The best B2B content and messaging doesn’t merely inform its audience or impress them with its thinking and creativity – it influences and inspires them, too. Yet the concept of influence is poorly understood. What does it really mean when we say we have influenced an audience, and what do we want the outcome to be? How do we do it, and how do we know whether it has worked?
These were just some of the questions that B2B thought leadership agency, Longitude, attempted to answer in its recent ebook: Influence and impact: The true measures of successful content. Rob Mitchell, Longitude’s CEO, sat down with PRWeek to talk us through some of the highlights.
Rob, what are some of the main themes covered in the ebook?
We drew on all sorts of influences, from behavioural science and influence experts to advertising copywriters. And one in particular, a copywriter from the mid-20th century called Victor O. Schwab, who wrote a book called How to write a good advertisement. Although it was written in a different time, a lot of his insight is still relevant today.
Schwab had five fundamental stages of writing good advertising copy. First, is getting someone’s attention, which is even more important today when you have such a huge amount of content being produced for audiences and more and more companies getting involved in thought leadership. As a result, getting someone’s attention in the first place is much harder than it's ever been.
And so in the report, we came up with a four-part framework for any piece of marketing or communications, which we call the SURE framework. You need to make it simple, urgent, relevant and eye-opening.
Could you go into a little more detail around the SURE framework?
First, it has to be simple. Too much content tries to communicate overly complex messages. Yet, the more messages you try to land with the audience, the less successful you are likely to be.
Second, is urgency. There has to be a reason for the audience to engage with your content, and they are more likely to do so if the change you are proposing is urgent. Humans are inherently short-termist, so anything that delivers quick results or protects from immediate losses will always grab our attention.
The third thing is relevance. Getting someone’s attention with your content means answering their questions and offering something of value. There is no point guessing what your audience cares about. Instead, you need to find out what matters to them and ensure that you match the right message with the right audience.
And finally, it needs to be eye-opening. If you’re going to get someone’s attention, it needs to stand out. In the ebook we use examples of memorable campaigns and what made them so successful.
Why did you decide to produce this report?
We produced a report a couple of years ago called Proving our value which focused on measurement of B2B content. And it covered the fact that many companies focus on the wrong things when it comes to measuring the effect of their campaigns. They tend to focus on short-term engagement and vanity metrics, rather than looking at the wider impact of what the campaign achieved and how it influenced the audience.
We touched on the value of influence and its impact in this earlier report, but not in any great detail, so this latest report is designed to be a follow-up to that. We wanted this to be a step-by-step guide to the stages you need to think about in terms of creating influential content and how you can measure its impact.
What are some of the ethical considerations behind creating influential content?
This is a very important point. You see a lot of nudge techniques and behavioural economics being used these days, which can be perceived as a little bit underhanded and manipulative. If you're trying to influence people you can’t be seen to manipulate. Make sure what you’re saying is transparent, and that your audience doesn't feel coerced into going along with what you’re proposing.
And the most important ethical point of all here is to ensure what you’re trying to do is genuinely in the interest of the audience. Marketers have had to think about the ethics of what they do from day one, but I think this has become more prominent recently due to the increased sophistication of behavioral economics and behavioral science techniques.
What are your top tips for measuring how successful or influential a piece of content has been?
It is challenging because you’re trying to measure behavioural change. You can easily tell if someone has engaged with your content, but you don’t really know what impact it’s had - whether they liked it, or found it enjoyable or valuable.
In B2B content you have to be seen as an authority for people to want to work with you. So, the perception of expertise is a good metric to consider. It’s also worth trying to distinguish between brand awareness and brand salience. Salience is all about how your brand comes to your audience’s mind at the point of purchase. By creating content that influences, you’re setting yourself up as the right company to work with on a particular initiative when that need arises.
Want to know more? Download your free copy of Influence and impact: The true measures of successful content to learn:
- The value of influence in marketing and communications, through a step-by-step guide on how to create influence with your audience.
- Why content shouldn’t be seen as merely a way to inform your audience, but as a way to get them to think and act differently.
- How to measure your impact: Why short-term metrics are not the be-all-and-end all. Instead, prioritise the long-term view of your content and how it can influence your audience, build associations and strengthen their relationship with you as a company.