(2) ANALYSIS OF PUBLIC RELATIONS IN AN INTERNATIONAL NON-PROFIT ORGANISATION: EXAMPLE ORGANISATION »BOARD OF EUROPEAN STUDENTS OF TECHNOLOGY« Diplomsko delo. Študent:. Dominik Ivančan. Študijski program:. Univerzitetni študijski program Medijske komunikacije. Smer:. Medijska produkcija. Mentorica:. izr. prof. dr. Suzana Žilič Fišer. Somentorica:. doc. dr. Tina Tomažič. Lektorica:. Sandra Ivanovska.
(4) Analiza odnosov z javnostmi v mednarodni neprofitni organizaciji: primer organizacije »Board of European Students of Technology«. Ključne besede: odnosi z javnostmi, strateško komuniciranje, analiza, študentska organizacija UDK: 316.773.4:659.4(043.2). Povzetek Namen tega diplomskega dela je narediti analizo in strategijo komuniciranja na primeru neprofitne študentske organizacije »Board of European Students of Technology«. Predstavili bomo celoten proces analize in izdelave strategije komuniciranja ter definirali teoretično ozadje, ki je potrebno za ta proces. Strateški pristop do komuniciranja pogosto manjka v organizacijah, ki jih vodijo študentje - še posebej, če gre za prostovoljno delo. “BEST” je prostovoljno, nepolitično, neprofitno in nereprezentativno mednarodno združenje evropskih študentov tehnologije, ki je bilo ustanovljeno leta 1989. Trenutno šteje približno 4000 članov, ki se nahajajo v 32 državah in 95 lokalnih “BEST” skupin. “BEST” je tudi organizacija, ki je zaradi amaterskega pristopa do odnosov z javnostmi, prišla do težav in stagnacije števila uporabnikov njihovih storitvah. Zato je pomembno, da se “strokovnjaki” takih organizacij naučijo in obdajo z znanjem in spretnostmi, ki so jih strokovni komunikologi pridobili v preteklem stoletju. Z analizo organizacije, njene situacije in javnosti, lahko naredimo strateški načrt za njena komunikacijska prizadevanja, ki bodo zagotovila doslednost vseh sporočil in zagotovila, da je delo organizacije na področju odnosov z javnostmi vedno v skladu z njeno vizijo in misijo. Za preučevanje področja je potrebno definirati pojme, kot so strateško komuniciranje, odnosi z javnostmi, javnosti in podobno. V teoretičnem delu naloge bomo definirali strateško komuniciranj kot namerno komunikacijo, ki jo izvaja organizacija in ki ima namen, načrt, je vedno utemeljena na raziskavah ter je predmet morebitnega vrednotenja. Bistveno je razumevanje situacije, v kateri se nahaja organizacija, saj brez ustrezne identifikacije težav organizacije, v bistvu gradimo hišo s slabimi temelji. Če bi se želeli lotiti ustrezne analize nekatere organizacije, je najprej treba preučiti tri glavne ii.
(5) vidike, in sicer njeno notranje okolje, kako jo zaznava javnost in njeno zunanje okolje. Na koncu moramo vedeti, kaj sploh je javnost in kako ugotoviti, katere so ključne. Značilnosti javnosti so, da so to prepoznavne skupine posameznikov, homogene v smislu, da imajo njeni člani skupne lastnosti in interese, ki so pomembni za uspeh vaše organizacije, hkrati pa so dovolj velike, da so pomembne in dovolj dosegljive, da se lahko komunicira z njimi. Nato nam preostane le še praktični del. Analizo bomo utemeljili na analizi informacij, ki smo jih pridobil med delom v organizaciji v preteklem letu na način, ki smo ga definirali v teoretičnem delu. Potem bomo izdelali komunikacijsko strategijo, utemeljeno na prej omenjeni analizi. Cilje smo postavili na način, ki smo se ga naučil med fazo raziskovanja, nato pa smo opredelili ukrepe na podlagi znanja o delovnih metodah v organizaciji.. iii.
(6) Analysis of public relations in an international non-profit organisation: example organisation »Board of European Students of Technology«. Key words: public relations, strategic communication, analysis, student organisation UDK: 316.773.4:659.4(043.2). Abstract This thesis aims to analyse the state of public relations inside an international student organisation, namely the “Board of European Students of Technology”, while also providing a communications strategy based on the performed analysis. In it, we research the theory behind public relations, strategic communication, branding and marketing, which we then use to perform said analysis and create a communication strategy proposal. We explore terms such as strategic communication, public relations, and the public, along with the internal and external environment of the organisation. In order to create an efficient strategy, we also define terms such as goals, objectives and actions – and use them accordingly.. iv.
(7) Contents 1.. 2.. 3.. 4.. 5.. Introduction.................................................................................................................... 2 1.1.. Description and the definition of the scope of the thesis ...................................... 2. 1.2.. Goals ....................................................................................................................... 3. 1.3.. Methodology........................................................................................................... 3. 1.4.. Limitations .............................................................................................................. 5. International student organisation BEST ....................................................................... 6 2.1.. Description of the organisation .............................................................................. 6. 2.2.. Description of the work in the field of public relations .......................................... 7. Strategic communication ............................................................................................... 9 3.1.. Definition ................................................................................................................ 9. 3.2.. Analysis of the situation........................................................................................ 11. 3.3.. Analysis of the organisation .................................................................................. 13. 3.4.. Analysis of the key publics .................................................................................... 16. Analysis of the organisation BEST ................................................................................ 20 4.1.. Analysis of the situation........................................................................................ 20. 4.2.. Analysis of the organisation BEST ......................................................................... 21. 4.3.. Key publics ............................................................................................................ 29. Proposed communication strategy for the organisation BEST .................................... 34 5.1.. Goals, objectives and actions................................................................................ 35. 5.2.. Evaluation ............................................................................................................. 40. 6.. Conclusion .................................................................................................................... 42. 7.. Sources and literature .................................................................................................. 44. 8.. Appendix ...................................................................................................................... 46. v.
(8) IMAGE INDEX Image 2.1 Organisational structure of BEST .......................................................................... 6 Image 3.3. The public relations audit .................................................................................. 12 Image 3.2. Categories of publics.......................................................................................... 18. TABLE INDEX Table 4.1. The rounded average of the graded self-perception of the organisation. Based on Smith, (2005, 39) ............................................................................................................ 26 Table 5.1. Gantt chart of the proposed strategy ................................................................. 40. vi.
(9) 1. Introduction 1.1. Description and the definition of the scope of the thesis The non-profit Europe-wide volunteer student organisation called “Board of European Students of Technology”, further in the text referred to as BEST, is one of the major student organisations operating in Europe at this time, with 95 local groups, known as Local BEST Groups (LBGs), located in 32 different countries. That fact alone gives us an immediate idea about the complexity of the work in the field of public relations on the international, organisation-wide level. Communication with such a vast audience, especially since the members of BEST are all engineers, is an ongoing challenge that the organisation faces. What BEST faces in daily interactions with its audience are a decreasing interest in its services, an inability to maintain a consistent approach towards its public relations work and consequently a decline in the motivation of members to work in this field. The lack of a comprehensive strategy that would maximize the engagement of its key publics and make their work more impactful is further complicated by the fact that no in-depth analysis has been made of the situation, the organisation nor of its publics. Since I have been a member of the organisation for the fourth consecutive year now, with the last one and a half spent on working at its international branch of public relations, the decision to tackle this problematic in my thesis has emerged. We will be going through the relevant literature and creating a communications strategy based on that.. 2.
(10) 1.2. Goals After posing relevant questions and identifying the problematic regarding this issue, main goals of the thesis have been posed: -. to gain knowledge of the theory in the fields of public relations, strategic communication, marketing and branding. -. to use this theoretical knowledge as a basis to create a comprehensive analysis of the organisation. -. to create a communications strategy, more specifically the goals and actions needed to address BEST’s issues, using the results of the analysis. The purpose of these goals is to solve the aforementioned issues BEST is facing and improve the working methods of the public relations department of the organisation. The essential questions that will be answered in this thesis are: -. How does strategic communication function in BEST?. -. What situation is the organisation currently in?. -. How does the internal environment look like?. -. How is BEST perceived and who are the organisation’s key publics?. -. What kind of strategies and actions need to be implemented to improve public relations work of the organisation?. 1.3. Methodology BEST, its organisational structure and its methods of work in the field of public relations will be described in the format of a case study through participatory observation and in-depth analysis. In the part which considers theory, concepts needed for the analysis of BEST and the subsequent creation of a communication strategy are going to be explained. Inquiries into what a communication strategy is, which steps of analysis are needed to cover in order to create one and what questions does one need to ask themselves for each of the steps will be made. The key concepts that are going to be discussed are the analysis of the situation, the organisation and the publics. A number of. 3.
(11) not only books, but scientific articles published in public relations and marketing journals as well will be used to achieve this, with a focus on those that are specifically about nonprofit organisations, where possible. Personal experiences and the substantial amount of available evaluation forms gathered during the work of the organisation in the past years will also be referenced to establish possible case-specific problems and their solutions that were encountered. In the second, empirical part, the methods described in the first part will be used along with personal experience and knowledge to carry out the analysis of BEST and afterwards proceed to create the communications strategy based upon the established information. The analysis of the organisation will involve taking a closer look at the situation it is currently located in, the organisation itself as evaluated by the members of BEST’s public relations department and its key publics. Each of the named aspects will be analysed according to the steps and guiding questions located in the literature and will provide the clear picture that is needed to then create a communications strategy. The communications strategy will contain the following information: 1. Goals – which serve as descriptors of the overall direction of the strategy 2. Objectives – the next logical step, where the statements get specific and measurable, and what needs to be done to achieve the goals is defined 3. Actions – the level of actual implementation of the objectives, where the actual work is described 4. A Gantt chart – a graphical representation of the timeline of implementation 5. Evaluation – methods of evaluating the work done. 4.
(12) 1.4. Limitations The analysis and communications strategy will be based on only one organisation, with its specific structure, field of work and set of issues. Not all of the information found in the literature and not all the steps defined in the creation of an analysis and communication strategy might be appropriate or feasible due to that. The strategy itself will be based upon mainly on the concept of the “Nine Steps of Strategic Public Relations” as outlined by Smith (2005, 10), but will not cover the steps 7-9 due to them going into specific tactics and evaluation work. The reason for this is that they cannot be appropriately defined and carried out by the organisation because of time constraints of this thesis work and would require the involvement of a larger amount of people. Therefore, only the analysis and strategy steps will be worked upon.. 5.
(13) 2. International student organisation BEST 2.1. Description of the organisation BEST is a voluntary, apolitical, non-profit, non-representative international association of European students of technology founded in 1989, with around 4000 members spread across 32 countries and 95 Local BEST groups, from here on referred to as LBG(s), who are further segmented into 11 regions in order to encourage cooperation between them. (BEST Website (2017) The vision of BEST is an environment of empowered diversity among the European students of technology. BEST’s mission, through which it means to achieve its vision, is to develop students by helping them achieve an international mindset, reach a better understanding of cultures and societies and to develop the capacity to work in culturally diverse environments. BEST also aims to create opportunities for the personal development of students and supports them in reaching their full potential. The core services of the organisation according to the Identity of BEST (2016) are: 1. Providing complementary education by bringing a significant added value to the education provided by universities. 2. Providing career support and by connecting students with their future employers 3. Increasing educational involvement by increasing the awareness of students on issues related to engineering education and improving engineering education through the input of those students. The actual services throughout these core services are provided are the following: BEST Courses, the European BEST Engineering Competition (EBEC), BEST Symposia on Education, BEST Career Day, BEST Career Center. The stakeholders of BEST are defined as students, universities and partners. Even though the local groups form the basis of the organisation, several international bodies exist within the organisation whose aim is to provide support to these groups, which can be seen on image 2.1 below. 6.
(14) Image 2.1. Organisational structure of BEST. BEST Annual Report (2016). 2.2. Description of the work in the field of public relations The Public Relations Department deals with all matters regarding public relations and strategic communication inside the organisation. The Department Regulations (2017.) of BEST define the purpose of it as follows: “The Public Relations Department monitors, builds and maintains the external image of BEST by building strong relations with media and relevant public." The department itself consists of five teams working in different fields, namely: . the Brand Awareness team, whose aim is to educate LBGs and other relevant bodies about the different brands of BEST and how to properly present them in order to portray BEST’s image properly to the outside world.. . the Photo Group, whose aim is to manage all the photos of BEST, share knowledge between photographers and BESTies who want to learn and organise photo contests. 7.
(15) . the Media Relations team, whose purpose is to manage the presence of BEST in external media channels, by planning, contacting and negotiating partnerships with international media channels, and following relevant blogs, news and trends.. . the Social Media team, which consists of people who manage BEST’s social media channels.. . the Text Editors team, whose aim is to provide high quality and professional content with clear, consistent and informative materials regarding BEST.. Even though the work is split up in such a way, the teams cooperate on different overlapping projects and communicate regularly via online meetings, usually held with the use Skype calls or the Google Hangouts service. The organisation has a defined visual identity, a so-called “BEST Brands Book” containing information about the five brands associated with each aforementioned service of BEST, and a very basic social media strategy, which only defines which stakeholder group is being targeted on each social media channel and with what frequency of social media posts. The social media channels used by BEST are: . Facebook – three different pages, namely “Board of European Students of Technology”,. “BEST. Season. Events”. and. “European. BEST. Engineering. Competition” . Twitter – “Board of European Students of Technology (@bestorg)”. . Instagram – “Board of European Students of Technology”. . LinkedIn – “Board of European Students of Technology”. . Flickr – “Board of European Students of Technology”. . YouTube – “BESTorganisation”. As is perhaps evident, there is a strong focus on promotion through social media and online channels, due to the fact that the international level of BEST does not have the luxury of physical presence across Europe – each LBG does its own PR and marketing locally, though the usage of BEST-wide PR materials is regulated and enforced.. 8.
(16) 3. Strategic communication 3.1. Definition In order to engage in any work in the field of public relations, it is important to define the overarching concept behind it – strategic communication. According to Smith (2005, 3), strategic communication is the intentional communication undertaken by an organisation that has a purpose and a plan and is invariably based on research and subject to eventual evaluation. It operates within a particular environment, which involves the changing relations between both the organisation and groups of people who affect it in some way. It is also often used interchangeably with the term public relations, but the terms are differentiated by the definition of strategic communications as the concept and public relations as its primary example. The term strategy itself is best explained as “the direction that the organization chooses to follow in order to fulfil its mission”. Smith (2005, 3) The importance of a strategic approach to most, if not all areas of work, is quite obvious once one realises the need for consistent high-quality results in order to achieve success and public relations is arguably the field that makes sure that success is maximised. The discipline of public relations, which is aims to manage the reputation of a given organisation with the purpose of earning understanding and support, thereby influencing their behaviour and opinion. (Oliver, 2007, 9) When creating a communications strategy, it is vital to define its goals and objectives. Nager and Allen (1984, in Smith, 2005, 69) explain those two terms with an analogy of movement, namely that the goal provides the direction while the objectives pinpoint the destination. More specifically, a goal is a statement that is rooted in the organisation’s vision and mission, stated in general terms while objectives are statements stemming from the goals that are clear and measurable. Goals can be categorised by their aims – reputation management goals, relationship management goals and task management goals. Friedman (2003, in Smith, 2005, 72) defines objectives as milestones that measure the progress towards a goal. Objectives, being directly related to the goal. 9.
(17) they are nested with, inherit this trait from the goals, but are further distinguished by the fact they have to adhere to certain standards. As previously mentioned, they have to be goal rooted, but they also need to be focused on a specific public, define the effect you hope to make, tied to research, clearly defined, measurable, include a timeframe, focused on only one response, challenging but not impossible and accepted by the entire organisation. (Smith, 2005, 69-72) While practitioners of public relations are considered the strategic communicators in all organisations, it is a fact that not only those working exclusively in the field of public relations have a public relations responsibility. That is especially true for non-profit organisations due to the nature of their social service delivery and the constraints imposed by scarce organizational resources. (Dyer, Buell, Harrison & Weber, 2002, 16) All the interaction a given company has with the public irrevocably creates a perception of the company, essentially branding it with whatever set of adjectives are invoked within the minds of the public. A brand is defined as “a collection of perceptions about an organization, formed by its every communication, action, and interaction. It is what people collectively say, feel, and think about your organization. In short, it is your reputation, identity, and good will with stakeholders and in the community.” (Daw, Cone, Erhard & Merenda, 2011, 20) Oliver (2007, 13) claims, that with the increasing influence of the internet and the globalisation of the economy, it is increasingly hard to maintain relations with the public. However, the existence of social media is helpful in this regard, with the many available channels aggregating an enormous amount of users and providing ways of reaching them. Social media can easily be defined by breaking up the term and explaining each word on its own – the social element is a clear reference to the essential characteristic inherent to all human beings of having a need to connect with each other while the media part refers to the tools used to achieve that connection. Therefore, it can be said that social media aims to create connections among people through the use of technology, build up trust in these relationships and eventually result in a purchase of our product or usage of our service. (Safko, 2010, 4) 10.
(18) Another key term that needs to be defined due to it being essential for most non-profit organisation is service marketing. As defined by Andreasen and Kotler (2003, 317), a service is any activity or benefit that one party can offer to another that is essentially intangible and does not result in the ownership of anything, with many different types of existing services in the world. As diverse as they are, a service commonly exhibits five characteristics: 1. Intangible 2. Inseparable from its producer 3. Variable in its characteristics 4. Perishable 5. Dependent on the involvement of the customer in its production Therefore, the marketing of services requires a different approach than one would take while marketing a product, with a focus on creating signs of potential quality through a process known as internal marketing. This process tries to highlight the importance of the user-friendliness and the first contact with potential clients inside the entire organisation.. 3.2. Analysis of the situation “Put simply, a situation is a set of circumstances facing an organization.” (Smith, 2005, 17) It is vital to understand the situation your organisation is positioned in, as without proper identification of the problem the organisation is addressing, you are essentially building a house with shaky foundations, so to speak. An example situation could be the disinterested public for a charity centred on animal abuse prevention, hypothetically due to a culturally inherent lack of care about animals. According to Smith (2005, 17), these situations can be approached as either opportunities (positively) or as obstacles (negatively), the key decider being the willingness of the organisation to tackle it as a positive and its ability to come to a common understanding before tackling it. With student organisations in particular, it can be quite difficult to decide on how to view a situation, let alone how to deal with it. The inherent democratic nature of BEST, where a number of students from varied backgrounds all have a voice and 11.
(19) need to agree on a certain point, it is often required to discuss it. Whether the discussion is done live at an event, one that is specifically organised for such a purpose or one that might just entail a large number of members, or online - there needs to be a dedicated time frame to pose the different arguments and their counterpoints if the situation is to be properly assessed and, more importantly, accepted by the members of the organisation. A near constant look out on the changing opportunities and public perception of issues relevant to your organisation’s field of work is imperative in order to remain successful. A key concept being a process called issues management, which is used “if decision-makers are actively looking for, anticipating, and responding to shifting stakeholder expectations and perceptions likely to have important consequences for the organization.” (Dougall, 2008) According to Heath (1997, in Dougall, 2008), there are four key actions to be taken proactively in order to engage in effective issues management: 1. Engaging in strategic business planning, 2. Getting the house in order to ensure responsibility, 3. Scouting the terrain via scanning, identification, monitoring, analysis and priority setting, 4. The preparation of a strong defence and smart offence – issues communication. These steps have been tried and tested in BEST itself during the past years, with a recent effort on actually documenting the proper procedures and establishing a group inside the PR department being the major steps towards engaging in effective issues management. Through these actions we have learned that challenges arise during the second and third actions – anticipating the issues of a Europe-wide organisation during planning is a process guided by experience and intuition that is a comparatively easier task than maintaining an active monitoring process over 95 local groups whose offline work is impossible to overview properly as an international body. The assignment of region-based supervisors that periodically visit the events of the local groups is, therefore, a highly advised course of action, with the information being forwarded back to the 12.
(20) international level, therefore solving the inherent monitoring issue mentioned. A method of preparation occasionally used in BEST is the simulation of an event, implementation of a new service or change in stakeholder interest, in which the relevant member and “crisis first-responders” go through a hypothetical scenario with multiple issues arising that aims to both poke holes at the current working methods of BEST and provoke said members into recognising further vulnerabilities within the organisation.. 3.3. Analysis of the organisation Smith (2005, 29) suggests, that three main aspects of an organisation need to be looked upon if one was to engage in a proper analysis of any given organisation, namely its internal environment, its public perception and its external environment. This process is known as a public relations audit, a visual representation of which can be seen on image 3.3 below. In a manner similar to a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis, it aims to take a critical look at these categories and establish the status of the organisation.. Image 3.3. The public relations audit. (Smith, 2005, 30). 13.
(21) Under the category of the internal environment, a look at the performance of the organisation is necessary, along with an investigation of the factors that differentiate the organisation from any other, commonly referred to as the niche, the structure of the public relations work inside the organisation itself and the organisation's internal impediments. (Smith, 2005, 31) A common and efficient method of evaluating is the implementation of organisation-wide obligatory surveys distributed to the presidents of the local groups, where questions about the previously mentioned areas are posed. There are inherent difficulties that appear during the assessment of the gathered data, such as the massive amount of information gathered that makes it difficult to draw conclusions, especially if there is no dedicated body to interpret it, along with the varying levels of experience of the members surveyed providing vastly different information that can prove to be harmful to the successfulness of the entire process. Some characteristics should, however, be born in mind while analysing the internal environment are that it is obviously constrained only to the organisation in question, it is limited to things that can be controlled, directly influenced, owned or accessible to. In example, we can state BEST has many experienced members inside the PR department with a diverse set of skills or that BEST has a poor knowledge transfer during transitional periods of a specific department project. An important question for the organisation to ask itself is whether it should engage in opportunities for which it has the appropriate strengths or perhaps focus on those that require it to come up with new strategies. (Kotler, Keller, 2012, 72) It is of great importance to be both reasonable and honest when analysing this particular category, as a false notion of the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses can affect the whole analysis process immensely and produce a worthless result. Now that opportunities have already been mentioned, it is fundamental to define the external environments category. While Smith’s (2005, 32) idea of an external environment analysis is based on examination of the supporters, competitors, opponents and other external impediments, Kotler and Keller (2012, 70) use a more broad approach 14.
(22) when inspecting the external environment of an organisation. Focusing on (1) marketing opportunities, which are areas of buyer need and interest that a company has a high probability of satisfying, and (2) environmental threats, that are challenges posed by an unfavorable trend or development that would lead to lower sales or profits in the case of the organisation being unprepared for them. (1) Supporters are a group of people that every organisation inadvertently has and are the ones that are helping the organisation out at the moment or at least have the potential to. (2) Competitors are obviously another reality of most companies and are the people or groups that do the same thing as you are in the same area, with the physical closeness being an important parameter in the identification of competitors. As the final group, we have (3) opponents, which are the people or groups that are against your organisation for whatever reason. (Smith, 2005, 32) The most common active supporters of student organisations tend to be students that used their services and were satisfied with them, along with the many professors and varied professionals/companies that cooperated on the same. In our work, we noticed the general positive tendency of said groups to be easily impressed and encouraged into becoming supporters of student organisations, which is especially true for professors and companies, with the students being a more unpredictable external group. Operating in an inherently competitive environment where everyone is fighting for the attention of students, student organisations often have to outperform the many similar organisations located in the same areas as them. However, the “If you can’t beat them, join them” approach is the prevailing way of dealing with this issue, with almost all organisations that compete for the same audience favouring partnerships among themselves, effectively improving the situation for everyone involved, including the students themselves. There are numerous forms of opponents and they have distinct traits that separate them, like their level of motivation and activity, the strength of their conviction and willingness for dialogue and compromise, and their desired impact. (Smith, 2005, 33-34) It is not rare for an international student organisation to face opponents, especially in the case of. 15.
(23) more politically oriented ones. However, in practice, any active and continuous opponents of the causes of students of technology are rarely found, with passive apathy towards BEST being their most common “extreme” trait. It is important to bear in mind that opportunities and weaknesses are external to the organisation, are factors beyond control or direct influence and depend on the action of others or on external factors. As an example of both, it could be the case that there is a huge need for a particular service in the outside world that an organisation could easily develop, but performing competitors exist in the market already. The last category, public perception, aims to find out what people think about the organisation. This is achieved by analysing the organisation’s visibility and reputation, with visibility being defined as whether people know about the organisation, what they know and how accurate it is, and reputation dealing with how people evaluate the organisation based on the information they possess. (Smith, 2005, 31). 3.4. Analysis of the key publics “A public is a group of people that share a common interest vis-a-vis an organization, recognizes its significance and sets out to do something about it. “ (Dewey, 1927 in Smith, 2005, 42) What brings together the different (1) publics and an organisation is the interaction or dependency on each other with regards to a certain common issue. It is also important to distinguish the difference between a public, a market and an audience, due to these terms regularly being used interchangeably while it is important to distinguish them from each other. The next step is the definition of what (2) a market is. These are the people in certain publics that not only care about common issues but also share your values and interests, effectively choosing to conduct business with you - this is the part of the public that will allow. an. organisation. to. achieve. its. mission. and. goals.. 16.
(24) (3) Audiences, on the other hand, are the people that organisations have the shortest relationships with, as they are mere users of a medium that also broadcasts your message. They hold no genuine interest in your work and will only pay attention for the duration of the article or broadcast they encounter you through. (Smith, 2005, 42-43) According to Smith (2005, 44) the characteristics of a public are that it is a distinguishable group of individuals, homogenous in the sense that its members have common traits and interests, important to your organisation’s success while also being large enough to matter and reachable enough for you to engage in communication with them. What defines a key or strategic public is the fact that it consists of the people an organisation specifically wants to engage in communication with. A volunteer student organisation working primarily in the field of medicine will, for example, want to engage with students of medicine that are not volunteering yet but have an interest in it. There is often more than one key public that is important for the work of an organisation, so identifying and prioritising them based on the current situation are important steps before deciding what actions will be taken to reach them. They are also divided into four categories: customers, producers, enablers and limiters. (1) Customers denote the type of public that receives the products and services of the organisation; (2) producers represent those that provide input to the organisation, whether through providing financial backing, being engaged in work for the organisation or providing supplies to them; (3) Enablers are groups that act as regulators by setting the standards the organisation has to adhere to, opinion leaders that can influence potential customers and the media; while (4) limiters are the ones that aim to undermine the work of the organisation. A graphic representation can be seen in image 3.2. below.. 17.
(25) Image 3.2. Categories of publics. Smith (2005, 45) When analysing key publics, it is needed to look at them in regards to five key characteristics - the public relations situation, the organization, the public's communication behaviour, its demographics and its personality. (Smith 2005, 55-56) The public relations situation constitutes of assessing the public’s various wants, needs, interests and expectations related to an issue, including what they do not desire or require. The organisation characteristic considers its relationship with the organisation and how the organisation influences them while taking into account visibility and reputation. Communication behaviour entails the public’s choice of media and communication channels, the sources they deem credible and its opinion leaders. Demographics include the age, income, gender, socioeconomic status and other relevant information. Finally the personality of the public, where the psychological and temperamental preferences are assessed in order to later be used in creating tailored messages for the chosen key publics. According to Smith (2005, 49), publics can also be divided into their stages of development. It is important to note that no matter the stage of development, each public must be monitored for any signs of change, as a change in type would require a change in approach. The different types of publics in regards to their stage of development are the following: nonpublic, latent, apathetic, aware and active. 18.
(26) A nonpublic is a group that is simply not relevant to the organisation, does not care about it any of issues they are engaged in and do not influence them in any way. A nonpublic to a store specialising in dogs i.e. would be people that do not own dogs and have no desire of doing so. The latent public is the group of people cares about the issues the organisation cares about but does not really recognise the situation yet. An apathetic public is a type of public that recognizes the issues the organisation tackles, yet does not care for engaging in them due to perceiving them as being not important enough to warrant action. Resources should be invested in preparing ways of engaging this public, but one must be aware of the difficulty that changing their opinions might pose. An aware public is one that recognised the issues as relevant but is not organised enough to act upon their interests just yet. The response of the organisations public relations practitioners should be to engage this public in proactive communication, provide the information and explain the means by which it aims to act upon the situation. Finally, active publics are the final stage of development – they both recognise and act on the issue, not necessarily in line with the organisation, but also can be active against it. The public itself can dictate the conversation at this stage, leaving the organisation to react to them instead of the other way around.. 19.
(27) 4. Analysis of the organisation BEST 4.1. Analysis of the situation BEST has been focusing on defining and establishing its service along with changing its organisational structure in the past two years, creating a need for the change in the public relations (PR) work of the organisation – naturally becoming a responsibility of the PR department. The department itself was only established in 2016 and has only begun to steer the public relations of the organisation towards a more strategic and empirical approach. BEST is an organisation founded 28 years ago, but has always had a comparative lack of PR knowledge due to a vast majority of engineering students not having a PR background of any kind, so attempts were made over the years to create documents based on professional literature in order to secure higher standard of PR work in the future. However, an actual communications strategy was not created yet and the organisation is still conducting its PR work based on instinct and proven practices from earlier years. This has resulted in a stagnation of the number of followers on the organisation’s social media channels and an essential non-existent interaction rate with its stakeholders, primarily students. It is hard to say precisely if this bleak social media landscape has had any influence on it, due to the fact that it is effectively impossible to measure the combined influence of 95 groups, but the number of student applications to BEST’s services has also been stagnating, with a slight downward tendency in the past three years. Because the mission of BEST is developing students with the vision being a Europe with its diversity empowered, it is of utmost importance that the trend of reaching a larger amount of students is continued. It is also quite dangerous for the organisation to lose the competitive edge of having a lot of students using its services Europe-wide, since it could potentially result in a diminished interest from other stakeholders, partners and universities, with whom there were no issues encountered so far.. 20.
(28) It is therefore of vital importance to analyse the different aspects of the organisation through professionally crafted, tested methods and create a communications strategy based on it. This is rather a large step and there are only a limited amount of materials to help with its enforcement and implementation. Even if a strategic approach to PR does not result in an improvement of the situation, it will become apparent that the issues were the results of other trends and a different approach can be taken. Therefore, this situation would be classified as an opportunity, rather than an obstacle. The duration of this situation is hard to determine, but it is safe to say that it is an ongoing process that will very likely continue for at least 2 years, based on our knowledge of the speed of change implementation inside BEST. It has been theorised by experienced and high-ranking members of BEST that its services simply do not meet the needs of the European students anymore. Conducting market research would solve the general lack of knowledge on the subject of student's interests while providing us with a clearer picture of possible actions the organisation could take. Such a development would allow both BEST to improve itself and by extension make its main demographic more motivated to continue using their services. BEST, therefore, realises the utmost importance of solving this situation, and has dedicated the past year to the creation of vital PR materials and will continue to do so in the next year.. 4.2. Analysis of the organisation BEST The internal environment BEST is a voluntary, apolitical, non-profit, non-representative international association of European students of technology founded in 1989, with around 4000 members spread across 32 countries and 95 Local BEST groups. (BEST Website, 2017) An average BEST member is experienced in working inside a team, both online and offline is trained in a range of so called soft-skills (examples include public speaking, leadership, time management), is proactive and creative, internationally minded with a strong wish to work in an international environment.. 21.
(29) The services BEST provides are not limited only to its members but are actually exclusively targeted to non-BEST students. They share a common thread of being very affordable and cost-effective. The benefits BEST’s services offer are numerous and it is, therefore, necessary to describe each of them. The services themselves are listed in a document called BEST Brands Book (2017.), where the basics of each brand are explained, but we will elaborate more on them based on personal experience and knowledge acquired during our work within the organisation. BEST’s biggest and most successful service, by extension the one that is suffering the most from the lack of strategic communication and effective promotion, is “BEST Courses”. BEST Courses are events designed to provide complementary education to students of different nationalities and backgrounds. Through this service, students are provided with an opportunity for personal development, enjoy encounters with innovative engineering and modern technology, gain opportunities to travel, meet new cultures and new friends, along with experiencing learning in an international environment. Another is the “European BEST Engineering Competition”, known as EBEC, a multi-level group of events created to test the theoretical knowledge of students through a practical application through different challenges. The events are chained in a pyramid shape starting with a local competition in each LBG, going through a national or regional phase and ending in a European final. Teams of four participants from any technological background solve challenges designed by professors or companies and then present them before a jury of the same. The benefits of this service are the opportunity to practice and test out the knowledge acquired in their university on real problems, develop teamwork, creativity and presentation skills, improve practical skills, theoretical knowledge and English level. It also provides relevant experience with current industry by solving realistic tasks from the side of companies, getting closer to the industry’s reality, their way of thinking and working. BEST Symposia on Education are events designed to allow students, once again from different nationalities and backgrounds, to have relevant contributions to the. 22.
(30) development of education. Each event provides approximately 20 students with the opportunity to discuss matters of higher education during a week-long event, the theme of which is provided by universities, educational institutions, e.g. FEANI (European Federation of National Engineering Associations) and SEFI (European Society for Engineering Education), and companies. All the resulting discussions happening in a BEST Symposium on Education are processed, reported and disseminated via scientific papers and conference presentations, with the aim of impacting European educational policy. The students get to voice concerns regarding education and providing input for its development, while also learning about different educational trends in other parts of Europe. Among the newest services BEST provides is “BEST Career Day”, a European career fair which offers an opportunity for students to meet with representatives from international companies and universities in a networking environment. Each instance of this event gathers approximately 300 students who are selected to participate by the attending partners. The event lasts a full day and takes place in Brussels each year. Some of the benefits offered to students are opportunities to build an international network of contacts, get in touch with companies and universities looking for top talent while also potentially receive job offers, a chance to sign up for internships and graduate programs. The final and only service that is not based on an event is the „BEST Career Center“, which is an online career-oriented set of tools. Through the BEST Career Center, internationally minded technology and engineering students and recent graduates get the chance to interact with their future employers, both universities and companies. This service takes full advantage of digital means to support companies and universities in sharing and promoting their programmes towards their desired target group through newsletters, a CV database and a webinar platform. It grants students the opportunity to have their CV be found by partners, access targeted career/study opportunities easily and stay updated about BEST partners and their offers. Each user of BEST’s services is obligated to fill out an evaluation form after attending any of the events organised, contributing a valuable performance indicator that highlights a. 23.
(31) standard of high-quality services in the last three years. BEST also has a strictly regulated rulebook that dictates what each event must ensure in order to be “stamped” as successful, with a number of systems in place that reward Local BEST groups in case they organise exemplary events, thereby encouraging the work on high-quality provision of services organisation-wide. The organisational leadership is therefore quite satisfied with the current situation in this regard but is consequently more worried about the issues related to the deteriorating application numbers in spite of the good service provided. The improvement of the current situation has therefore been included in a long-term services strategy, with the aim of investigating market trends, improving quality standards for events and introducing long term marketing strategies that help the services develop. The PR department of BEST has a small budget of 200 €, mostly used for boosting specific key posts and online advertisements, exclusively for the “BEST Career Day” service, since it is the newest one with the biggest need of promotion. The PR department consists of around 30 volunteers in total, working in the previously described teams. Even though their current levels of activity are high, this was not the case for the entire year and drops in motivation and therefore in the amount and quality of the work being done. The most straightforward way of measuring the activity of PRD project members can be the attendance rate of weekly online meetings and participation at brainstorming sessions and discussions usually conducted via email. There is no indication that the number of volunteers working inside the department will drop and the opposite has been observed happening since the structural changes of the organisation, which allowed volunteers to join international projects easier. However, it remains to be seen if this trend will continue and when it will reach its peak – this is hard to guess due to the relatively small amount of time spent working in these circumstances. Another strength of the department is its ability to influence the organisation's decision making progress. The main purpose of department members, that are not necessarily still actively working on a project but focus on the meta aspect of the department and vote on any changes related to its work, is to be the experts in the field of PR that are always referred to when the organisation makes decisions relating to any of their services.. 24.
(32) However, there is an occasional tendency by the top management to resist the proposed solutions by the PR department, in example concerning changes to long established terminology inside the organisation that does not match the one used by the professional world due to perceived damage it would cause to the current working methods. The Local BEST Groups show the same occasional resistance towards the concepts propagated by the PR department, often acting against the brand associated with a service for the purpose of getting more sponsors. Work on internal marketing and the education of the members of BEST is therefore needed and could be done via projects aimed at this issue. Public perception Even though the visibility of BEST varies from among the local groups, on an international level BEST is known by the different publics of students, educational institutions, organisations working in the field of engineering and education, and companies. The fact that around twenty thousand students from all over Europe use its services yearly displays a considerable degree of visibility. The perception of BEST’s services after a finished event is overwhelmingly positive, with the average grading percentage given firmly around 80%, indicating the high quality and consistency of the services. The resulting evaluations often contain points of improvement as well as positive feedback. However, especially in regards to “BEST Courses”, there is a tendency to identify these courses as mostly “fun-centred” events, while their main purpose is to provide complementary education and not entertainment or recreation. A recent increase of perceived ineptitude and bias on the regional/national rounds of the “European BEST Engineering Competition” has also resulted in negative perceptions of the service, with corresponding crisis PR being utilised during the times of dealing with said issues. It is safe to say that the reputation of the organisation has remained unchanged in the past three years, while facing a slight deterioration in the past year, resulting in the discontent of the organisation's leadership. The organisation’s perception of its services will be presented based on Smith’s (2005, 39) proposed method of grading between two opposite terms on a scale from 1-5, with the value of “1” representing total agreement with the term placed on the left and the value. 25.
(33) “5” representing total agreement with the term placed on the right end spectrum. The agreed upon value will be underlined. A group containing all of the public relations department members that are involved in different areas of work was surveyed according to the method, with an added possibility of commenting upon their chosen ratings. Contemporary. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Traditional. Ordinary. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Distinguished. Beneficial. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Worthless. Essential. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Luxury. Practical. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Idealistic. Routine. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Innovative. Fun. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Tedious. High Quality. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Low Quality. Efficient. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Inefficient. Inexpensive. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Expensive. Table 4.1. The rounded average of the graded self-perception of the organisation. Based on Smith, (2005, 39) While most of the participants of the survey didn’t provide additional comments, two pointed out that BEST offers many benefits to students for a low price; a statement which the majority of participants confirmed by rating the organisation as “Inexpensive” rather than “Expensive” in their recorded responses. A tendency of the public relations practitioners to get stuck in routine was also pointed out. External environment The European landscape of non-profit student organisations is thoroughly saturated, with numerous student organisations competing for the students’ attention. Only in the field of technology and engineering there exist two more Europe-wide organisations of considerable size that compete with BEST, albeit for a more specific audience.. However, BEST cooperates with most of them, engaging with them by. accepting their members and sending its members to each other’s events. This ensures. 26.
(34) that both organisations profit from the work of each, learn from their mistakes and promote themselves to an audience they have potentially not reached yet. The relationships between these organisations and BEST will be explored next. bonding-student initiative e.V. This German-based organisation of engineering and natural science students, that is also a formal partner of BEST, works primarily on organising high-quality job fairs intended to bridge the gap between the students and companies. While job fairs and the “BEST Career Day” services BEST provides are similar to those of bonding, bonding attracts far more students and companies than BEST does on each of their events. They have a primarily funded by the companies attending these events, who have to pay for a seat at the table, so to speak. It is for this reason that BEST aims to learn from bonding and adapt their good practices to ensure the high quality and high demand for their own career-related events. AEGEE (European Students’ Forum) AEGEE is a transnational, interdisciplinary student organisation based in Europe that is also a partner of BEST. They are substantially larger and more widespread than BEST, they number around 12.000 members and are present in 200 university cities. (AEGEE Website, 2017) Unlike BEST, they provide their services exclusively to their members and fund themselves through their local groups, which are required to pay for their continued membership of the organisation. While the entirety of its work is political, based around the promotion of European ideas and values, they still compete for the same demographic as BEST, namely students in Europe. However, they do not attract as many engineering students as BEST does. They are closely tied to the Council of Europe, while also having consultative status at the United Nations. Due to BEST considering the change of its apolitical position into a political one, and the large size of AEGEE, BEST works with them in order to gain key insights on how to improve itself.. 27.
(35) ESTIEM (European Students of Industrial Engineering and Management) Another partner of BEST, ESTIEM is an organisation that connects European students that possess both engineering and management skills. The goal of this organisation is to establish and foster relations between students across Europe and support them in their professional and personal development, much like BEST. They have 8000 members spread over 81 universities around Europe. (ESTIEM Website, 2017) Facing many of the same issues as BEST, especially in the field of public relations and a stagnating level of interaction with their stakeholders, they regularly attend BEST’s internal events and contribute by providing their perspective and learning from BEST. Their reputation is one of a serious organisation with a significant impact on the lives of their members. Much like AEGEE, it only provides services to its members. The environment of student organisations is estimated to be steadily improving, as there is a growing trend of students realising the need to engage in volunteering and extracurricular work to prepare themselves for the increasingly demanding work environment. It is highly unlikely and unreasonable to expect this trend, backed up by the increasing development of the countries within the EU, to die down or reverse itself in the next three years. A possible impediment of the next three years might be the lack of funding the organisation is able to secure from its partners, due to the expiration of some contracts and grants that provide a majority source of income. This further reaffirms the need to maximise the efficiency across the board inside BEST. The general disinterest of students in regards to engaging in casual communication with NGOs is another external factor that is quite a problem for BEST in particular. A possible solution may be the development of a campaign aimed at rectifying it. The fact that BEST is also an apolitical organisation severely limits its impact in the field of education and advocacy for its stakeholders. Without the ability to express its own opinions and lobby for causes that would improve its situation, this is unlikely to change.. 28.
(36) 4.3.Key publics Customers The primary customers of the organisation are students of technology, specifically in the fields of natural sciences, mathematics and statistics, information and communication technologies, engineering, manufacturing and construction. Ideally, they would be at the beginning of their undergraduate or graduate studies seeking a means of volunteering that would allow them to develop themselves while simultaneously developing others and/or making a positive difference in the field of complementary education. Secondary customers are clearly the companies and educational institutions in the fields previously defined for primary customers, that benefit from having internationally experienced students, with a high degree of soft skills, organisational capabilities and experience of working in a team. Both of these customer groups have not changed since the establishment of the organisation, even though they were not properly defined, and will not change in the long term. Producers The volunteers working on all of BEST’s services and events are the essential driving force behind the organisation along with the companies and universities whose financial aid and sponsorships allow said projects and events to exist. The companies are all working in fields relevant to engineering, with the universities in question being those that are homes to local BEST groups. A major backer is also the Erasmus+ programme, whose grant has secured the funds of BEST for the past three years. This particular situation will change and a substantial effort will have to be taken by BEST in order to gain a similar grant. Enablers Possible opinion leaders amongst students on a European level are unfortunately nonexistent but may be found in the form of deans of faculty or young company CEOs with a propensity for voicing their opinions publicly. Due to the international manner of BEST’s work, even in the case of not being able to secure the support of Europe-wide opinion 29.
(37) leaders, it has the ability to promote such a tactic to its local groups and consequentially improve its total standing. The allies of BEST are its partner NGOs (AEGEE, bonding, CFES, ESTIEM) and institutional partners (FEANI, SEFI, IFEES and YFJ), with whom BEST has agreements of cooperation of varying levels which aim to ensure mutual benefits. The main regulator of BEST is the Belgian government, that dictates the standards and norms BEST has to adhere to since it was registered there as an organisation. They provide no direct help towards BEST, however, other than allowing for its existence. BEST currently has zero involvement with both traditional or new, online media on an international level, drastically decreasing the reach of its services. This area is in desperate need of improvement, as continuous underuse of traditional channels severely limits BEST’s capabilities. There are currently no plans to increase the number of partners, but a focus on acquiring opinion leaders and media contacts is a top priority for the organisation. Limiters Fortunately and perhaps ironically, BESTs only real competitors are also their partners. While BEST’s partner NGOs do take away a certain share of its audience and direct it towards themselves, the continued extensive cooperation and promotion between the organisations ensures that students still meet BEST. The continued cooperation on different events, like the recent effort with AEGEE on acquiring a grant together or with CFES to start a global engineering competition, ensures that the mutually beneficial relationships between BEST and different organisations continue. Key publics In order to maximise the potential of solving the insufficient interest of its primary customers in its services, BEST has to limit itself on the most vital publics in regards to this issue. Therefore, the selected key publics are (1) students of technology with an interest in learning outside of traditional environments that have not heard of BEST yet, (2) European media interested in student affairs and (3) opinion leaders, namely deans of faculty.. 30.
(38) (1) Students of technology with an interest in learning outside of traditional environments that have not heard of BEST yet are an aware public that can become an active one. The students will be drawn to the services due to their wish them already being interested in gaining knowledge and skills outside of standard curriculum - due to being students, they want a cheap, compact and effective means of gaining them and BEST presenting its services in such a way will result in their increased interest. This key audience makes or breaks BEST since they are the main reason for its existence. BEST can make this public feel more empowered and ready to face the challenges of professional and student life with greater ease. They are currently unaware or only slightly aware of BEST, possibly hearing about the BEST Courses and how fun they are. While accurate, that perception misses the essential point of BEST Courses and would, therefore, need to be properly presented towards this key public. This public has no loyalty towards the organisation at this moment, but are prepared act on their wishes in engaging in the services BEST provides. This public regularly browses through social media, with occasionally checking traditional media albeit in internet form. The public is not actively searching for opportunities to engage in non-traditional learning opportunities but will act on it if the information about it is presented to them. They trust their faculty staff, follow industry leaders and will engage in services those two groups present to them as appealing. They prefer messages that convey ideas, provide them with possibilities they could exploit in the future and depict a vision of themselves that is more knowledgeable and possess more skills relevant to their future careers. They are prepared to act on their needs, are ambitious rather than complacent and are looking to gain an edge over their colleagues. They are students, mostly in the age range of 19-25, located in Europe and living geographically close to their universities. Their limited financial capabilities make them more likely to react to low-cost opportunities of reaching their goals.. 31.
(39) BEST can provide them with the skills and knowledge they seek through high quality, affordable services that allow them to fulfil their need to gain competitive advantages in the workplace. (2) European media interested in student affairs are an aware public that can become an active one. They are aware of the importance of services that provide complementary education to students and are willing to cover them due to them being interesting to their readership. They would expect a serious approach from BEST in regards to the promotion of its services, with a professional level press releases and information provided to them so they can present it in the most appealing fashion. Since they are currently unaware of BEST, they would need it to properly present itself and the ways it can provide a beneficial relationship. They are prepared on helping out organisations they deem interesting enough to cooperate with and are very much aware of the influence they have over them; BEST, therefore, recognises the importance of media themselves and would want to engage with them carefully. This key public communicates through emails and phone calls and pays attention to other media and what is trending. They are actively seeking information since it is their main purpose, with credibility being important to them and would, therefore, respond well to a professional approach based on facts and previous reports made by other media. They prefer to be presented with factual messages that contain clear and current information that they can present as news that is in line with the sentiments of their audience and is focused on them. BEST can provide them with the news that their audience seeks filled with information that is directly beneficial to them and will ensure their loyalty towards the media itself. (3) Faculty deans are also an aware public that has not yet organised for action but has the capabilities to.. 32.
(40) Faculty staff and deans are aware of the need for students to seek out extra-curricular means of acquiring skills and knowledge, but vary of sub standard solutions to that problem. It would certainly expect a high degree of quality behind any service aimed at helping students achieve their goals. They would also like to promote their faculties towards potential students and raise the status of both their faculties and universities. Deans are very often involved in many student-led initiatives and events and publicly support those that deliver consistently good results.. Almost all deans are aware of BEST’s presence at their university/faculty, but with varying levels of knowledge about their work. It would be necessary to point out the benefits of the cooperation, with getting more students active and involved in education as a winwin for both BEST and faculty deans. They are aware of the essential importance of their support towards BEST and could, therefore, ask for potential counter favours. Communication – They communicate mostly through email, but due to the nature of their work they are often overburdened by the sheer number of them and therefore a personal approach is required when engaging with them, primarily through scheduled meetings. Faculty deans tend to be older, with many years of experience inside the educational system. They are located in close proximity to their workplace, are highly educated, and tend to be harder to impress into serious action.. 33.
(41) 5. Proposed communication strategy for the organisation BEST Based on the completed analysis and the gathered information, the main issues identified were that BEST faces a decrease in the number of applications, a lack of contact with the media and a lack of support from relevant opinion leaders. This is all further underlined by the lack of a public relations strategy of any kind. Because of this, we propose a communication strategy whose main goals are aimed at addressing these issues BEST is facing. The strategy will be structured in a way that each goal, its objectives and associated actions required to achieve it are explained one by one, with added commentary on the work that needs to be done. The goals are all externally oriented and therefore require the use of external communication. The timeframe of this strategy would be one year, after which it would be evaluated. In the objectives section, the objectives and the accompanying actions related to each specific goal which aim to fulfil said goal are determined. Since objectives are intrinsically tied to goals, they will be grouped under each goal. It is of vital importance that to actually define the actions that would result in the successful completion of the aforementioned objectives and, by extension, the fulfilment of the goals. Once defined, a graphic representation via Gantt chart will be used to propose a specific timeline.. 34.
(42) 5.1. Goals, objectives and actions Goal 1 - The number of students using our services is increased via social media Objective 1 - Increase the number of social media posts, which are currently averaging 3 posts a week, to an average of 1 post per day in the next 6 months and maintain the post frequency Objective 2 – Ensure that each brand is the focus of at least 1 post every 2 weeks with a deadline of one month after the start of the implementation of the strategy Objective 3 - Achieve a positive trend of the number of applications to our services in the next year and achieve a 10% increase in the following year Related actions In order to fulfil the set goal, the social media team will not only have to work with the Text Editors team in the creation of a sufficient number of posts, they would also need to devise a strategic approach to the creation and posting of said content. This can be achieved with weekly online meetings if needed between both groups, where a discussion for the following two weeks would take place. The topic would be about the scheduling of the content and the re-posting of important messages in order to maximise their reach. Along with discussing and creating the actual posts, a portion of the time would be used for research on the current trends in social media, in order to make sure no opportunities to abuse them are missed. Along with the trends, a close eye needs to be kept on the activities of competitors with a larger social media presence, i.e. AEGEE, for the purpose of gaining knowledge on what working methods of theirs are successful and allow them to achieve such high numbers. In order to ensure every brand is represented by at least one post, a table will be used in order to streamline the process of post creation. By using such a simple form of post sorting, it is ensured the need to represent the brands is fulfilled that each week and no post is forgotten. The use of Google spreadsheets allows the commenting functionality,. 35.
(43) which enables the social media team members to provide quick feedback on the created posts and ensure high-quality content. This regular posting would be enforced on all of BEST’s social media channels, with the style of posts being adapted to the specific platform since there are major differences between posting on Facebook and Twitter. Another important opportunity that will be exploited is the function of creating advertising and boosting specific posts, available to us on Facebook and LinkedIn, to boost high-value posts in order to reach the most people and ensure their visibility. Frequent usage of paid promotion would result in a substantial amount of data available about the students that use BEST’s services and the effectiveness of the methods used. This knowledge will be evaluated and its conclusions implemented semiannually. The types of content that could be created are customer testimonial posts/articles, general interest articles about BEST courses and how they work, articles containing image galleries with short explanations of each picture, articles about efficient travelling, reminders to apply to BEST’s services, testimonials from industry experts and students etc. Communication with the different local groups and project teams will be required in order to obtain the large amounts of material needed for such a substantial amount of posts, hence a system must be put in place that dictates who among the social media team members contacts which relevant entity inside BEST, along with storing the collected materials in a database. Using the popular live feed option that some channels provide to provide a closer look at how the events transpire is another possible approach. The growing popularity of streaming live videos from events, the simplicity of setting them up and some already successful attempts to stream BEST events are strong arguments in favour of it.. 36.