer to your clients to show them you know they are listening and watching and you are prepared to be the solution and not the problem.

5. Get satisfied customers to talk about your company. Social media allows you to hear directly from the people using your service. This is now a preferred source that other people check to find out if your product is worth it. Before purchasing a product, I always check what other customers are saying and how they rate a book, a new set of pots or electronics. Create spaces for your happy customers to talk back to you and then share those positive words and images with your audience. Happy customers willing to tell their story are worth more than full-paged ads and flashy commercials.

6. When in doubt get help. Maybe all of this has been overwhelming for you and you are also not comfortable with the press, a public relations firm or brand management specialist can assist you in turning a negative story into a golden opportunity.

About the author:

Nerissa Golden is the owner of goldenmedia, a public relations and marketing firm. She is the author of The Making of a Caribbeanpreneuer: Strategies for Overcoming Fear and Building Wealth. Follow her on twitter @trulygolden and get more great tips on www.trulycaribbean.net.

Is Pinterest for You?

Pinterest-TCW-2It’s very easy to follow the crowd to the latest social media trend but is it where your business needs to be?

For some reading, you may be between jobs and just killing time online but you can actually turn the energy that you are taking to pin and turn it into a viable business for you.

Let’s discuss some of the possibilities.

Pinterest is the social media tool which is very popular, especially with women. It allows you to create boards in the theme of your choice and pin photos to share with your followers. Companies are also using this platform to promote their products and you can do the same.

So first up… Continue reading