Open Comms/Comms Toolkit

From MozillaWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Communications Toolkit

Do you want to tell the world about Mozilla? Whether you are communicating with fans, followers, Firefox users, press, or the general public, we have some helpful guidelines and resources available for you!

A Few Guidelines

Here you’ll find messages, FAQs, guidelines and tips to effectively talk about Mozilla and our products. You’ll also find help for the more complicated topics and the people you can turn to for help (hint: it’s the people writing this page).

These guidelines will be helpful if you’d like to talk (or write) to the world about Mozilla as a Mozilla representative, whether proactively or reactively.

If you write for a blog or publication regularly, make sure to include the link in your Mozillian profile and please give the PR team a heads-up at We won’t ask you to send us every blog post, but we’re always here to help, especially with the tricky ones :) Communicating as a Mozillian Feel free to use the tips and messaging found on this page and email the comms team if you need any help. All we ask is you complete this coverage form for your blog and any other blogs or media outlets who covered your post. We’d love to include it in our coverage reports and show how loud the Mozilla megaphone can be! The areas below are generally great ways you can tell the Mozilla story freely - the “fast-track” lane in our airport analogy.

Fast-track topics:

  • Announced products, features and initiatives
  • Mission and history of Mozilla, its relationship to the open-source community, etc.
  • Community activities
  • Profiles of community members, etc.

The next few topics are a little more complicated and suitable for “frequent flyers only”. If you are part of the CommSquared program or an experienced spokesperson you likely have the tools and nuanced messaging to tell Mozilla’s POV. Otherwise, please contact the PR team for guidance. Some of these may be sensitive, or there may be a chance for you to make a bigger impact by coordinating timing of your story with the team!

Frequent Flyer-only topics:

  • Upcoming (not yet released/announced) projects, product features, etc.
  • Public policy / political statements (beyond what’s on the wiki)
  • Data/statistics on product usage, market share, etc.

But what happens if, for instance, you’re approached by a journalist who is asking your opinion on a sensitive issue? You can feel the situation veering off-course and --Oh noes! you’re entering the difficult, “restricted” section. But you’re a Mozillian, you want to be nice and have some sort of reply. Below you’ll find some statements you may find helpful for each situation:

Restricted topics:

  • Sensitive information/speculation relative to our current and former partners
    • Sample responses:
      • “That’s a question for [partner].”
      • “I can’t speak to [partner]’s strategy regarding [xyz]. What I can do is connect you to our PR team to make sure you get Mozilla’s perspective on xyz subject.” (If you are 100% sure of Mozilla’s view on the topic, feel free to state it here, but *not* in comparison or contrast to the partner)
  • Rumors/speculation about Mozilla staff, internal strategy, etc. (really, rumors of any kind)
    • Sample responses:
      • “I don’t really have all the details, and speculation won’t be helpful.”
      • (With regards to staff departures, in addition to above): “What I can say is that Mozilla is very different from other organizations, and many who depart choose to keep contributing to the project as volunteers. Once a Mozillian, always a Mozillian!” :)
  • Information labeled as and/or understood to be private or confidential
    • Sample responses:
      • “I believe that is confidential information, so I’m afraid I cannot discuss it.”
      • “I’m really not the right person to ask. I can connect you to our PR team who can help.”

Beyond the above, we can’t stop you from expressing your individual opinions and thoughts, but we also can’t be help you at that point. Depending on the issue, we may have think twice before trusting you with certain information again. Sad PR team :(

Communicating with Press

Don’t panic! In this section you will find tips to help you identify and work with press, who can be a highly influential audience for our Mozilla story and amplify it even more.

You may meet press and media:

  • At Mozilla events
  • At partner events
  • At non work events
  • Through invitations from individual reporters, directly or via the Mozilla PR team

Reactive work

You may be approached by media who have read about your work and see a story in there that they want to tell.

Proactive work

You may choose to reach out directly to reporters whose reporting could raise awareness of your work with relevant audiences. If you have signed up to be part of CommSquared you will have access to the tools to help build a media list, analyze the media landscape, and PR training and mentoring. If you are an employee or Mozillian who is *not* in the CommSquared program, but are interested in communicating with a reporter proactively or reactively, feel free to get in touch with the PR team.

How to build relationships with media

  • Read, watch and/or listen to as much of relevant media’s work as you can. You should be equally informed on their work as reporters are by researching you.
  • Think about how what you’re doing may be perceived by media, without input from you. Is it easy to misinterpret what you do, without more context?
  • Think about which media cover your work well and which you’d like to build a relationship with. What do you know about their audiences, do they include people you want to reach?
  • Think about the media who seem not to understand your work. Are these people you still want to speak to, and take an opportunity to change their mind? How realistic is that? What do you know about their audiences, do they include people you want to reach?

What to do in interviews

  • If you’re not sure if you are talking to a journalist, ask them. And remember bloggers count too, including developers who just update a blog occasionally.
  • Ask basic questions to help decide whether this is a good opportunity, i.e. what publication does the reporter represent, what’s the topic, when’s the deadline?
  • Do your research around each specific opportunity.
  • If you agree to speak with media, always honor your commitment and give them as much notice as possible if you have to postpone or delay.
  • Set realistic time limits on an interview, half an hour is ample, sometimes you only need to offer 15 minutes.
  • Be familiar with high level Mozilla and product messaging and talking points (below).
  • Stick to your area(s) of expertise.
  • If you are asked for a comment that goes beyond your area of expertise, explain that it does and think about who else might be able to help the reporter. But don’t commit other Mozillians to speak without asking them first!
  • If the reporter just doesn’t understand how something works, you can ‘give them the background’. You’re not giving them anything newsworthy, just educating them.
  • If a reporter states something you know absolutely to be untrue, politely correct them.
  • Use analogies that make your subject more relatable.
  • Use statistics, sparingly, when they support your points and you can clearly source them.
  • Be excited, be friendly, be responsive within your boundaries.
  • Take some notes right after so you can revisit anything that needs to be corrected later or which offers you the chance to build a bigger story with that reporter or another.

What not to do interviews

  • Don’t let anyone talk you into doing an interview.
  • Don’t bluff.
  • Don’t make jokes
  • Don’t comment on non Mozillian companies/individuals unless you’re prepared for the reporter to take your words right to that company/individual for a response.
  • Don’t fall for a request to have an ‘off the record’ conversation. If you say something newsworthy it becomes very hard for the reporter to keep it off the record.

What do if you are wrongly quoted

  • Be sure! Reporters take complaints very seriously. Was the story actually inaccurate or just an interpretation of what you said that you don’t agree with? If you aren’t 100% convinced it’s inaccurate, your complaint can produce another even less positive story.
  • If it’s inaccurate, provide the reporter with the source for the correct information.
  • If you feel you need support from the Mozilla PR team, share the story with them at and ask if we have contacts or insight that may help secure a correction.
  • If it’s an interpretation you don’t agree with, decide whether this is something you have to live with as part of working with media or something you can reach out to the reporter about and discuss, even if it doesn’t immediately change what they wrote.

Communicating with Users

It's easy to get started answering support forum questions. Don't worry, you don't have to be an expert to make a difference. Most questions are already answered by a Knowledge Base article and you can post a link. If you have questions about the support process, just ask us in the Contributors forum or in the #sumo IRC channel.

Support through social

At its core, social is about word of mouth — it’s the conversations people have about Firefox, web browsers, technology and innovations. These conversations are powerful and trusted. That’s why Firefox uses the social space to not just update fans, but to build relationships.

Community managers (YOU) play a vital role for Firefox by:

  • Bringing the brand voice and character to life.
  • Detecting emerging crisis, issues and user problems.
  • Building and maintaining relationships with users, developers and Internet advocates.
  • Measuring the health of the Firefox online community.
  • Helping people take more control over their online lives.

Finding questions Use the support forum questions list, either for all products or for a specific product forum, to find users who need help. The All Products questions list includes all Mozilla products where users can ask a support question. If you want to limit the list of questions to a specific product, you can select it from the Support Forum home page. Pay special attention to threads that have no replies or where the last poster wasn't another regular contributor (top 10 and top 25 contributors are reported below their usernames).

If you're answering questions about Firefox or Thunderbird and you're on Mac OS or Linux, watch out for users on the same operating system; they may have questions that Windows users wouldn't be able to answer.

Finding answers Rather than trying to figure out the user's problem by yourself every time, first search to see if it's come up before. Try to use the Knowledge Base articles before anything else. These articles have been quality-reviewed and have information for all supported systems. Remember, you're not only helping the person who's asking the question, you're helping people who read the thread in the future.

To link to a Knowledge Base support article, put the article's name in double brackets. Troubleshoot Firefox issues using Safe Mode becomes Troubleshoot Firefox issues using Safe Mode.

Tip: You can use the "Insert a link..." tool in the forum reply box to find and post links to support articles. You can also post one of the available common forum responses using the forum reply box "Common responses" tool.

If the Knowledge Base doesn't have your answers, you can use other sources. Some good ones:

To link to a URL, put the URL in single square brackets, with a space separating the URL from the text. Download Firefox becomes Download Firefox.

If you find yourself using external resources, consider adding their information to an existing article or proposing a new article – see About the Knowledge Base. Because this site is the first line of Mozilla support and a Knowledge Base search is the first thing most users will do, having the information in a Knowledge Base article will let the user find the info more easily by themselves.

Doing investigation If you can't find previous cases of the issue happening, here are some tips on figuring out the problem yourself. Note: If you need more help investigating Firefox issues, see the Firefox Support troubleshooting guide.

  • Consider the user's operating system and version of Firefox or Thunderbird.
  • Please look carefully at the product. For example, Firefox for Android or Firefox OS questions will need different answers than typical Firefox desktop questions.
  • Take a look at the user's extensions and plugins. In particular, watch for outdated plugins, and extensions that are known to cause problems.
  • Try to isolate the cause of the problem.
    • Does the problem happen on your computer? This is useful for determining whether it's a problem with the user's setup.
    • Does the problem happen in Firefox or Thunderbird Safe Mode? See Troubleshoot Firefox issues using Safe Mode and Safe Mode Thunderbird
    • Does the problem happen when security software is temporarily disabled?
    • For Firefox issues, does the problem happen in Internet Explorer or another browser? If so, it's a problem on the system, not Firefox.
  • In case of crashes, see Helping with crashes.

Again, if you find out the solution, consider adding it to the Knowledge Base.

Posting replies

  • Be nice. It's not your job to defend yourself, others, or even Mozilla. Users may just be venting because their problems are frustrating. The best thing to do is to help the user get his or her answer. If you feel that a post has crossed the line, report it to a moderator by using the "Report Abuse" link.
  • Make a judgment on a user's experience based on their posts. For example, not all users know how to get to about:config. When in doubt, err on the side of explaining more.
  • Look at what OS the user is using and tailor your reply to that. For example, Linux users won't have a C:\Program Files and Mac users may not be able to right-click.
  • For problems appearing after a Firefox update, try first to solve the issue. In case there are no solutions, provide a link to the previous version, if the user insists, and add a warning below the link stating that the version is insecure and can potentially compromise the confidentiality, integrity or availability of personal information.

Following up The answers you give may not be correct, or the user may have some follow up questions for you. In either case, it's useful to both you and the user that your conversation continues. You are subscribed to threads by default, meaning that you will get e-mail notifications whenever someone replies. You may also find the list of threads you posted in useful.

Getting help If you get stuck on a difficult support question, you can escalate it to the Helpdesk by adding the "escalate" tag. See the Escalation Guidelines for details. You can also use the Support Forum Contributors Advanced Troubleshooting forum to discuss difficult questions you've escalated or to see if other contributors are able to help.

Duplicate questions If you find that the same user has asked the same question in two or more recent threads: Add a reply to the duplicate thread, tell the user that his question is a duplicate of one he recently asked, and include a link to the original thread.

Report to a moderator by clicking "Report Abuse" so that the thread can be locked. Moderators: Lock the duplicate thread after adding a reply (do not simply edit the user's post).

Off-topic questions As a general rule we should only offer support for the products listed on the Ask a Question page at the time the thread is opened. Everything else should be considered offtopic (please see Forum rules and guidelines). Users who post about things other than Mozilla support as defined above will be directed to an alternative discussion place (ex: mozillaZine) if appropriate.

User rants, complaints etc. about issues that are not in our power to solve (ie. development decisions) will be treated as offtopics and directed to an alternative discussion place.

Thunderbird users can submit feature requests or other Thunderbird feedback in the support forum as the feedback process is Firefox-only. These posts are NOT offtopic.

Mark as offtopic by typing offtopic in the text box under TAGS on the right-hand side and clicking the Add button. (Click on TAGS if you don't see the text entry box).

Add a reply that the forum is for the questions related to the products listed on the main support page only and that we do not provide support for that particular product.

if possible, provide a helpful link or suggestion (For instance, a Windows or Mozillazine article or forum). Report to moderator by clicking "Report Abuse" so that the thread can be locked.

Communicating with the Public

Want to write a blog post on a Mozilla topic? Empower your message and clarify your opinion by following these few tips:


  • Develop a unique and documented standpoint: your post has to bring something new to the party, whether it is your personal skills, your experience or your disruptive opinion.
  • Decide who your audience is, and help them: don’t be generic; your post has to meet the needs of a specific audience. You may use metrics to narrow this audience and find out about its expectations.
  • Put yourself in the mindset of your reader: increase your post’s user value by thinking like you are the reader.
  • Don’t be tacky: preserve your credibility by avoiding any coarse or indelicate catchphrase.


  • Write a clear and punchy opening: most readers only read the headlines. You want them to get into the whole post, so be concise and choose a self-explanatory title. Simple is better than funny, particularly as humor for one group of people can backfire for another.
  • Organize your post: order your content into sections and paragraphs, use bulleted lists, etc; those will make your post easier to read.
  • Pick up a relevant image: a visual illustration triggers emotions and makes your message more powerful. Note: If the image is a screenshot, prototype, etc. of something that hasn’t been announced yet, make sure to check with PR first!
  • Enrich your post with links, data, expert quotes, customer testimonials, opinions of influencers, etc.: your credibility will be increased and your standpoint will appear stronger. Note: If you’re not sure whether some internal data or a quote from a meeting is fit to publish, feel free to reach out to the PR team.
  • Optimize your post: carefully choose categories and tags that will make your post easy to reference.
  • Call-To-Action: involve your reader; invite comments. These CTAs often come at the end of the post.

Call to action Now that you've gained your leadership, readers are hooked on your posts and even regularly check your updates, what do you want them to do? You have several options in order to answer that question and not only use your leadership, but also empower your readers:

  • links: expand your readers' horizons by connecting your post to an event, a cause, a manifesto, anything relevant to your content.
  • comments: ask for direct contribution and engage your reader into commenting on your blog post! That's a classic one but definitely a keeper :)
  • share: engage your readers into sharing your blog post on social media!
  • contribute: we at Mozilla have a vivid community, covering many activities your reader may be excited about: connect your blog post to those contributions and engage your reader into developing its own impact!

Most importantly: have fun and be passionate about what you're writing. It's all about sharing, enjoy :D