Managing Social for the UK Embassy: The Insider's View

If a brand accidentally tweets some misinformation, it’s a problem. But if a government agency puts out something factually inaccurate, it’s an incident.

It requires an exceptionally high degree of vigilance for accuracy while balancing a role as an information center and still having fun, because government agency accounts still want followers after all.

One of the people balancing all of these duties is Tereza Kosáková, who is the social media officer and deputy head of press and public affairs at the British Embassy in Prague.

As someone who manages social media for an embassy, what are the key objectives for your team? What role do your channels play in connecting with UK citizens or even the Czech audience?

In a hyper-connected world, social media has become the principal component of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office communications. As at the very heart of any diplomatic role, my main objective is delivering on the issues British people care about. Whether this is through raising awareness, changing perceptions, or encouraging behavior change, British Embassy Prague would not be able to do that without compelling communications. Social media is a vital tool of influence beyond traditional audiences like domestic politicians and it helps us to connect directly with both the Czech general public and Brits living in the Czech Republic. Social media allows us to become more accessible, visible, and transparent through open dialogue. Moreover, it offers a wide range of opportunities, which is why digital diplomacy has become one of the very core diplomatic skills of the 21st century.

What’s the hardest part of the job? Are there risks involved? And if so, how do you mitigate them?

The hardest part is definitely delivering consistent and attractive content. Every day, I monitor hundreds of channels to showcase the UK’s innovation across sectors and I therefore need to understand a bit of everything. My aim is also to amplify content by our close partners, e.g. British Council or British Chamber of Commerce, and ensure that our messaging is similar in format and tone.

How intricate is the approval process for something like an embassy?

The approval process is similar to any bigger organization. I consult on content within my management chain for a “second pair of eyes” check. Our content is seen by thousands of followers and my aim is to establish the Embassy channels as a reliable and impartial source of factual information, which means I try to avoid any mistakes. My team is also quite small so we brainstorm a lot during the creative process. This enables us to spot potential flaws before we produce and potentially publish any content.

How has social media transformed your overall communications strategy? Is it making it more difficult or easier to manage?

Social media has dramatically improved our ability to gather news and insights as well as to improve the delivery of our services through closer engagement with our customers. Over the last few years, the Embassy has expanded to multiple social media platforms and our overall communications strategy became more robust and versatile. I don’t believe we can say that it is making things harder or easier. The Embassy’s approach towards sharing and gathering data simply changed and that also had an impact, for example, on the structure of the team or the way we work or evaluate the outcomes. My full-time role with an exclusive focus on digital diplomacy is just about three years old and we can expect that this trend of adjusting traditional roles to new trends will continue also in such a traditionally conservative field as diplomacy. 

How do you see it evolving in the future? Is the process becoming more centralized or more open and democratic?

The systems used by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are both effective and democratic. For campaigns with international validity, all posts receive centrally produced digital assets. This enables us to enhance the communication momentum and literally achieve a global impact. In terms of bilateral liaisons between the UK and Czech Republic, I formulate my own strategy, which is tailored specifically for the audience living in the Czech Republic. FCO also relies on my expertise so some international campaigns can be adjusted accordingly. I believe that this balance between centralized and open processes is ideal for the success of such worldwide organization.

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on socialbakers.com. Any statistics or statements included in this article were current at the time of original publication.

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