Could companies running costly internship programmes be as unethical as unpaid internships?

Internships. You either love them or hate them, right? Well, luckily for me I have had the privilege of interning with some amazing companies over the years, learning some valuable industry knowledge along the way. Despite already having two different internships already lined up for the summer, I felt something was missing… and that’s when the email came through ‘Wildlife and Travel Journalism Internship Opportunity in South Africa.’ It was like all my prayers had been answered, and after reading through the brochures I knew it was perfect for me, minus one major factor – the price.

Fortunately, last year I was awarded with The Crispin Aubrey Bursary, which helps support aspiring journalists like myself to champion environmental issues. Without their funding, I would have never been able to have experience the wonderful, and also heartbreaking, moments, as well as write about them. However, a lot of the students I was interning with did not have this extra financial support, which in turn led them having to borrow funds, fundraise or even get into financial debt. Of course this factor was pushed to one side during our internship month, but when issues started to arise, I certainly wasn’t alone in questioning the ethics surrounding international internship programmes that cost. Could companies running costly internship programmes be as unethical as unpaid internships?

Okay I know what you’re thinking, how can anything be worse than working your butt off for free right? How about forking out a lot of money for a programme to find a lot of the stuff you paid to do was either free so long as we gave the place publicity via articles and social media, free in general or at a considerably cheaper price? And I’d like to say this just happened in my particular programme, but so many people are building companies to unfortunately profit from millennials eagerness to learn whilst exploring, and it’s very much under wraps.

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So here are my tips on how to get valuable experience abroad without breaking the bank:

RESEARCH

goabroad.com have plenty of information on interning/studying/volunteering overseas, as well as reviews from students that have been on each programme. There may be a lot of costly internship companies on there granted, but it will give you a place to compare each organisation, compare prices, what each one offers and ratings. This way you know you can make a well informed decision, rather than going in blind.

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DO IT YOURSELF

Just like you would back in your homeland, go out and find your dream internship for yourself. Of course this is very useful when you have a specific company in mind or a certain field, i.e. a Parisian fashion house for a showroom assistant internship. Have a list of places you would like to possibly work in, make sure you fit the requirements (for example, don’t go applying to said fashion house if you don’t know French) and apply. With any luck you’ll get a positive response, and then you can organise your flights and accommodation without having to pay a fortune for a middle-man.

VOLUNTEER

If you are after some more hands on experience then there are an abundance of free volunteering opportunities you can go for. So long as they are ethical, you don’t go in with the mindset that you’re going to change the world and it is with a company you’ve researched thoroughly into, then go for it. Plus, with the money you save, you can now use to donate to the place you’re volunteering for – even better!

Read about my time in South Africa in more depth here.

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Africa Media Internship

As many of my friends and family know, I am the least spontaneous person in all of man-kind. This isn’t to be confused with my lack of adventure, but lets just say I will never be one of those people who will simply waltz into any restaurant for dinner to “check it out”. No, firstly I would need to waste a ridiculous amount of time trawling though ‘Top 10’ lists and TripAdvisor reviews to find adequate suggestions, only to then pick the menu apart to decide on exactly what I was going to order, with a back up dish too of course. So you can imagine the difficulty I had in boarding my flight to South Africa with no idea what my overseas internship would bring.

Upon my arrival in Mossel Bay, I was presented with a handful of interns wailing dramatically as they said their farewells to one another. Theatrical displays of emotion have always seemed rather unnecessary to me. Even the mere mention of a musical makes me wince, so this spectacle genuinely struck fear into me. ‘What have I let myself in for?’ was the question I kept asking myself at that moment. But as I reflect back on the whirlwind month, I’d go back to that moment in a heartbeat and do it all again. Okay, so maybe it is all well and good me saying that now I’ve had some much needed rest and peace, but I do miss the madness.

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WEEK ONE

Week one felt as though I had signed up for boot camp, rather than your typical internship. It was hard enough to adapt to living with 25 people, but to be eating, sleeping and working all under one roof with a lack of silence and internet took its toll on me. As the days and workload progressed, I felt disappointed that I could not produce the highest quality work in these conditions, and fearful that I would come out of the internship with nothing. That isn’t to say I wasn’t loving the work or immersing myself in the plethora of riveting discussions, the experience simply highlighted my personal struggle with lacking a functional working environment. I would say this is certainly something I do need to overcome, due to my hopes of being a travel writer, but trust me when I say this was a very unique situation. Luckily for me, I had a trio of fellow journalism interns, field specialists and trusty roommates who were brilliant support systems and kept me going.

One of the assignments that stood out for me the most during the first week has got to be interviewing marine conservationist and Oceans Research publications manager, Esther Jacobs Overbeeke. Despite a lucrative career in financing publications and a comfortable life in Edinburgh, Esther bravely gave up everything following a fulfilling internship in South Africa with Orca Foundation. As a PR student desperate be successful in the field, without compromising my passion for the environment, our interview left me invigorated and empowered.

WEEK TWO

Emotions were running high at the beginning of week two after witnessing a whale stranding attempted rescue. With professionals and rescue teams on the scene, there was no shortage of help but unfortunately it just wasn’t enough. When the decision was made to euthanise the whale with TNT, we were all quickly briefed on all the vital information before fleeing the scene. Even thinking back to this moment overwhelms me with emotion.

The rest of the week was spent in Plattenbhurg Bay to visit Monkeyland, Birds of Eden, Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre and to go whale watching. Being away from the confinements of Mossel Bay was definitely needed, but I wouldn’t say it was much of a holiday. The days were long, the nights were freezing and the only time we had to do our work was spent cooking for what seemed like the 5,000. Knowing the writing time constraints, I managed to record every important conversation on my iPhone in order to come back to my abundance of story ideas with a fresh mind.

WEEK THREE Disclaimer: Please excuse my ambiguity on my location of the third week, it’s for the safety of the rhino’s.

Just before leaving England I remember watching ‘Schofield’s South African Adventure’. There was a particular scene where Phillip witnessed a rhino dehorning, and I could remember thinking how incredibly moving that once in a lifetime opportunity must have been. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be experiencing a dehorning also, but alas, I did. Writing about this incident came so easily to me that I was finished by the end of the day – you can read the article here.

Later on in the week we got to stay at a beautiful private game reserve where we learnt a lot about their experiences with poachers, rehabilitation programmes and eco tourism. It was fascinating to hear how the hospitality industry copes with the strenuous conditions of drought, and their attempts in offsetting visitors carbon footprint by planting local flora. The trip definitely gave me some food for thought, and plenty of new reading material – including ‘Killing for Profit’ by Julian Rademeyer.

FINAL WEEK

Unfortunately our field specialist had some issues with her visa, which meant that she had to leave South Africa at the beginning of our final week. It was a real shame as I would have liked her guidance to finalise my pieces of work, but the decision was out of her control. Not only that, but the talks we had organised with wildlife photographers Peter Chadwick and Dale Morris fell through, leaving a lot of interns disappointed. On the bright side, it gave me a chance to write without being disturbed by meetings.

On our last evening, it was wonderful to see the Africa Media interns completed pieces. From photographs to short documentaries, I loved seeing how each person perceived their South African adventure, and how they demonstrated the new skills they’d learnt along the way.

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For me, I learnt a lot about the business of freelance travel journalism, standing out from the rest and pitching. The plentitude of crazy moments I encountered on my journey will always be held dear to my heart, as well as the special people that helped to make my adventure. That aside, it would be dishonest of me to not highlight the issues of how the internship programmes were run. Over the month, there were a lot of issues left unaddressed, despite many interns complaints, and a lack of transparency throughout did not sit well with myself and the others. It saddens me having to address the negatives that came with my life changing month, but I feel as though it is important to highlight the cracks featured within international internship programmes that require payments. But fear not, as I will be discussing this in my next blog post – just sit tight.

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Soil Association Placement

As my friends and family know, I have always been extremely career driven. At the tender age of ten I was ordering every university in the county’s prospectus’ to my family home, dreaming of a future work wardrobe filled with Chanel suits and Louboutin’s. Okay, so I read a lot of Vogue magazines too, but after completing a eye-opening internship in my first year, I was determined to get more experience under my belt.

Whilst I am terribly lucky to have had such a worthwhile first internship at an amazing beauty and lifestyle agency, and forever grateful, it really put my aspirations into perspective. I learnt I wanted to develop a career in a cause more worthwhile of my time; the environment. Luckily for me, I learnt of a volunteering opportunity going in the Soil Association’s press office from a fellow student. A few phone calls and emails later, and it was in the bag. With this week being my last, I have recognised considerable differences in myself – as a PR student and as a person.

MxnI1j8P_400x400source: soilassociation.org

The First Day

My first day started with a surprising lie-in in comparison to my university wake-up call, with still enough time to avoid having to frantically run to catch the bus. Arriving five minutes earlier than told, I was keen to make a good first impression on team – and I think it worked. Despite one of the press office managers telling me they were juggling a few volunteers over April, I was the only one in that day which made it slightly less daunting. After being introduced to the team, greeted with a bar of Green & Blacks and briefed on the all things organic, I got cracking with measuring the organisations coverage for the day and distributing it out to the necessary teams. Whilst I knew measuring coverage was the backbone of public relations, it was interesting to be able to use new tools I had not been exposed to before in a real-life situation. After refueling on a Bearrito, I focused on the creative side of press office duties, summarising some key organic and environmental stories for their weekly newsletter before returning home.

Second Week

In my first week, I expressed my eagerness to be part of some pitching as this is one practical element of PR that we don’t experience at university. As this is quite an important task, I didn’t think I would be allowed to phone journalists so soon into my time with the Soil Association, but the team were very encouraging for me to get involved. So much so that they thought it would be an insightful for me to follow a story from searching for relevant contacts, to writing the press release, to getting it published. Whilst the local story was far from going global, I was over the moon when my journalist phone conversation led to the story becoming a nib in local London paper. Whilst I had heard about the rush practitioners get, it was hard to relate from the 4 corners of a classroom, however, the press office was just as proud as I was of my mini accomplishment.

Towards the End

My third week happened to be the week before the launch of the Soil Associations latest greenwashing within the beauty industry campaign, and the whole press office seemed to be in overdrive. Amongst my usual routine of measuring coverage and writing about important news stories for their weekly Organic News, I was asked to help compile a list of all the press contacts we could pitch to on the day of the launch. Whilst this job doesn’t sound super exciting, I quite enjoyed searching for important media contacts knowing that on launch day, I could be pitching to any one of them.

And finally, Campaign for Clarity’s launch day was finally here. It was far less hectic than I originally anticipated, and after an informal meeting with the team, my anxiety was put at ease. Armed with all the information I could possibly need and some Pukka mint tea (a bonus of working for an organic NGO I will miss terribly), I was ready to get pitching to the mass media. And it didn’t go too badly either. There were some curve-ball questions thrown at me, and some uninterested receptionists, but other than that the experience was positive and thrilling.

Well I guess it is true when they say that all good things must come to an end. I am truly saddened that Wednesday will be my last day at the Soil Association, and will miss the wonderful press office team. Thank-you for the opportunity and confirming in my mind that working for an NGO is the ultimate end goal.

Measuring Metrics

Today, we live in a digital world that has given us access to a unprecedented amount of data. Whilst this can be quite overwhelming to many, the importance lies in how big data can be used to access human insight and engagement. For PR practitioners it is vital to work with data, and now they have the opportunity to collect specific and meaningful data on everything from tracking brand impressions, to social graph, thus guiding their decision-making in an informative way.

It’s no secret that the advent of social media changed the face of public relations forever. 20 years on from the first social media site, Six Degrees, and you’d think PR professionals would have the medium all figured out. And for the most part, they do. But one element of social media that they have always struggled with is measuring metrics.

socialmedia-metricssource: uberflip.com

In the past, advertising dominated the PR evaluation system. Organisations were measuring their ‘success’ through Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE). They were quick, they were easy, but certainly not representative as the cost of advertising does not relate to the value of PR. Thank goodness the industry has moved on since then!

In the words of Stephen Waddington, ‘public relations practitioners need to use tools to deliver insights from data relevant to their publics.’ So here are three measuring tools which I believe are the best of the best at this present time.

BRANDWATCH

Used widely throughout the PR industry, Brandwatch is a social media monitoring tool used to discover vital insights within online conversations happening on various social platforms. From measuring the impact of your latest campaign, to new marketing opportunities, to potential crises, this tool goes beyond keywords to help companies identify, listen and understand their publics.

TRAACKR

‘Influencer’ is the biggest buzzword within the PR industry at the moment, after it has become one of the most effective ways to attract customers and allow companies to connect with consumers directly. Traackr is useful and efficient tool for analysing, managing and growing your global influencer networks. And since PR is all about earning trust and building relationships, this is the perfect platform for practitioners to connect with influencers in a more personal way.

GOOGLE TAG MANAGER

While Google Analytics may be more than capable of all your digital data needs, if you’re serious about gathering information directly linked to your business objectives, then Google Tag Manager is for you. This sophisticated-yet-free tracking tool is designed to measure much more detailed data from your website, giving you more power and versatility in your data collection.

As the digital landscape continues to grow at a rapid pace, so does the importance of data. So much so that the head of research and strategy at Microsoft, Craig Mundie claims that data has become the new raw material of business – an economic input almost on par with capital and labour. Whilst this demonstrates a dramatic change within the industry, and a power shift towards the public, practitioners have more access to more information than ever, helping their clients to build up their brands with sustainable success.

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Bibliography

The Economist. (2017). Data, data everywhere. [online] Available at: http://www.economist.com/node/15557443 [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Waddington, S. (2017). There’s never been such a good time to work in public relations [online] Stephen Waddington. Available at: http://wadds.co.uk/2014/03/06/good-time-work-public-relations/ [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

The Impact of Social Media on the PR Industry

It’s obvious that the emergence of social media and its widespread adoption has transformed the entire dynamics of communication, from the way we go about our daily lives, the way we work and the way we manage friendships. Billions of us use social media every day, and as this figure continues to grow, so does its impact on the world of public relations and business.

social-mediasource: northeastern.edu

With consumers, businesses and organisations living more online lives, social media has gone from a bonus component to an essential part of any business strategy. As companies desire new and innovative ways to engage on social media, practitioners must go beyond press releases and stunts in order to engage with key audiences and build relationships. What was once a more straightforward discipline, PR has now grown into a more complex profession in order to adapt to and integrate with the ever-changing digital landscape. Here are 5 ways social media has affected the PR industry that you’ll need to know in order to stay successful and sustainable:

GOODBYE TO ONE-WAY CONVERSATION

Social media has created conversation. Practitioners can no longer get away with unwillingly forcing information down audiences throats. Instead, they must listen, engage and understand in order to generate successful two-way conversations. Through live interaction, brands are able to make human connections, helping build on their own reputation and their publics trust. Not only that but these conversations allow for brilliant insight, giving businesses real-time feedback and deeper audience understanding.

EASY INFORMATION

Ever since Wikipedia took over the World Wide Web, we have had access to an unprecedented  amount of information at our fingertips. Social media has accelerated the speed of information sharing, which has provided practitioners with insight into future content, customer service and target audiences – all pretty helpful right?

PRACTITIONERS ARE PUBLISHERS

Ever since social media was introduced to the public, we have waved goodbye to solely relying on traditional media sources. With anyone having the ability to become citizen journalists nowadays, we can experience breaking news everywhere, from blogs to Facebook. This allows opportunity for PR professionals to create compelling stories for their brands, in order to remain relevant within this new media environment.

EVERYTHINGS PERSONAL

Many brands are fearful of social media due to the challenges surrounding a crisis. For practitioners, this should be seen more as a chance to excel. A companies reputation is everything, so the fact that social platforms have opened up the opportunity for brands to personally respond on potential issues, in a public way, should hold huge importance to them. Without these positive testimonials, a company cannot survive.

ANALYTICS

Success has always been a difficult aspect to measure within the PR industry. Social sites have become very useful tools in helping practitioners evaluate campaign success and measure conversations and engagement.

Of course this is not the first time the PR industry has had to adapt to new technologies, and will certainly not be the last, but social media has certainly added a whole new dimension to the PR industry. You may not completely understand every aspect of social media but as long as you remain educated, evolve with it and fully embrace it – the digital world is your oyster!

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Going Live: The Future of PR

With technology being the number one driver for PR’s relevance in the era of digital media, it is no surprise that live streaming is taking the industry, and internet, by storm. Periscope, Facebook Live, Instagram Live… the list continues to grow. And since the latest technology has been forecasted as one of 2017’s top PR trends by many industry heavy-weights, brands and practitioners are now being forced to step outside their comfort zone in order to keep up.

According to Twitter’s 2016 Online Video Playbook, live streaming an event increases brand favourability by 63%. Whilst in a survey conducted by Livestream, they found that 80% of respondents would prefer to watch live video from a brand than a read a blog post. These statistics only highlight the publics increasing desire for all things instant, and confirms that live streaming is not a social communications strategy to ignore.

wersm-twitter-buys-periscope-video-streaming-app-657x360source: itbusiness.ca

THE PROS OF LIVE STREAM CONTENT MARKETING

Interaction – Live streaming provides yet another way for brands to interact with their audience and key stakeholders. This enhanced level of engagement helps build better relationships, as well as attracting more conversation within the streamers social media comments box.

Cost effective – Unlike other video content where production or editing is required, live streaming allows brands to create content without the need to invest heavily. And what makes this format better is that it has all the benefits of being ephemeral, which means it can continue to be shared, downloaded or stored for further content marketing.

Transparent – Transparency within business is often an overlooked value, yet a key quality many customers want from a brand. Going live humanises the brand. By cutting through forced professionalism and scripted responses, companies are able to produce real and compelling content instead.

THE CONS OF LIVE STREAM CONTENT MARKETING

Quality – Whilst live streaming may be a cheaper way to create video content, this reflects in the quality. The shaky and delayed streams shouldn’t be off-putting to brands practicing, as I’m sure technology will grace us with HD live soon enough. Until then, as long as the internet connection is strong and recording with half-decent equipment, everything else will simply fall into place.

Getting it wrong – Okay, so this is more of a warning than a negative, but use this exciting new medium for exactly what it is designed for. By over-preparing or trying too hard, brands will fail to expose their raw personality in their natural environment, defeating the whole point of going live.

With so many perks, it’s understandable why so many PR professionals are beginning to put the medium on such a high pedestal. With immediacy and authenticity becoming highly sought out qualities within a brand, live streaming is the perfect opportunity for practitioners to bring both consumer and company together. And as for the written word within the world of PR? It remains relevant, for now. But failure to embrace all things live will result in brands being left behind.

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Bibliography

Blog. (2017). 62 Must-Know Live Video Statistics | Livestream. [online] Available at: https://livestream.com/blog/62-must-know-stats-live-video-streaming [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Cummings, C. and Cummings, C. (2017). Infographic: Latest Twitter Study Sheds Light on Just How Well Video Is Doing. [online] Adweek.com. Available at: http://www.adweek.com/digital/infographic-latest-twitter-study-sheds-light-just-how-well-video-doing-173661/ [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

The Social Media Manifesto Review

It is safe to say that social media marketing isn’t a term lost within the ‘Business and Marketing’ corner of Waterstones. The relatively new sector has rapidly grown to reach paramount importance, despite it remaining foreign territory for many business owners. Jed Hallam went where no ‘Guide for Dummies’ had gone before in his book, The Social Media Manifesto, by exploring the application of social technology across wider business functions, and its role within the whole business.

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Social media has become a key part of modern lifestyle. But in the world of PR, it has become the biggest audience influence, thus changing the way in which businesses operate forever. The Social Media Manifesto is a easy-to-read, how-to guide on evolving to a truly successful social business; with practical advice and real ‘learn from their mistakes’ case studies. Whilst the book may be directed for leaders of all organisations who strive to accomplish constant progression and innovation, it is just as much as a PR practitioner handbook on what you should be able to bring to every board room. From contextualising big data to crisis communication, Hallam leaves no stone unturned with his comprehensive list of departments that need a social helping hand, introducing sustainability to businesses in this increasingly competitive age.

Throughout the book, we develop a deeper understanding into the profound impact the Internet has had on the public, and individuals dependancy on social technology. As Hallam puts it himself, ‘everyone with access to the Internet can have a voice, and if their voice is compelling or interesting enough, people will listen.’ He argues that in order for businesses to survive the social media revolution, they must focus on human insight and engagement, rather than simply being present online. Through this knowledge, companies can take raw and valuable feedback from the public for product development.

Whilst the content is extremely insightful, I do believe the factor that made The Social Media Manifesto so compelling, is the author himself. With just five years agency experience at the time of publication, Jed Hallam has wasted no time in becoming an expert in the field, with industry knowledge and wisdom that challenges even the most respected public relations practitioners. His fresh approach to digital communication is what sets him apart from other marketing authors, teaching me invaluable tools, rather than ‘advice’ which is typically second nature to any Millennial student.

Due to the fast paced nature of all things digital, you may be thinking The Social Media Manifesto is terribly out of date, before you have even picked it up. But don’t let the publication year fool you, for Hallam’s words of wisdom has since become top of every industry heavyweights recommended reading list.

Currently en-route to the library for Hallam’s next offering, Connecting with Customers.

 

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PReflection

It is hard to believe 18 months ago I couldn’t even define what public relations was. My knowledge was limited to watching Samantha Jones on Sex and the City attending the most exclusive events and dining at the latest it-restaurants. Despite the appeal of that glamorous lifestyle, I was always very much a realist, willing to accept the journalist-budget future ahead of me. It was only until I finished the PR module of my first year that I realised there was more to it than champagne and parties, and that was okay. Because for the first time, in a long time, I had found something I was passionate about.

Ready to play! Millennials in the workplace @cipr_sw

A post shared by Richard Bailey (@richardsbailey) on

During the spring of first year, I decided it was time to develop real life PR skills through an internship. Whilst gaining experience within a beauty and lifestyle agency was extremely beneficial, it really put my aspirations into perspective. I learnt that my heart didn’t lie with fashion bloggers and beauty brands, but I wanted to develop a career within the environmental field. And as luck would have it, I had this epiphany within the window of the Crispin Aubrey bursary applications, inspiring me to take the plunge. Having no confidence in myself that I could actually be awarded with the fund, I was stunned when I got the call from the family saying I was the chosen one. After years of contemplating choosing a career over my passion, I was now given the opportunity to combine the two.

With my sights set on potential second year placements, I came across a volunteering opportunity going in the Soil Association’s press office. A few phone calls and emails later, and my first environmental PR internship was confirmed. But I wasn’t ready to just stop there, because whilst I would love to say my lectures and seminars have given me all the understanding of PR and digital communications I need, I can’t. Not through my lecturers lack of trying, but simply because in a profession that is forever evolving, you have to keep learning outside of class too. PR isn’t just Powerpoints, it is a lifestyle. And it was only when I applied learnt theory during a first year work placement and various networking events, that I fully grasped the importance of everything I learnt in class.

But the year hasn’t come without it’s hiccups. Before I moved to Bristol to study, many warned me against choosing a degree swamped with writing, foreseeing my eminent failure due to my dyslexia. Despite this denting my confidence, the pessimism only motivated me to prove to myself that I can overcome this issue and progress. Impeccable writing skills is a must in the PR world, and whilst I may still need my writing triple checked, my course has pushed me to read much more and practice.

Running my blog, PR by Emma, has not only given me a reason to push past my writer’s block, but it has given me back my voice. After hearing positive feedback from my fellow peers and making Behind the Spin’s ‘Blog of the Week’, I decided to take a chance on myself and apply for an environmental journalism placement in South Africa. A week later, and an acceptance email arrived in my inbox, confirming in my mind that I made the right choice in persevering with my writing.

All I can say is, bring on 3rd year!

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#CustomerService

Customer support. Designed to assist consumers with issues that they face, yet more often than not, this very service instills rage and annoyance amongst many, including myself. The sheer pain of waiting for a phone representative for hours on end, or sending several emails, only to receive an unhelpful, automated response has tarnished many a brands reputation. As a result, more and more customers are turning to the internet to either share their bad customer service stories or search for better answers.

twitter-customer-service.pngsource: adigaskell.org

Since social media has become integrated into almost every PR practitioner’s daily life, so has the element of customer service. Twitter has carved out a niche in becoming a de facto online customer service platform, transforming the way we interact with businesses. Gone are the days of one-way conversations dictated by brands, as we, the customers, have officially become the dictators. Dictators of speed, transparency and convenient methods of communication… making Twitter the perfect port of call for customers to get vocal, due to its public and real-time nature. And if the thousands of customer support accounts don’t give you a rough idea on how important this service has become, then maybe this statistic from Conversocial will. In the last two years alone, Twitter has seen an increase of 250% in customer service interactions.

This explosion of connectivity, and the power it continues to give customers, has been extremely daunting for companies, completely turning them upside down (Neumeier, 2015, p.11). And whilst I’m not surprised, considering the constant flow of information being disbursed by consumers, this form of online, direct interaction between businesses and customers is here to stay, and like it or not, they better get used to it.

customer_service_7.23-01.pngsource: blog.twitter.com

Jed Hallam highlights the importance of businesses listening from, reacting to and learning from its customers in his book, The Social Media Manifesto. Today’s organisations are increasingly defined by the full experience they offer customers, rather than the messages accompanying their products. This goes to show that businesses must utilise social media platforms positively, in order to remain relevant within the evolving digital media landscape. So here are 3 of my tips to do just that…

TIME IS EVERYTHING

According to a Edison Research study, 32% of consumers who complained via social media expect a response within 30 minutes, with a further 42% expecting a response within an hour. Pretty demanding on the customers behalf but in order to survive companies must always respond with immediacy, or at least let them know you’ve seen their message and that you’re trying to find a resolution.

HANDLE WITH CARE

This is where the real skill comes in. Your customer service team must be able to read into a customer’s emotional state in order to determine whether humour or formality is appropriate. If in doubt, then follow this formula: identity issue, provide links to additional information, close the loop with a “thank-you”, sign off with agents name for that personal touch and always be consistent.

KNOW WHEN TO GO OFFLINE

Online customer service responses affect not just the customer you’re dealing with, but all your current and potential customers too. Twitter recently introduced a feature where you’re able to direct message any users, so take matters offline into your DM’s.

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Bibliography

Baer, J. and Baer, J. (2017). 42 Percent of Consumers Complaining in Social Media Expect 60 Minute Response Time. [online] Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting. Available at: http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-research/42-percent-of-consumers-complaining-in-social-media-expect-60-minute-response-time/ [Accessed 4 Mar. 2017].

Frumkin, T. (2017). The 7 Most Important Customer Service Stats for 2017. [online] Conversocial.com. Available at: http://www.conversocial.com/blog/the-7-most-important-customer-service-stats-for-2017 [Accessed 4 Mar. 2017].

Hallam, J. (2013). The Social Media Manifesto. 1st ed. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Neumeier, M. (2015). The Brand Flip. 1st ed. Berkeley, California: New Riders.