An inside view of the digital content war room

This is a sponsored post by Mediacorp.

In 2014, when I joined Mediacorp as transmedia producer, we realised social media would be one of the main battle grounds to connect legacy platforms and new audiences. More often than not, social media was the first touch-point for the audience with the company’s brands and content.

As Singapore’s national broadcaster, Mediacorp maintains a large footprint on social media. Such a vast diversity of brands and businesses demands a structured and strategical approach to support the ongoing digital transformation process.

For this, we set up a centralised operations center, run by a specialist team to pave the way. Two years back, social media command centers and war rooms, the likes of which Netflix is using, were relatively new, especially within Asia.

With strong support by the management, the studios division spearheaded the project. We started to create an all new social media task force team, hired new staff and took over an idle room in the middle of the Chinese Drama production department.

The initial mandate was to support TV, especially the English language Channel 5 during its tent pole shows and programmes revamp in the beginning of 2015. Once daily operations started, the team had to adjust to the TV prime-time schedule and shift work hours. This meant starting in the early afternoon and going home around midnight. Social media rarely happens 9am-to-5pm.

At first, the project was set out as a three-month trial. But, soon after the first weeks of operations, the potential and implications to the business were evident.

With the relaunch of the OTT platform Toggle in April 2015, the task force was equipped with an extended mandate to cover five digital key areas:

  • Community management and user support
  • Social media content production in real time to supplement Free-To-Air and provide 2nd screen experiences
  • Social listening and performance analytics
  • Social media marketing campaigns
  • Crisis management

The learnings from the Toggle War room were tremendous. We proceeded to become the coordinating centre between multiple internal stakeholders that allowed us to take on more complex projects across many businesses of Mediacorp, like the 28th SEA Games.

With the establishment of the Digital Group in mid-2015, the War Room assumed a greater role in promoting and guiding social media activities across Mediacorp. With a monitoring infrastructure in place, we collected data, knowledge and experience that benefitted all businesses. Among the various internal initiatives was the launch of a training scheme as well as a resource centre for best practices, audience building strategies, SOPs and operational policies.

The focus in 2015 was on tent-pole events. Being the “#SG50 year”, there was no shortage of them. From running the first Twitter TV partnership in APAC during the Nation’s 50th anniversary to Singapore’s General Elections, the War Room was the central, connecting point for social media activity.

It started to become a collaborative space, having staff from different departments and disciplines participate as well as involving local influencers and YouTubers as extensions on a project basis.

By the time our team moved to Mediacorp Campus, Mediacorp’s new home at one-north in early 2016, the War Room concept had become a de rigueur component for project operations across the core entertainment business. The question asked was no longer “Do we really need a war room?”, but rather “How many shifts per day are necessary?”

Due to the nature of Mediacorp’s diverse business and vast daily content output volume, establishing a fixed command center would not prove sustainable anymore. Hence, we took on a scalable, democratised approach by mid-2016.

Temporary make-shift setups to cover peak activity periods, operated no longer by a single, centralised team but each business unit individually. This is very much in line with the new campus’ work philosophy of open space and hot desking which is referred to as ‘activity-based working’. Scalable operations that are brand and service agnostic, based on available resources and project scope.

The turning point for this approach came with the Rio 2016 Olympics when we had to upscale to multiple war room setups for 24-hour operations, literally overnight. It was also the first tent-pole project with the sole focus of providing social care services for a live TV and online programme.

The Rio 2016 Olympics setup also provided the opportunity to offer a live training situation for staff that would not necessarily be exposed to daily social media operations. Employees from different departments were embedded with the Rio team and took turns on the daily shift roster. Learning their way around the ‘front lines’ of social media, deepening their understanding of procedures on social platforms and how to interact with the audience.

One of the more recent war rooms, for the Malay language award show Anugerah Planet Muzik 2016, is testament for me how far we have come over the past two years in our digital transformation journey. Independently staffed and managed by the Suria team, such setups have become an integral part of entertainment content production for Mediacorp.

A war room, while being extremely powerful as a collaborative space, is not a holistic solution in itself. Displaying social media excellence one night and then keeping silent till the next event is no option for a digital business in this day and age.

But the war room concept can be a first step into injecting digital DNA across operations and staff. It can help accelerating a focus and value shift for the business towards dedicating more resources to social media.

Ultimately, social media means dialog and interaction. Brands need to conduct a meaningful conversation with their audience on a daily basis. Such conversations need to be conducted at every touchpoint the audience has with the brand and its content. This involves in varying degrees every employee in the company.

The author of the article is Marco Sparmberg, senior social media manager, Mediacorp

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