Saturday, 2 December 2017

Become your own creative agency: The back-story of UN Environment’s #BeatPollution campaign

 Those of you in the creative space know that innovative ideas come to life in the most unexpected manner. You also know that to get the creative juice going, you need to first diverge to then converge.

The divergence stage is about putting ideas on the table and not being non-judgmental. And guess what, it is inevitably your very own people and those in the trenches who come up with brilliant and creative ideas.

This is the backstory of UN Environment’s #BeatPollution campaign.

One bright day, the boss asked us to come up with an engaging, public-facing campaign to raise awareness about various dimensions of pollution. With a small budget, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. And guess what, that was the beginning of many creative sessions and iterations that resulted in a citizen engagement with over 2 million commitments to #BeatPollution.

The campaign’s secret sauce 
Embracing and nurturing the power and beauty of internal resources definitely made the difference. From the get go, this was a totally “in-sourced” campaign. It was exclusively powered by the creative juice of our own colleagues.

They came up with #BeatPollution hashtag; they came up with the information architecture for the website; they came up with the gamification; they came up with the citizen commitments; they came up with the overall look and feel of the campaign; they designed and implemented the website; they created the compelling social copy; they crafted the engaging pollution-related stories; they developed the story board for the infographics; they developed the brand identity; they strategically made this a digital-first campaign; they intelligently used social media to push out the content; they created all the cool videos and shout-outs; they forged partnerships with other entities and organizations to amplify our messages; they worked with programme colleagues to get the facts and figures; they pitched the stories…….In a nutshell THEY were the CREATIVE AGENCY.

In-sourcing the creative process meant that we did not have to adopt someone else’s blueprint. It meant we did not break the bank; it meant project management was done through team work; it meant everyone took ownership of the project; it meant we could adopt an iterative process, it meant we could adjust and tweak the campaign based on metrics and audience feedback.

Our own elbow grease allowed us to have full-control over the campaign which put us in a vantage position to swiftly make the necessary changes and respond to new and unforeseen needs.

Lessons learnt
Next time you are embarking on a public-facing initiative, start at home-base, and look inside before venturing out.  Give your own folks the space and opportunity to unleash their creative juice. You will end up with a super sleek product which everyone owns, you will not break the bank, you’ll boost morale, you’ll create an opportunity for cross-functional interaction and team work and most importantly you’ll end up giving an immense job satisfaction to your very own people.

Become your own creative agency and sharpen the skillset of your own folks by challenging and exposing them to uncharted territories.

If you happen to be a one-man band, do not despair. Remember you are not alone. There are many creative folks in the UN Social 500 network who are willing and able to act as your creative agency. What you need to do, is just reach out. You’ll definitely find an extended hand on the other side that can help you with your campaign!!!!

Good luck and make sure you visit and make your commitment to #BeatPollution

This blogpost first appeared on UN Social 500

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Celebrating life and paying gratitude

Today, I want to celebrate life... Today, I want to cherish all good memories....
Today I want to learn from painful memories..... Today, I do not want to put off something for tomorrow, rather just do it.

Today, tomorrow for all the days to come, I want to live each day as if there is no tomorrow.

Today, I want to celebrate life.

Today, I want to celebrate the special moments in life.

Today, I want to say thank you to what I have.

Today, I want to celebrate the lessons learnt from my achievements and my failures.

Today I want to celebrate the many people I've crossed path with.

Today I want to celebrate my vulnerabilities.

Today, I want to celebrate the many journeys to come.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Suffering From The ‘Curse Of Knowledge’?

Take a dose of story telling, write from your heart, and adopt the inverted pyramid.

If you had a choice between reading an engineering and hydraulic account of the construction of Three Gorges Dam in China – which is the largest dam in the world – or Arundhyati Roy’s “The cost of living” – which is about the impact of infrastructure projects on people’s lives in the subcontinent, which one would you opt for?

My bet is that if you are not an engineer or hydraulic specialist, you would probably pick up Roy’s book. And this is because Roy’s account is a story about how infrastructures such as dams can positively or negatively impact people’s lives. It’s because while peppered with relevant facts, figures, and historical accounts, it is about real people – it has a plot, it has a hero, a villain, a turning point and a call to action. And this is why it makes it a compelling read.

As development workers, while we excel in writing concept notes, progress reports, case studies, we struggle to unpack the impact of our work in form of compelling stories. This is because we suffer from a chronic disease called the curse of knowledge.

Colin Camerer, George Loewenstein and Martin Weber coined the term “Curse of Knowledge” and described it as the “cardinal sin of finding it hard to imagine that others do not know what you know”. It is when we’re unable to recreate what we know in someone else’s state of mind.

Steve Pinker, Harvard cognitive scientist says, “Anyone who wants to lift the curse of knowledge must first appreciate what a devilish curse it is. Like a drunk who is too impaired to realize that he is too impaired to drive, we do not notice the curse because the curse prevents us from noticing it.”

He then continues to explain, “I think the curse of knowledge is the chief contributor to opaque writing”. “It simply doesn’t occur to the writer that readers haven’t learned their jargon, don’t seem to know the intermediate steps that seem to them to be too obvious to mention, and can’t visualize a scene currently in the writer’s mind’s eye. And so the writer doesn’t bother to explain the jargon, or spell out the logic, or supply the concrete details — even when writing for professional peers.”

The good news is that if you are open-minded enough to acknowledge you are suffering from the curse of knowledge, there is a cure for it.

And the cure is pretty straightforward: simplify your “complex reality” by creating a common picture which everyone can relate to. Tell human and impact stories featuring real people. Use metaphors and analogies. Know your audience and make your content relevant to them by catering to what they need and want.

For example, if you are writing for a policy maker, have a strong call to action; if you are writing for the general public, tell a compelling story that touches both their heart and head, a story that is inspiring, raises awareness, has a message of hope and a call to action.

Make your story fun and shareable. Be direct and write your story in a way so that your reader has an “aha” moment.

Below are a few tips on how to go about writing a compelling story. Let’s not forget that a story is different from a report.

  • Use the inverted pyramid paradigm
  • Tell the story from the heart, showing impact of the activity on people’s lives
  • Write with passion
  • Craft catchy titles
  • Use quotes
  • Write short and simple sentences
  • Use headings and subheadings
  • Write maximum 500-800 words
  • Stories are not reports
  • Complement stories with pictures and captions
  • Make sure your message is clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent and complete.

When you reach the point of sacrificing, without too much grief, your darlings – or your jargon and insider language – that is when you can consider yourself cured of the invasive “curse of knowledge” disease.

If you are amongst the brave ones out there willing to embrace “curse of knowledge rehab” and adopt story telling paradigm while at the same time sacrificing the intrusive darlings – keep track of your progress and share it with the rest of the community.

May the force be with you!!!

I am writing a series of guest blogs for @unsocial500 on how to boost engagement on social media. The purpose of the series is to share best practices and tips. The above blogpost first appeared on UN Social 500 site. If there is a specific topic you want more information and guidance on, please let me know so that I can put it in the pipeline :)

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Say no to spamming: Engage with others as you would like to be engaged with #socialmedia #spam

Photo credit: Ben Brown
Who amongst us has not been a victim of unsolicited mail, telephone calls, emails or posts showing on our social media timelines?

While there may be few lucky people out there who are oblivious to spamming, many more have  either experienced or practiced one or more form of spamming.

Bulk messaging
When was the last that as a communication professional or social media strategist you sent out messages with the same or similar content? When was the last time you cross-posted or received the same message from different networks?

Sharing undesired or excessive content
When was the last time you received unsolicited content? And when was the last time you pushed out unsolicited content to your network(s)?

When was the last time you clicked on a link because the headline caught your attention to then be totally disappointed by the content of the article? When was the last time you created the coolest headline to entice your readers to click on the embedded link which did not quite match your headline?

We’ve all been victims of spamming and in our digital journey, may have also practiced spamming.

As social media strategists, to maximize the reach of our content, we may have:
  • pushed out similar type of content over multiple channels for a more or less prolonged period of time
  • created pre-canned tweets, Facebook and Instagram posts asking our networks to share these with their respective audience
  • reported live from events inundating cyberspace with podium images and content which is the contrary to soundbites
  • repeatedly promoted dull content

After practicing the above sins, we’ve sulked as our intentional or unintentional spamming resulted in a sharp fall in:
  • engagement - hardly any of our followers, let alone our influencer(s) engaged with the content
  • audience - many of our followers unfollowed or unfriended us and as a result
  • reach - if our average likes or retweets were in the hundreds, our spam content yielded no more than 10 likes or retweets

The digital space is not different than real life…… As such the saying “Do to others as you would have them do to you”….. holds true here as well……

Remember, “Engage with others as you would like to be engaged with”. 
  • Quality over quantity
  • Create compelling content, as this travels miles and miles and at speed of light
  • Nurture your solid and trusted followers/networks

So instead of spinning your wheels in creating content for the sake of creating content and pushing it out indiscriminately, invest in your network(s). 

To expand your digital foot print, create content that allows you to reach out to new unconverted groups and communities.

Remember at the end of the day, it is PEOPLE who make your content go viral. FOCUS on PEOPLE and less on process.

Next time someone spams you, remind them that for their content to go viral, it needs to resonate with the audience - you being one of them. Work with them and make their spam content salient and relevant. And once you’ve done so, celebrate putting another nail in the spam coffin!

I am writing a series of guest blogs for @unsocial500 on how to boost engagement on social media. The purpose of the series is to share best practices and tips. The above blogpost first appeared on UN Social 500 site. If there is a specific topic you want more information and guidance on, please let me know so that I can put it in the pipeline :)