Expert Columns

The sign is forever etched in my memory. It hung in the window of our main studio – right in our field of vision. You couldn't flip on the microphone without seeing it: “Be sure your brain is in gear before engaging your mouth.”  
That might be good advice for all of us who work on air … and post on social media.
Social media is a powerful tool. It is today what radio, TV and newsprint were when they were introduced. As it grows, we're learning more about the positives and negatives of social media – especially when it comes to our jobs.
Something we've been talking about behind the scenes here at CMW is how social media can help or hurt your career. Can your social media posts affect your chances of getting a job … and on the flip side, can you be fired for social media posts.
First, a disclaimer: this should not be construed as legal advice.
Secondly, as fellow Christian communicators, we want to challenge you to honor Christ with your words – both on air and online.
With that said, here are some tips to help you remember to “Be sure your brain is in gear” before engaging your mouth or fingers.
Can you be fired for something you've posted online? Yes. Your employer can fire you for posts that disparage the company or go against established standards. The one type of post that gets more people in trouble than any others? Political posts. While politics has always been a spectator sport in America, social media has given everyone a megaphone to spread their views – for good or ill. And in today's culture, political rhetoric can cause lasting damage to an organization's image and finances. Whether you realize it – or intend it – your words represent your organization. You – as an employee – are a walking, talking billboard for your company. While your employer can't tell you what to think, they can – and should – take action if your words disparage or damage the organization.
Can an employer choose not to hire you based on a social media post? This one is a little tricky. Company recruiters are careful not to use social media to discriminate. However, social media is public. And in most cases, you are the one who posted your images, memes and words. Some social media outlets – Facebook, for example – allow you to restrict who can and can't see your posts, but online your reputation follows you. While your post captures the spotlight for a short time (See last week's article, “How Long Does a Tweet Last?”), those posts are archived and available online for a long, long time. A simple Google search will show you exactly what future employees can see. If you have a reputation as a provocateur or trouble maker, don't be surprised if you find few open doors. Especially in the media or communications industries. What you are is what you bring to the job. Employers want people who benefit the organization
How do you protect your career and your online reputation? Common sense goes a long way. And social media is just another form of communication – the same thing you and I have been doing for a long time. With that said, here are a couple of ideas:
1) Treat social media like an open microphone. Anything you say can – and will – be heard.
2) Use the “Grandma Rule” - Would you say or show this post to your grandma? If not, then maybe it's not the best thing to share with social media audiences.
3) Use Scripture as a guide. No, it's not being preachy. We're Christian communicators, so we should use God's Word as a guide for our words. Philippians 4:8 offers a good checklist: “...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.”
Our words, whether spoken or written, carry weight and have consequences. Use your words wisely and “Make sure your brain is in gear before engaging your mouth … or your fingers.”

Bill Arbuckle

How long does a Tweet last? A Facebook post? An Instagram photo?
Not nearly as long as we’d like.
Natalie Peterson, a writer for Ragan’s PR Daily newsletter did the research. Here’s what she found:
• Facebook: Posts receive 75% of their impressions within the first two and a half hours. Half of all impressions are made within the first 30 minutes.
• Twitter: Most tweets are read within one hour of posting.
• YouTube: YouTube videos last the longest – half of all views happen within the first seven hours.
• Snapchat: Ten seconds before it’s gone.
• Instagram: Photos and stories disappear 24 hours after being posted.
People are deluged with information, content and conversations. We’ve been trained to think in soundbites, jump cuts and flashy images. The average person’s attention span is about eight seconds. Most people read less than 100 words in an article.
So how do you get someone’s attention? How do you connect with them?
Use only the best.
The best stories. The best words. The best ideas.
Bring your best.
Your best energy. Your best personality. Your best storytelling.
Building connections and getting noticed isn’t easy. But it’s vital that you put in the time and do the hard work. Otherwise, your words are gone within seconds.

SOURCE: How Your Social Media Presence Can Keep Up with the Kardashians (Natalie Peterson, PRDaily.com, 5/17/17

You’ve worked to develop a significant brand. You’ve put time into crafting imagers, creating an online presence, and reminding listeners about who you are.
Now, you want to know if all that work is paying off. How can you tell? It all comes down to this one simple question: What is the first thing listeners say about your station?
Listeners don’t have to parrot your slogan/ID/imagers word-for-word. Nor do they have to know the font colors and graphics. But remember that <b>a brand is a promise you make to your listeners. If you are keeping your promise to listeners, they’ll know. And they’ll be able to tell others about the promise you’ve made.
It really is that simple. But don’t be fooled. It takes a lot of hard work.
Our job in media is to build people connections. To relate. And we relate to listeners when we make promises and keep them. That’s why it’s important to not just say that we’re family friendly…<b>we have to keep our word. Even when it’s not convenient. Or easy. Your job is to always stick to your brand promise and put the family first.
Is your branding effective? Are you keeping your brand promises? You’ll find out when you take time to listen.

You’ve already put in the hard work required to build a brand. You’ve created your brand promise by telling listeners what to expect. And you deliver on that promise every day.
Now comes the next step: Use your brand to engage your audience.
How does brand engagement work? I recommend three steps: Learn, listen, and live.
LEARN: Radio does a good job at learning about their listeners. We pay attention to ratings, demographics, and market research. But don’t just stop at the statistics. A good brand actively learns about its audience. But don’t be content with surface info. Go deeper. It’s what separates you from the competition. Learn about your users habits, her routines, her shopping preferences, her kids and what they like, and what everyday concerns she faces. Never stop learning about your listeners.
LISTEN: The next time you’re out in the field, take time to listen to the conversations around you. When you’re standing in a long line at the store, keep your ears open. What are people talking about? What’s the topic of the day? What are they saying…and more importantly, HOW are they saying it? You may be surprised to find out that your brand is addressing the issues people are discussing, but they aren’t hearing it because you’re slightly off-key. Listening to others can teach your brand how to talk to others.
LIVE: Live where your listeners live. This step is, I think, the toughest for Christian radio broadcasters. Because we represent Jesus Christ, we are called to live differently than the guys over at the Top 40 station. But the truth is, we’re called to minister to people who often live tough, messy lives. Your “Becky/Lisa/Sara” may be a classy mom who holds down a job, marriage and three kids…but her nephew just “came out,” her husband just lost his job because of budget cuts, and her mom has Stage 3 breast cancer. Oh, and kid #2 just got called to the principal’s office for bullying. Can your brand get down on her level and walk with her through the messiness? Are you willing to live where she is and walk with her through those times?
Each step – Learn, Listen, and Live – requires us to take an active role in our listeners’ lives. That’s how brand engagement begins. And the ultimate goal of brand engagement is to create community – you and me, us and them. Your station, your brand, has this opportunity. Are you ready to engage?

Summer is a great time to strengthen your station brand. Your team is out and about in the community, you’re running a number of promotions, and you’re connecting one-on-one with listeners.
 Before you head out to that next remote, take some time to assess your brand and ask if it is still connecting with your audience, on-air, online, and in-person. And here’s the best place to start. Ask yourself, “What does my brand say about our station?”
Stop just a second and take a look at your business card. Take a look at your program guide. Check your web site, Instagram, Twitter  and Facebook pages to see what your brand says about you. Here are three things to look for:
1. Does my brand still connect with my audience? Branding is more than just a logo or an imager. It’s a promise you make to your listeners. It covers everything that you do. So put it this way: Do listeners feel like I’m keeping my promise?  
2. Does my brand image still look/sound relevant? Words and design change quickly. Are you still using the same words that you used in 2005? That’s not a bad thing if listeners still connect with your promise to stay safe for little ears. But have you and your listeners outgrown that concept? Are you more than “safe” for families? Families may want more than safe. They may want shelter from life’s storms.  
3. Does my brand stay consistent across all media channels? You’re more than just an on-air signal. You’re also a web programmer, social media communicator, video producer, and in some cases, a publisher. Do all of your channels march in lock-step? Will someone know what to expect on air by reading your Twitter feed? Do your jocks reflect the messages on your Pinterest page?  
Managing the station brand is a tough job. But it’s one of the most important things you can do in today’s media world. Remember, a brand is a promise you make to your audience. Make sure you’re keeping that promise.

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