Joined up engagement

Paul Boag

With so many ways to engage with users from social media to email and blogging, we must ensure we are communicating in a consistent way.

I once had the privilege of working with a large UK charity, helping them put in place a digital strategy. As part of the review process I looked at the emails they were sending out. I discovered that email was not managed by any central team. Instead, each individual business units sent out its own email campaigns. The result was that they punished their most passionate advocates by sending them as many as eight emails a day.

Without central control it was hard to see how many emails supporters were receiving. They required a more joined up approach to email management.

But these kinds of problems are not just limited to a single channel like email. There are also issues with how different channels work together.

The last time I purchased an iPad I encountered a problem. I discovered it would not allow me to create a personal hotspot to share my mobile connection. I contacted Apple who informed me the problem was with my network provider. I visited their website in an attempt to diagnose the issue, but discovered nothing. In the end I resorted to picking up the phone. Unfortunately telephone support was also unable to help.

Finally, I vented my frustration on twitter. I told my 35,000 followers how disappointed I was with my network provider. A few minutes later I received a reply explaining exactly what the problem was and how to fix it.

The reason I tell this story is to show the discrepancies that often exist between channels. Whoever ran the social media platform knew about the issue but failed to communicate it to others.

This serves to show how important it is to have a joined up approach between the channels we use to communicate with customers. This will avoid problems like the ones above. It will also help ensure consistency in message and priorities across platforms.

Before we can achieve this we first need to coordinate within an individual channel.

Coordinating a single channel

My story about the charity shows how important it is to coordinate communications across a single channel. Whether that is through email, social media or a blog.

How many people within your organisation send out mass emails to customers? How many social media accounts do you run and who can post to them? Are these accounts coordinated in any way?

Do you have tone of voice style guides outlining the writing style for blog posts, emails and social media updates? Do the contributors on these platforms ensure consistency by talking to one another?

Failure to consider these things will at best confuse users and at worst drive them away.

But as my iPad example shows, it is important that different channels work together too.

Ensuring channels work together

Engagement tools such as email, blog posts and social media work best when coordinated with one another.

This avoids the problems I mentioned earlier. It also helps to reinforce particular messages when communicated across many channels. For example, social networks and email should promote blog posts. Social media updates can become the inspiration for blog posts and email campaigns.

When launching a new product, service or campaign this becomes especially important. All the channels need to communicate a consistent, coordinated message.

To achieve this there needs to be some form of centralisation. This may be a single team managing all channels. But that is not the only option.

An alternative approach is to put in place policies and procedures. For example, try putting in place a content style guide like the one written by Mailchimp. This will ensure that there is a consistent tone of voice across all communications.

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An editorial calendar can also help coordinate communication across channels. This will prevent communications overlapping or undermining one another.

Consider having an “editor-in-chief” who oversees the communications sent out. In an ideal world the editor would check communications before they are sent to ensure there are no contradictions. Unfortunately this is not always possible for political reasons. Instead consider using your editor as a conduit between the various parties creating content. He or she will track all communications and identify where conflicts arise so they can be quickly dealt with.

In essence, organisations need somebody who is aware of all communications going out.

Start with a review

You may well be a long way from the kind of joined up vision I have outlined here. Many organisations have too many channels and too many contributors.

Often those contributors are reluctant to relinquish control over their channel. A single organisation can end up with many accounts, each managed by different departments.

In such situations it is hard to coordinate everything. It is even harder to get people to recognise the need to change.

A good starting point is to begin with a review of what you have. Map out the various touch points a user might have with your organisation and who manages each of those. This will show how disjointed their interactions with your organisation are. It also helps find your own horror stories like those I outlined at the beginning of this post. Stories like that create a compelling case for change.

Finally, contrast the current reality with your proposed solution. Do this by mapping out a revised customer journey. This will show the streamlined touch points and the role of different channels in those interactions. Support this revised customer journey by showing who should manage these touch points and how.

Demonstrating the problems and showing an improved vision for the future should encourage change. Of course, if you need help achieving this you know where to find me!

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