A strong social media presence means paying attention not just to what you say, but also how you say it. Here are five ways to make sure your tone of voice builds trust and inspires.
Here’s a thought: digital shouldn’t just sit with a charity’s digital team.
It’s integral to the work of all teams, from fundraising to how you contact people using your services direct to their inbox. This is one of the primary reasons we looked to implement the Digital Culture Programme, creating and inspiring a network of Digital Champions across the organisation.
This was delivered through a series of classroom-based theory alongside more practical 1:1 skills training. So whilst teams are monitoring their own website page copy or newsletters, your digital experts are then able to do what they do best and improve your digital offer
Even small charities can have multiple people involved in social media to certain degrees, making it important that you have your policies and tone of voice mapped out for consistency.
In this section, we enjoy expert insights from Sarah Fitzgerald, Zoe Amar and Cheri Percy. You'll learn how to set your tone of voice, create a crisis plan and develop your charity's social skills.
1. Be consistent - Your corporate accounts should always ‘speak’ with a similar voice, even if you have different people posting content. You want enough consistency to maintain trust with your audience, while leaving room for staff or volunteers to come across as real people.
2. Define your core voice - If you haven’t already defined your brand personality, try this:
i) Make a list of your main social media audiences. Against each one, list adjectives describing the way you want the charity to come across to this audience: it may be compassionate, heroic, irreverent, learned, bold, cool, or something else. Steer clear of descriptors that are generic, like warm, friendly or informal.
ii) Pick the top two or three words that recur across most audiences - these make up your core social media voice. Have them in mind whenever you’re writing or speaking on social.
This Tweet from vInspired has a lovely mix of humour and informality.
STRONG CHARITY TONE OF VOICE EXAMPLES
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE TOOLS
Social media has become such a reactive space that we need to be conscious of any potential conflicts or respond to relevant breaking news. At Breast Cancer Care, the Digital team works closely alongside our Press team to establish a rota of weekend support between the teams. Those people covering are then briefed for any expected statements and the process for escalating in a crises situation.
This was certainly the case last march when the terrorist attacks hit Paris in the lead up to the England and France game which would be hosted at Wembley Stadium by our charity partner, the FA. Instantly, we had a team actively monitoring any comments or concerns and could support our press statement through our digital channels.
In this day and age, digital is often people’s first point of contact. Does the digital culture in your charity mean someone is on the other end to respond to them?
3. Dial up the emotion - You’re looking to evoke feelings in our audiences – make them care about something or want to act – but social media tends to flatten emotional tone. So up the ante: where you'd be 'concerned' or ‘pleased’ in print, you may need to be ‘very troubled' or ‘elated’ on screen. Whatever elements you choose for your core voice, experiment to find ways of writing and speaking that cut through.
4. Relax - Social media is where people play out their social, personal and business lives. So if you want to engage, experiment with ways of expressing yourself that match your audience’s own approach – that means informal language, acronyms, one-word replies, irreverence and hashtags.
5. Flex your voice - Once you're comfortable you've nailed your core social media voice, you can work out how far to flex it between different channels. Look at what type of content each channel favours, and how this aligns with the elements of your core social media voice.
The Woodland Trust
This post from the Woodland Trust starts with an emotive "lose yourself" and leads on to a appealing description of a woodland experience.
This Water Aid instagram post brings the impact back to the supporter
Many charities have faced criticism recently and social media will often by the first line of defence. Done right, it can help manage your reputation, turn a negative conversation into a positive one and strengthen relationships with stakeholders. Here are 6 things you can do to prepare for a crisis situation.
2. Don’t underestimate tone of voice. This is often forgotten in a crisis but it can really influence how you make people feel, and how they interpret what you say. I would plan this out as part of preparing for potential criticism. What tones of voice could you use for different situations?
6 WAYS TO MANAGE A CRISIS WITH SOCIAL MEDIA
1. Pre-empt difficult situations. The best way to manage a crisis is to be prepared. You won’t always know what is round the corner but there may be common scenarios that you’ve seen before. What do the negative comments that your charity receives- both on and offline- tend to focus on? What are the possible responses?
3. Run a simulation. The best way to stress test your crisis comms process is to try it out. Get someone to facilitate a made up negative story playing itself out on social media and preferably in the press and other channels too. You’ll learn a lot from the way you and your team react. Use the key findings to refine your process further, ensuring that everyone understands what they need to do when a crisis breaks.
4. Make sure your leadership team know their role. I’ve seen senior stakeholders get involved in a crisis online and make it worse. On other occasions, I’ve seen them stay silent when they need to speak up. As part of the simulation process, brief your executive team and board on what they should and shouldn’t do on social media during a crisis.
6. Know when you need to take the criticism offline. A public spat on Twitter won’t do anyone any favours. Move the conversation to DM, email, phone or face to face as soon as you can.
5. Update your social media policy and share it. Make sure your staff are trained up in this. If you don’t have a policy, get one.
Being in the middle of the crisis is a test, but if you’ve followed the steps above you can be confident that it will eventually blow over. Hold your nerve and keep everyone focused on what they need to do.
Tools like Hootsuite and Trello have worked to support these new processes between the team and the newly-dubbed Champions. Hootsuite gives us the ability to seat teams within certain specific workspaces and curate their access levels accordingly. Content is then submitted and approved by the digital team but led by the campaign experts.
Similarly, Trello allows us to oversee all upcoming projects and input into our channels and edit and amend this easily via its drag and drop functionality. For consistency, this has also been a great way to support our Champions with checklists and templates for each activity i.e. social media post or creating and sending an email campaign.
This process has also helped to even the spread of content distributed through our channels with a service focused message versus a fundraising ask. I’ve heard a number of other charities also speak out on the 10:4:1 ratio when it comes to sharing content which can also work to thwart Facebook’s less than helpful organic algorithm. Following the ratio has already led to a real increase in engagement our side.
THE 10:4:1 RATIO
MAKING YOUR ONLINE & OFFLINE CHANNELS RESILIENT
LISTEN TO CHERI PERCY DISCUSS USING DIGITAL CHAMPIONS