Aimee Hudson
28th November 2018 - 8 mins read
B

ritish Gas, Seaworld, JP Morgan and author EL James are among those who, to put it politely, have seen their social media chats trend for the wrong reasons.

So, what can we learn from these social media disasters? How can you do it right?

 

Timing

Timing is a key component for social media Q&A success. Holding an interactive session when you are already creating headlines in the traditional media for the wrong reasons is a recipe for disaster.

British Gas was the victim of one of the more memorable scheduling disasters, opting to give customers the opportunity to ask Customer Services Director Bert Piljls questions on the day it announced a 9.2 per cent price hike.


The #AskBG hashtag was used by thousands of customers airing their grievances and those who took the opportunity to poke fun at the energy giant.

The lesson here is clear - these social media sessions should be restricted to when you either have good news to tell or when you are not in the news at all.

 

Right person

In the same way you need the right person for media interviews, you must think carefully about who you are going to put forward for question and answer sessions.

You need someone who is senior enough to make decisions so that bland, generic responses can be avoided.

And some natural humour can be helpful.

But you also need someone who you can trust and who will need little moderation.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary is no stranger to controversy and a Twitter question and answer session a few years ago predictably created plenty of headlines.

Most controversial was his comment of ‘nice pic. Phwoaaarr’ to a question from a female customer, which led to allegations (and headlines) of sexism.

 

Memorable hashtag

Memorable hashtags can promote and create a buzz about your question and answer session. Ideally you want something short but still descriptive.

You should also check the hashtag is not being used for anything else.

And perhaps most importantly of all, make sure it can’t be misread – a lesson the promoters of singer Susan Boyle could have done with before they opted for #Susanalbumparty.

 

Show some self-awareness

Not every post you receive in these sessions is going to be on the subjects you want and some may mock what you are trying to achieve.

The key is to not take yourself too seriously and to respond with similar humour.

Although not strictly a question and answer session, Waitrose responded cleverly when its #WaitroseReasons hashtag was hijacked by posters making fun of its upper class reputation. It said it had found the tweets ‘funny’ and had ‘enjoyed reading most of them’. 

 

Prepare for the negatives

As with media interviews it is important to spend time considering the negative issues which could arise during the question and answer session.

Prepare lines to take which can be given in response and consider creating a page on your website which you can link through to for answers needing more than 140 characters.

 

Wider issues

As well as possible negative topics, it is also worth considering the wider issues which could arise during the question and answer session. These could be issues affecting the wider sector or perhaps some new Government policy which could have an impact on the industry. Currently, you could face questions about the impact Brexit or Donald Trump might have on the sector. Prepare some lines to take for these wider issues.

 

Not suitable for everyone

While a question and answer session may seem like a great way to boost engagement and get positive messages out, it is not a format that is suitable for everyone.

If your brand or area of work is divisive, the session will act like a magnet for critics and keyboard warriors.

When 50 Shades of Grey author E.L James held a Twitter Q&A it is fair to say it did not go to plan. As well as plenty of users taking advantage of the opportunity to question her writing ability, the author was also faced with more serious questions about her books promoting an abusive relationship.

Similarly, when SeaWorld held a #AskSeaWorld session it backfired massively, with people taking the opportunity to bring up animal welfare concerns and ask when the park would be closing down.

 

Promote

You need to promote your question and answer session ahead of the event. Begin posting about it a few days in advance using the hashtag you have opted for - this has the added benefit of enabling you to see any questions which come in early.

Also use your email lists and other social media networks to raise awareness of the sessions and encourage your employees to tell their friends.

 

Don’t be afraid to walk away

About the only thing JP Morgan got right about its infamous Twitter Q&A session was deciding to abandon the idea 24 hours before it was scheduled to take place.

The company found itself inundated with negative posts when it promoted a live chat with one of its executives, which was intended to be about leadership and careers advice.

 

With questions including ‘did you have a specific number of people’s lives you needed to ruin before you considered your business model a success?’ it was clear it had completely lost control of the hashtag.

Sensibly it took the decision to prevent further damage by returning to the drawing board.

 

Crisis plan

If your question and answer session does go ahead and goes horribly wrong, make sure you have a crisis plan in place to limit the damage, including how you will manage the media if it sparks their interest. 



We realise that these examples of social media Q&As could put you off holding one of your own. But that is not the aim. The idea is to make you aware of risks so that you can prepare for them and avoid making similar errors.

We firmly believe Q&As can generate highly productive conversations which can develop excitement around your brand and products. It just needs considered planning to avoid the pitfalls.

Mark Mars, Managing Director of Thirty Seven, said: “Just like an in-person press conference or an open discussion, Twitter Q&As provide a way for the audience to ask questions and hear responses directly from the host. But, all you need is Twitter. And anyone can do it.

"A Twitter Q&A is a great way to engage with your audience as it allows them the opportunity to talk to you in real-time conversation, in a more human way.

"Twitter Q&As are a great opportunity to get insightful feedback and for your audience to know you are taking their views seriously."

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

Marketing

How to make and start a business podcast

Tom Idle 28th February 2020 — 6 mins read
A

ccording to Ofcom figures released in the autumn, 7.1 million people now listen to podcasts each week – that’s one in eight people and an increase of 24 per cent over the past year.

There are currently more than 860,000 podcasts in existence today and half of all the podcasts in existence were created in the last two years alone.

Clearly, more and more people are realising the benefits of creating long-form, in-depth audio content.

With figures like these, you might ask whether the world needs another podcast right now.

Well, as someone who set up and run their own podcast, I think you should, and I feel my experience could help you to get started.

I got into podcasts when I was commuting from Kent to Oxford for work. I was spending a lot of time in the car and podcasts were my salvation.

I listened religiously to several different shows and began to try to work out the functional elements of those shows and how they were put together and how it related to what I was doing.

When I left that job to set up my own business, podcasting seemed like the perfect content marketing tool to promote what I was doing. Not only was I passionate about podcasts, but I was a trained journalist who had specialised in radio journalism at university.

Additionally, no-one else was doing them in the sustainable business area, so there was a huge gap in the market.

So, I launched the Better Business Show. It was a weekly show with new episodes every Monday morning and the idea was to showcase some of the innovators, start-ups, small businesses – as well as some of the legacy businesses – that were working out ways of doing things differently and more sustainably to create better businesses.

It was a magazine show and at the centre of it was an in-depth interview, usually with a start-up and then we wrapped it up with some news and some conversations with consultants and experts in the field. We brought different elements together in a 40-minute podcast.

We launched it in 2016 and I think it is fair to say we achieved some success. We got more than 3,000 listeners, we found some good sponsorship, we branched out into multiple countries and we had lots of repeat listeners (38 per cent repeat listeners). In short, we built a nice community.

Why was it successful?

Well, there were a few factors and one of the key ones was planning and getting ahead. When we launched, we had three episodes which was important in terms of building credibility. If people are discovering you for the first time and you only have one episode, they won’t be sure whether you are serious or whether you are going to come back with more episodes.

In the first few weeks, we worked hard to get our ranking on iTunes as good as we could. Doing this was as simple as getting friends, family, colleagues and customers to give us a five-star review. It worked wonders and we ended up getting on to the ‘new and noteworthy’ section’ of the business podcasts. We stayed there for about three months which built early traction.

I think that consistency was also key. We made sure the podcast came out at the same time every week – 9am on a Monday – and that helped to build behaviour among the listeners where they were looking out for each episode. If you are saying on your episode ‘we’ll be back next week’, then you need to be back next week.

Having evergreen content was also important. Although we included a news section, the rest of the content is still relevant and will continue to stick around.

So, if the podcast was successful, why am I not still doing it?

The main answer to that is that it achieved what we set it out to do. It won me a lot of work and new connections and helped me to grow my business.

It is something I’m glad I did and even now the archive lives on and we are getting new listeners and plays a month.

For me, there is no engagement like having a podcast where you are capturing someone for 40 minutes every week and they are listening to you while they are doing something else like driving, cooking or working out in the gym.

Here are a few tips from my experience to help you get started:

 

Recording device

It sounds simple but you need a decent recording device – I can’t state how important this is. Your content can be strong, but if there is background noise or the recording is just not good enough quality, then listeners will instantly switch off. I carried my interviews over Skype and used a free app to record them. For the interviews that were carried out on location, I used a £100 Dictaphone. But the iPhone technology has moved on so much that I would probably use that more now.

 

Editing equipment

In terms of the edit, I used Apple Garageband, which is easy to use. It was great for splicing and adding music to intros.

 

Hosting the podcast

I hosted my podcast because I wanted to market myself, but that doesn’t mean that sourcing a decent host for your show isn’t important. If you do want to do it yourself, some of the presenting and hosting skills can be learnt and honed from Thirty Seven’s sister company Media First.  

 

Noise

I’ve already mentioned that background news will be a big distraction for your listeners, so make sure you have a quiet office to record your podcast or hire a studio. Failing that, sit under a duvet when you make your recording – it sounds crazy but this is something BBC journalists do often on location.  

 

iTunes

Although Spotify has now entered the podcast market, iTunes remains the main platform. I submitted my podcast to iTunes from day one and I think it was an important part of its success. Once you have done that you can submit it for free to other platforms, like Deezer, to extend your reach.

 

Social media

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that social media was a really important way of sharing my broadcasts. LinkedIn worked particularly well for me. I also created a blog on my website to hold each podcast.

 

Ask for help

If I was to relaunch my podcast now, I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for some help. I might look at outsourcing some of the editing, or scripting or maybe someone to look after the logistics of organising interviews.

As a trained journalist I know how to structure podcasts and create captivating audio content. If you don’t then please hire the professionals to help you.

You don’t have to go it alone.

 

Get in touch with one of our account managers to find out how we can help you get your podcast started.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is a podcast or email marketing.

James White
5th June 2020 - 4 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.