Top priorities for communication pros that merit investment and energy

Experts from Facebook reveal mission-critical messaging tactics that will help communicators excel in today’s turbulent environment.

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It’s understandable to feel confused and frustrated right now.

The COVID-19 pandemic has twisted the communications profession into chaotic knots, and many of us are just struggling to keep it together (much less planning for what’s next). Take heart, weary workplace warriors.

At Ragan’s recent “virtual class,” titled “Building better video communications and more authentic leaders using live video,” a group of experts from Workplace from Facebook shared ideas and strategies savvy pros should prioritize in the days ahead.

Here’s a sample of what should be on your radar as we see out 2020 and plan for better days ahead:

Go live, but don’t wing it. What makes it so challenging to communicate via video? Well, it’s awkward talking at a laptop. You can’t see everyone’s eyes, cues, body language and reactions. It’s all a bit unnatural.

Looking directly into the camera to establish some measure of eye contact is a good start, but you should also mind your surroundings and technological contingencies.

Mark Pollard, a technical producer with Facebook, advises paying special attention to five variables in particular:

  • Phone. Make sure it’s updated, and charge it! Enable the “Do not Disturb” mode, use Notes as needed to remember crucial points, and “be close as possible to a Wi-Fi signal,” he says.
  • Internet. “Wired-in is always preferable,” Pollard says. He also suggests conducting a speed test before hitting “Record,” as well as cozying up nice and close to your router. Beyond that, make sure to “kick the kids off Netflix,” as they will eat up your bandwidth (along with all that yogurt you thought was well hidden in the back of the fridge).
  • Lighting. “Make sure your main light source is consistent, Pollard says, adding that you should tinker with different setups and be mindful of the time of day to avoid a shadowy disaster.
  • Audio. Pollard suggests wearing headphones to ensure clear communication back and forth. He adds that there are loads of affordable, excellent mics (he prefers Saramonic products), and that you should “speak to the back of the room” to project your voice.
  • Framing/composition. Pollard says to use the rule of thirds and to “leave headroom” in your videos. He believes those trendy “fake” backgrounds have jumped the shark, and that a natural background with something “interesting but not distracting” is the ticket.

Pollard adds that live video is great, but that it’s not always the answer. Consider time zones. Is a live shoot going to exclude people? If so, reconsider your options.

Livestreaming works for current events, breaking news, employee updates and the like, but pre-recording enables you to add production value and smooth out the kinks.

In addition to upping your livestreaming prowess, Facebook’s experts advise minding these trends:

ERGs and affinity groups are essential. Highlight these groups in your communication, and let them shape your campaigns moving forward.

Running content by a diverse swath of affinity groups will prevent tone-deaf gaffes and make your messaging much more inclusive.

Show leaders data engagement on different kinds of content. Demonstrate to execs that what you’re doing is working—or not. Show them hard numbers on what your initiatives are accomplishing and where opportunities lie.

Mix up formats and forums to keep it fresh. Don’t just carry on doing what you’ve always done. Tinker with different kinds of content and campaigns, and try new ways of delivering information.

Train execs and managers to make them feel more comfortable on video. Practice won’t make perfect, but it will certainly help people feel more relaxed and confident.

Boldly sharing honest feedback will help you earn respect as an advisor and coach.

Measure what matters. Every project you do should be tied back to a chief company objective. Go beyond basic metrics like pageviews and attendance, too. Consider:

  • Are employees following new policies or completing trainings?
  • How many people are watching videos or reading posts until the end?
  • How many internal conversations did the last Q&A spark?
  • How many hashtag mentions did that last topic receive?

Dig into data not just for numbers, but for the stories and relevant business trends that are hidden within.

Prioritize incremental change. If your culture is stiff, formal and seemingly unmovable, don’t fret. Take baby steps to facilitate meaningful conversations. Celebrate small wins. Try different approaches and platforms to see where people are comfortable having substantive dialogue.

Change must start from the top, though. Without executive support, you face an uphill struggle, to say the least. Continuously work to win your leaders’ trust, and you’ll be empowered to effect positive change throughout the company.

That lasting, long-term impact is what it’s all about for communicators. But you must be patient as you sow seeds, knowing that your harvest of change won’t arrive overnight.

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