The Customer is Always Right
Today I received a rather long email from the Ace Club. I mentioned the Ace Club in my very first blog “Living in the Maadi Bubble” and since that blog I’ve thought a lot about how governments can better inform and protect its citizens overseas – being that I am one of those said citizens. So when I received the email from the ACE Club it triggered me to write a little further on this subject. And here is a perfect example of what to do and what not to do.
The rather long, tedious email I received was advice from the US Embassy about the increased crime in Egypt since the Revolution, stats on crime affecting US Embassy staff, a personal security checklist, and another security notice which repeated much of the same information. Directly after the US Embassy advice was the UK Embassy advice which was much shorter, straight to the point and had links for more information. It was really quite a shame they both were in the same email, otherwise I might have just deleted the US Embassy email straight away and just read the UK Embassy email and saved myself a bit of tedium.
As I’ve said, I’m all for information being disseminated this way and I wish a few other embassies would do the same. So kudos to both the embassies for trying. US Embassy – I just found the information being disseminated was tedious and not something that I would have chosen to have sent to a bunch of expats who are fully aware of the crime situation already. You need to look at what your aim is. Your aim should be to keep citizens informed and ready for any situation but at the same time you don’t want to push them away with information that’s not really necessary.
There is a fine line between getting important need-to-know information out to citizens and just filling up their inbox with junk. Ok, so it’s not junk but I do think embassies need to be smarter. Emails should be for information such as “stay away from Tahrir Square this Friday as there are planned protests”. Not for general safety information or updates on crime stats. A link to the embassy website would suffice for this kind of information. The problem with sending out emails that are too long and tedious is that no one reads them because no one can be bothered reading through screeds of words to get to something that may be important. And you really don’t want your citizens to miss the important stuff.
This is where the Brits worked their email well. They gave relevant information about an upcoming protest on 6 April, advised people to check the travel advice with a “click on the link” and further advice about a change in website address. Simple and straight to the point. The most important information was first. The US Embassy should have done the same. That’s not to say that giving information on personal security is not important because it is. But cater to the masses that have the common sense anyway. Include a link instead along the lines of “Click here for further information on personal security and protecting yourself and your family from crime”. The link should go back to the main embassy website. At the end of the day, there should be one main point of contact for all the important information regarding citizen safety – your website. All the other social media tools are tools to get your citizens to look at your website.
Utilising social media in business is not for the faint hearted. You must have clear aims about what you want your social media to achieve for you. If you get it wrong … well, let’s just say with social media it’s all about the customer and the customer is always right.