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Visa Europe’s, VP of Corporate Communications, Nick Jones talks digital and social media

18th November 2013


Last month London College of Communication, University of the Arts London opened its doors to students and the PR industry for its inaugural PR Guest Lecture. The first lecture kicked off with Visa Europe’s Vice President of Corporate Communications, Nick Jones, who discussed the impact of social media on ‘Business as Usual’. Nick began by explaining ‘BAU’ which, he said is widely accepted management speak for “the normal execution of standard functional operations within an organisation”. This is an important idea for large businesses in terms of the understanding and managing processes, steps, and people’s behaviour as it makes things work. It’s about keeping calm and carrying out business as usual. However, when it comes to social media a different attitude is required. Social media can be disruptive and challenging. Nick gave an example of how Twitter has created a ‘60 second news cycle’ and explained how he tapped into this new trend through Downing Street’s first ‘Twitter Reshuffle’, where the first image of the new Cabinet meeting was issued via Twitter. In near to real-time, Downing Street content was being broadcast live on major news channels. This type of innovative, ‘Business as Unusual’ thinking, dominated Nick’s talk and he focused heavily on some of the work he is doing with Visa Europe. Here are the five top insights from Nick based on a number of examples from his career at Visa Europe, the COI, Cabinet office and Downing Street: 1.     Review and revise messages for ‘digital edges’ Using insights from social media to monitor what people are consuming and sharing is essential to ensure your story or message has an angle that cuts-through. And, with the changing nature and volume of content in social media you can’t just do this once, you have to come back to your messages and refine them again and again. Nick reminded us that social media is a visual culture; so creating content for a digital culture must include what Nick called ‘glance-able’, easy to consume content such as info graphics 2.     Plan, Plan, Plan! It’s not just about tweeting when you feel like it. Successful social media means planning what you’re going to be saying and doing before, during and after an event. You need to use the build up to increase the volume, reach and success of your content. Nick highlighted how the timing of posting social media is becoming increasingly critical and how smart brands think about how your content might take off in a different direction. Using the now classic Oreo’s Superbowl example as a case study, Nick revealed that the brand had over 30 scenarios planned out in advance for any possible opportunities that might have occurred 3.     Rethink Influence Understanding what influence is and how it impacts communications in social media means developing insights into the digital behaviour and demographics of stakeholders. Nick’s advice is to think in terms of Philip Sheldrake’s, Six Influence Flows and look at who and what influences people online? Citing research by Brands2Life, Nick pointed out that journalists are most influenced online by CEOs, academics and an organisations’ ‘technical experts’ rather than PR Practitioners who rank 10th in terms of influence. PR practitioners need to focus on getting their credible spokespeople online? 4. Tell stories for the digital world Nick told the audience that great content is what makes people excited and more importantly will encourage sharing and drive traffic to the organisation’s profiles. Nick talked about his experience at Downing Street, building a story around Larry the Cat, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet and generating large volumes of media coverage. Nick also highlighted new technology and discussed how developments such as HTML5 now enables anyone to create powerful photo-stories, such as The New York Times’ Snowfall ad and The Guardian’s Firestorm, both of which create emotional connections with the audience. These developments are important, Nick argued, as they challenge PR practitioners to be ambitious, be bold and help their brand stand out from the crowd. 5. Speaking with one voice? Despite social media being a global phenomenon, Nick argued that successful PR needs to think increasingly in terms of market specific language content and culture while also understanding what it means to work with another – often very different - social culture. Smart PR practitioners need to ask themselves how the social world is divided up. How do we channel cultural content relevant to specific markets? And, more importantly Nick pointed out that in a global social media environments PR practitioners need to be aware of how different ideas and memes will circulate and keep coming back to us. Aaron Shardey

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