"Let’s start at the beginning" might be an irritating, overused cliché, voiced to identify where a problem arose, but in this context, I’m starting at the beginning of PR and customer engagement. What did we do in the beginning that we might be overlooking now in such a fast-moving culture?
If you’re like me, you have the attention span of a fly in cider. Like something one second and then you’ve clicked on the article below and gone off on a random adventure across the internet. It started with "reasons to wear glasses" and ended with "10 ways to see Barcelona on a budget". How?!
So as an agency, how do you make sure that an audience is immediately engaged? That they either stay for longer and convert, or remember your message and come back later to buy?
The answer may lie in looking back, not forwards. Here are three golden oldie tactics vital in today's digital chaos.
1. Craft a great story. This is the crux of the argument – crap is crap regardless of how you communicate it. A traditional release or round-up, a Vine or any kind of social post – if the story isn’t there then there’s little point. You still need a newsworthy angle, you need to engage and inform, and you need to evoke an emotional response. Jumping on the latest content distribution bandwagon doesn't make content valuable.
2. Know your customers. Communication isn’t a one-way street; we know that customers not only receive content, but they’re influencers, pioneers and a nation of news wires in their own right. In the office we use the analogy of a local butcher. He knows you and your family, he knows what you like and he gives reliable advice. We may buy online, but with an increasing SEO focus and web analytics we can target small, niche groups with our messages. We can and should be getting to know our customers personally and making sure they’re happy.
3. Ask the right questions. With news distribution becoming more reactive by the day, there’s a danger that we forget to stop and ask journalists what they actually want. Have the bones of a concept to discuss, but ask what format would work best for them. We need to create bespoke content that speaks to the reader. Don’t stop there; go further and ask what else you can do to help. That’s what a PR strategy should do – help people to find the thing, understand the thing and benefit from the thing. The butcher wasn’t precious about recommending the baker down the road – we should be creating content that builds a complete picture. And doing this face to face is falling by the wayside – there are waves of great networking opportunities for those who can drag themselves away from Periscope long enough to hold an actual conversation with a real person.
Catherine Warrilow is director of Seriously PR