Lessons from NATO for Leading the Way in Digital Communication

When digital disrupted the communications landscape, NATO - like many other established international organizations - was standing still while the world was moving forward. Needless to say, things have changed.

Lessons from NATO for Leading the Way in Digital Communication

Steven Mehringer, NATO’s Head of Communication Services, spearheaded NATO’s transition to building a digital infrastructure that reflected audiences’ expectations. He shared the best practices that drove the organization to become a thought leader with the likes of The New York Times and National Geographic magazine at his workshop at Engage Prague 2015. Here are his top three lessons.

1. Build a Team of Creative Thinkers

Give your team the space to create. Managers often provide the framework for a given campaign but define too many restrictions for content creation. Trust in your team and they just might surprise you with creative genius. When tasked with communicating the story behind NATO’s most difficult mission and longest combat operation ever, Mehringer let his teams’ imaginations run wild. The result?

They built Return To Hope, a web documentary dedicated to Afghanistan’s extraordinary journey as it recovered from decades of devastation, violence and the Taliban through NATO’s efforts.

The Art of Storytelling

Return to Hope epitomizes the art of storytelling through NATO’s narrative. It is truly captivating – with strikingly stunning images, high-definition video, and riveting soundscapes. These are some of the reasons why it was nominated for this year’s Webby Awards (“the Oscars of the Internet) for Best Use of Photography, Best Visual Design, and Public Service and Activism. Its competition included content produced by CNN, The New York Times, National Geographic, and Mashable. NATO’s site has received four awards since its launch in 2014.

Reach the right audience at the right time on social

2. Shaping Tone of Voice

One of the most challenging aspects of content creation is imbuing your brand with a human voice. Mehringer spoke about striking that perfect balance to become a sociable organization. Think of it this way: if your brand were a person, how would he/she communicate?

In other words, stay authentic and translate your formal communication by speaking to your audience in the platform’s language. Memes are a great example.

Mehringer referred to Canada NATO’s tweet poking fun at Russia to raise awareness and maintain NATO’s values during Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

Nobody likes a micromanager

In NATO’s case, it’s about being creative, innovative, using humor to engage with audiences, but not pushing those boundaries too far. Remember who you are talking to, and when it comes to crafting messages, trust your team. As a manager, encourage them to let conversations happen and flow organically on social, and don’t interfere, stepping in only when needed.

Social media empowers individuals as much as organizations. Start taking advantage of the opportunities social media can offer and create a path to improving brand recognition, a positive image, and helping people understand what you do.

3. Content Exclusivity & Measurement

Audiences want to get insight into your brand or organization, and social can be their window into who you are. Think about how you can create added value when they follow you.

Are your followers going to see photos or other media they don’t see anywhere else? For instance, NATO cross-promotes across a variety of channels, but they also upload exclusive content on Flickr that you can’t find on their other networks. Less can be more – put effort into channels that make sense for your brand and help to highlight your business objectives and brand identity.

The Takeaway

Social media has given citizens a global space to discuss and take collective action. In turn, it has provided governments and institutions unprecedented opportunities to inform, deliver better public services, and create policy more transparently. Government institutions have been slow to catch up with this digital transformation. NATO has shown that it can be done, and done well – becoming a great example to emulate.

If you want to leverage different social media platforms to your full advantage, and create content that resonates with your audience, you need the right tools – like Socialbakers Analytics.

Our industry-leading social media dataset gives marketers the insights they need to create a winning social media strategy. Find out how Socialbakers Analytics can help drive smarter decisions from content execution and social customer care to analysis and optimization for your brand.

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