Next week on octopus, we will continue to explore the role of the digital strategist. Please be sure to comment below. I’d love to hear from you. Please subscribe for alerts about new episodes and content. Thank you for listening to octopus. I’m Nasser Sahlool.
Matteo Ceurvels is the Senior Officer of Digital Communications and Audience Engagement at the International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere region. In this role, he is responsible for uniting the Communications and Development departments in order to create a comprehensive digital strategy that both ensures IPPF/WHR’s enhanced presence in social media and strengthens the organization’s online fundraising efforts.
Prior to joining IPPF/WHR, Matteo spent more than eight years building strategic communications and marketing initiatives in both the private and public sectors, including at the United Nations, Council of the Americas, and his own digital consulting agency, MCS Global Media. Matteo is proficient in nine languages and has regional expertise in developing digital strategies throughout Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East.
Matteo graduated summa cum laude from Pace University with a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies and a double minor in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies. In his free time, Matteo teaches foreign languages at Fluent City and guest lectures on topics pertaining to Latin American political and economic development. His writing has appeared in a variety of scholarly journals, literary magazines, and political blogs. He joins us from New York to discuss the role of the Multicultural Strategist. You can hear our conversation in iTunes, Stitcher or Soundcloud or below now.
The Western Hemisphere organization of the IPPF works with approximately 50 partners in 40 countries across the Americas, including Latin America and the Caribbean, working with autonomous local partners that share a mission to ensure the fulfillment of sexual and reproductive rights for all, including universal access to high quality sexual and reproductive health services and comprehensive sexuality education. So how do you prepare for a strategic role overseeing and executing the digital strategy across all these countries and cultures given all the inherent complexity and a subject matter that can be considered controversial in certain areas, all while appropriately representing the mission of the organization?
It starts with being able to depend on a great team to help guide you with the messaging, ostensibly to tell you what you can and can’t say. But beyond that, the main thing is to let your audience speak for you. To that end, Matteo depends on clients and health clinics in the region, including nurses and doctors to tell the story. Building on that foundation, the best way to illustrate impact of their work is, as he says, is to ‘let it be about those that were impacted’. Beyond empowering the local partners and field teams, the role of the strategist is to determine how best to tell the story by platform, for example, on a blog or Facebook or an image on Instagram. This has to be done while overseeing all things digital including social media, multimedia, engagement including interaction with constituents as well as emails, donor appeals and general communications sent out to the audience base. Further, this needs to be executed in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese against a variety of audiences, including millennials online, older demographics offline or the donor base. These are all considerations as the strategist considers how best to create content that is visually appealing so that people will want to consume it and think about the organization as a thought leader.
The key to doing this well is to not only be aware of local culture, but also to determine the priority audience. For a multicultural organization it is impossible to target everyone at the same time. This combination will define your strategy, beyond the obvious, such as catering to religious sensibilities, to deeply understanding and reflecting cultural nuances in ways that truly connect with an audience, for example, the use of Spanglish by Verizon Wireless in marketing to a domestic Hispanic audience in the US.
Multicultural digital strategy is incredibly difficult to plan and execute. But according to Matteo, a brand that does this exceptionally well is AirBnB. In particular, he highlights their emphasis on visual content, whether through their advocacy work, or in the host videos and imagery, including user generated content. There is a deep understanding of local culture, audience and flavour including, as Matteo describes it, ‘understanding my doppelgänger in each market’. What they do exceptionally well is what sits at the heart of exceptional multicultural digital strategy, namely multicultural authenticity with purpose.
Matteo’s journey to becoming a multicultural digital strategist took many years, but started with a love of languages and people, and combined over the course of his career with an interest in marketing and communications. From starting his own consulting practice to working in the technology, start up and cultural spaces, Matteo didn’t plan his career as a strategist, but rather fell into it.
Today, he sees a more formal path in this space, but it begins with having the core skill set for a strategist, namely ‘being great with people, understanding the way people think and respond to different stimuli, how they interact with content, what do they do with that content’. Beyond that, you need to ‘love studying cultures’ if you want to work in this niche. Matteo recommends determining early what regions you want to work in as well as the types of verticals you are interested in. Once you define these, gear your studies and internships towards a particular interest. At the very least this will give you the confidence you need to be able to secure a role in the multicultural space. As Matteo says, ‘study what you love and the rest will fall into place’.