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Speaking Notes - Social Media As a Public Diplomacy Tool


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Speaking notes from the Arms Control in the Information Age conference. November 29, 2011

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Speaking Notes - Social Media As a Public Diplomacy Tool

  1. 1. OPCW Presentation – State DepartmentIntroduction:Today I’m going to be discussing our use of Social Media as a public diplomacy tool,specifically • I’ll be talking about it in the context of the change of direction the OPCW is embarking on • I’ll discuss our early social media efforts. We have a couple of case studies that I’ll briefly touch on. • I’m going to go into a bit more detail on a specific campaign that’s currently underway called “Introducing the OPCW”. • Finally, I’m going to talk briefly about how we measure success<slide: OPCW – Building?>We are an international organisation formed in 1997 and are responsible forimplementing the Chemical Weapons Convention. We currently have 188 memberstates. When a member state signs into the convention they must declare if they haveany stockpiles of chemical weapons and must agree to their destruction and aresubject to inspection and verification by us to ensure compliance.Over 70% of the world’s stockpiles have been destroyed, and there is a plan tocomplete the destruction which means as an organisation we are on cusp of change.<slide – OPCW and its New Direction>During the first 12-13 years of the OPCW, we kept a pretty low profile. ChemicalWeapons is a taboo subject so the work of the organisation was done very discretely.Historically, OPCW didn’t seek out attention, it didn’t appear in the news very often,and the web site was mostly a tool for the National Authorities of the States Parties toretrieve documents related to their work.But now that the lion’s share of the destruction is complete, the focus of theorganisation is changing and is more public-facing. Some of the issues we are lookingat are: • Counter-Terrorism. • Peaceful Uses of Chemistry. • Non-Proliferation.As hard as it is to believe, OPCW didn’t have a social media presence at all until latelast year when the OPCW Facebook page was created. Our YouTube and Twitteraccounts weren’t created until this past spring. Our then incoming Director-General,Ahmet Uzmucu, had a vision for the OPCW that included a strong public diplomacycomponent and saw social media as a way to raise the profile of the OPCW.So when social media began at the OPCW, it was mostly an outlet to post jobvacancies and press releases. It was not at all interactive, but at least OPCW wasmaking its presence known.<slide: Case Study IYC Event>
  2. 2. The first main event we had at the OPCW that had a large public component was aconference that was organised as part of the UN’s International year of ChemistryInitiative. This event was unique for us for a couple of reasons: • It was the first time that we were able to webcast an event live. • Social media was the driving force behind its promotion and played a large role in the event itself.The event was held the second week of September and getting to the point where wecould do the webcast was an adventure in itself. But it was a good exercise for theOPCW. For example, and this is likely familiar territory for most of you, no outgoingInternet line could be connected to our network. And we did not have theinfrastructure in place that would allow us to get one. Ultimately though, ourcolleagues in IT worked with us to get a dedicated line with a local provider and wewere able to get a permanent installation and we can now webcast when we need to.Content-wise, our social media plan was to ride the IYC coattails in some ways to getpromotion for our event. We used the Twitter hashtag #IYC 2011 and used Facebookto promote speakers and the topics. The week before the conference we posted a pollon Facebook asking our community which topic they were most interested in. We gotvery little response, but not none, which was a victory for us, I thought.We also had a pre-registration, which was nothing more than asking people if theywanted to be reminded when the conference was starting. Using our e-mail list we hadalmost 300 registrations from over 100 countries.The event itself had two different components:The first day was a live webcast from two locations: The Peace Palace, which islocated a kilometre or so from OPCW HQ, hosted the morning session. Then in theafternoon, the conference was webcast out of our main meeting room. Like mostwebcasts these days there was a form for people write their questions, which then,theoretically, would be gathered by the moderator and addressed at some point. In myexperience this has to be tightly controlled with everyone involved having bought intothe idea of web interaction for it to work. And when it does, it’s wonderful. And whenit’s not you get an inbox full of questions that are being ignored followed by evenmore questions from people wanting to know why their questions are being ignored.Ideally you need a professional moderator that has done this before.But the numbers we got were very encouraging for us. We had 481 people watch inthe morning and 104 in the afternoon. In my experience, in an all-day webcast, youare going to have ups and downs throughout the day and unless you have acompelling piece to end the day with your numbers are going to go down as the daygoes on, particularly with a two-hour break between the two sessions.We could have done a better job on this. The guidelines we created were designed totreat the online audience as being on equal footing with those participating in person.For example, we asked the moderator to do a kind of “roll call”, asking peoplewatching to let us know where they were viewing from, if they were with anyone else,like watching with a group from their office or if they were watching from auniversity. We also set guidelines for how to handle questions. We set an algorithm ofsorts where the moderator would take one online question or comment for every twofrom the floor. Or the opposite if the situation warranted.
  3. 3. Lessons Learned: • Importance of getting the moderator and speakers involved earlier in the process, maybe doing a quick seminar before the conference to teach the process. This part felt on the fly a little bit and as a result we didn’t have the kind of interaction we were hoping for.The second day we created live blogs using CoverItLive and created three streams onour website where a visitor could select which session they wanted to watch. Ourexpectations for this were much lower, because really, who was going to sit through athree-hour live blog? But it was a low-risk experiment. We’re trying on different hats,looking to see what works for us and what doesn’t.On the whole though, as a proof of concept we think we absolutely proved that therewas an appetite for the kind of information that OPCW can provide and it put us in astrong position to do more of these things in the future.<Slide – Challenge Inspection>Case Study – Challenge Inspection Field ExerciseJust over a month ago, OPCW went through a Challenge Inspection Field ExerciseThese are used as a way to test readiness in the event that a State Party requests one.A Challenge Inspection is a part the chemical weapons convention where if one stateparty presents credible evidence that another state party has undeclared chemicalweapons or is secretly producing them, then OPCW inspectors can launch a challengeinspection on 48 hours’ notice. While there has never been a challenge inspection, it isimportant that we maintain a high standard of readiness to conduct such inspections.This one was particularly noteworthy because it was the first one that was held in anAsian country, in this case Thailand. In the past they’ve been held in Germany, TheNetherlands, and here in the United States. As a public diplomacy tool, a visibleexercise like this would do a lot to increase OPCW’s visibility and credibility as anorganisation.<slide: Integrated social media approach>Leading up to this and during the event, we took a more integrated approach to socialmedia to promote interest in the exercise. The main focal point was the microsite wecreated. It contained the information we had about Challenge Inspections and theexercises and provided links to various social media we were using.Twitter: We added a widget that contained all the Tweets that we created during theexercise. To differentiate these tweets from others that we were pushing out at thetime, we used the hashtag #ChallEx2011. This also allowed Twitter followers tofollow the narrative we were trying to create.Blog: Michael Luhan, our head of the media and public affairs branch was inThailand for the exercise and provided a daily blog that provided a narrative of theevents before the exercise. Each daily blog post tried to build on the narrative thatdeveloped before it. We did leave people hanging as the last post was done during theexercise and after a twist in the scenario. We are going to have to post again to wrapthings up for the readers who are following along.Video: It was important for us to show the action during the challenge inspectionexercise, not just tell people about it. So we had two camera teams making videos. InThe Hague, our in-house filmmaker Eric Vander Borght documented the activity from
  4. 4. the time the Australian Ambassador arrived at the OPCW till the time the Inspectorsarrived at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam to travel to Thailand. At the other end, avideo team took footage of the preparations on the Thailand side through to the end.Daily video updates were added to our website and YouTube page.<slide: Introducing the OPCW>More recently, we began a specific social media campaign called “Introducing theOPCW”. This campaign was designed to do two things: 1. Institutionalise social media into our work. Have it be part of what we do every day rather than have it be something we “remember” to do. For social media to be effective it cannot be an afterthought and I built activities into it to keep it top of mind. 2. The other is to introduce our work to wider audiences in a structured way. To tell the story of the OPCW through examples of our work.All the social media work I’ve described up to this point I think is good and importantbut I felt we were putting the cart before the horse in some ways. Having said that, Ihave absolutely no objection to doing social media without big overlying objectivesand strategies because I think that “just doing it” is an important exercise in itself.But I thought it was time to put together a structured approach to social media in aneffort to understand the social media landscape of our subject area and to become partof the conversation.<slide: Identify Audiences>Up to this point our social media was only one way. Much of what we did wasdeclarative. We were broadcasting to the world and not doing a whole lot of listening.So the first activity in the plan was to discover who the important voices were andhear what they had to sayWe identified six audiences: - Civil Society - Researchers / Policy Professionals - Potential employees / interns - Chemical Industry - Students - MediaAshouang Chen, our intern, created a list of keywords such as “Chemical weapons”,“Weapons of Mass Destruction”, and even drilled down to basic terms such as“chemicals” and looked to see what the chatter was on those topics.What we found was both disappointing and encouraging. It was disappointing in thatwe didn’t find a huge amount of discussion, but was encouraging in that this is a voidthat is yet to be filled and I saw an opening for us to be the thought leader on Twitterfor issues related to us.Ashouang created what we called the “core list”, which is a Twitter list of users wefound relevant to our interests. Everyday, he would review the list and look forinteresting posts. And this is where social media starts to intertwine with traditionalcommunications.<slide: engagement activities>
  5. 5. The second activity in the campaign was to create engagement opportunities with thetargeted audiences. He found interesting tweets that we wanted to respond to but wefound it difficult to send substantive @mentions to people whose tweets we liked.After a few false starts and a few conversations about institutional messaging I thinkhe really did find a way to communicate what we are about to those twitter users.But we did have some challenges as well. For example, we occasionally get messagesfrom random individuals asking us to start an investigation on a state party sayingthey were using chemical weapons. When you look at their accusation it is usually asa result of police using tear gas on protestors. We don’t have the mandate to respondto any allegations or start an investigation of any sort. The response up to now hasbeen to delete them, which is a shame because these situations create teachablemoments where we can help people understand just what our work is.And this became more of an issue when we started getting asked questions about analleged incident in one of the States Parties. This was more than one person posting anallegation. There was an article in a London newspaper that alleged that this particularState Party used chemical weapons in a squirmish with some people in their country.We had protestors showing up at OPCW HQ with a petition and we received inquirieson Facebook about what we can do about it. The instructions we got was that we wereto do delete the messages and say nothing until we received legal advice on how tohandle these issues.We also recently saw a message on Twitter that said that a country was usingchemical weapons (again, tear gas) on their people in contravention of Articlewhatever in the convention. This time we were able to reply that use of the substancewasn’t against the convention because it allows for it to be used for crowd control justnot on a battlefield and that even if it were the case, this country was not a signatoryand not bound by its provisions. The person replied that he appreciated theclarification but that to his eyes what was happening sure looked like a battlefield.And this conversation was picked up by others and we had other questions like WhatAbout CS gas? And we didn’t really engage in this in the way that we could have.Part of it was resources we were all really busy on other things but it also goes to thegoal of institutionalizing social media as a communications tool in this campaign.But one interesting thing that happened a couple of weeks ago is that we startedgetting hit with new Twitter followers -- about five to ten per hour. The reasonseemed to be obvious – this was the day the CTITF report was released at the UNoffice in New York – but I wanted proof, Correlation does not always equal causation.If it was that, great, if not, I wanted to know. What made me think that may be not bethe cause was that the new follows were continuing over the weekend, almostdoubling. I’m not complaining but I’m thinking what’s going on?So I asked Ashouang to message a sample of the new followers to see how they foundus. The results were usually that they found us through the UN. While no onespecifically mentioned the CTITF report I think we could safely draw that conclusionafter all.On Twitter, this was our watershed moment. Our follower count is still going up butat a decreased pace, but still more quickly than before.We’ve had other watershed moments before, too. Another one was after InternationalDay. In The Hague it is traditional for international organisations to allow members ofthe public in on day a year to see what we’re doing. We put posters up all over the
  6. 6. building with a link and a QR Code that took people to our Facebook page, as Ifigured that of all our digital properties that would be the most interesting one to amember of the public. Since that day, our Facebook traffic has spiked to where wehave doubled the number of Likes and our interactions have increased, too.This is an important because it drives the point home that a digital strategy is not self-contained. Whenever we have been successful, it is because we have taken both anonline and offline approach. Any kind of digital diplomacy initiative must havedifferent components. It seems obvious but I’ve seen many times where there is a silobetween the online and offline and the most effective approaches contain elements ofboth.<slide – Create regular social media activities>The next phase is where we are currently at in the campaign and this is to createregular Twitter and Facebook activities to showcase OPCW work and itsachievements. For this, we had to create linkages with other branches to ensure wewere informed of their activities that maybe of interest.As part of the goals of institutionalizing social media into our daily activities, we willbe rolling out some new features in the coming weeks: • Photo of the Day. Showcases an aspect of the OPCW’s work. • OPCW Facts. Pushing out interesting facts about the OPCW and our achievements. • Question of the Week. We pose a question and ask people to respond using @opcw or on Facebook.<slide – measurement>The last thing I want to touch on is measurement; how we are measuring the successof this campaign. We’re looking at the obvious quantitative things like number ofRe-tweets, comments on Facebook posts, increase in follower counts etc. But I thinkthose only tell part of the story. For example, the number of impressions in aFacebook page, which is how many times a post was displayed in our followers NewsFeeds, is an interesting metric for me. I say that because our post with the highestamount of interactions accounted for only 2% of impressions. But that doesn’t meanthat the other 98% of users who saw it wasn’t impacted by it or watched theembedded video or otherwise passively absorbed our message.One thing that really caught our attention is that we took a look at our website trafficsince we started doing regular social media activities, traffic on our website hasincreased and sustained a 25% increase. Seeing as historically, website traffic hasonly seen incremental growth over the past 13 years, and while we have to do a morein-depth examination it looks like social media is sending new people to our websitein search f more information about us, which, in our minds, means that there is agenuine interest in our work.For the more qualitative measurements we took a look at Klout. For those that don’tknow, Klout is a social media influence measuring tool. They assign you a scorebased on what they link your influence level is. I had high hopes for Klout but therehave been some changes to their algorithm lately that exposed some serious flaws intheir methodology. So I use it as a general guideline only. I do look for our score togo up but only as an indicator of activity. If it goes down I take that to mean we aren’t
  7. 7. as active as we need to be. I don’t really go much deeper into that and certainly wouldnever use it as a Key Performance Indicator of the success of the campaign.<slide – picture of person and logos>To wrap this up, social media for us, while we were late to the party, it has quicklybecome a key tool for us in our public diplomacy efforts. The ongoing goal for us is tointegrate it fully into our digital strategy. It’s important to reach out to where peopleare instead of having them come to us.And while we still have a lot of work to do, we found that there more interest in ourwork than some may have thought and I look forward to reporting back next year onsome of our new successes.<slide: Social media links>If anyone has any questions I would be happy to answer them.