As a brand custodian, what do you want from your brand? You want tons of people to talk about it and that it gets converted into sales too. It’s a simple equation and will never change. From a communications stand point though, how conversations have emerged has undergone a significant change. From simple print media and advertising, to the web and now social media, discussions are sparking off from the most diverse and unique platforms possible.
A shopping decision may be influenced by a conversation that your friends may have in a private Whatsapp group. Fan mail for celebrities have transformed into 140 character outbursts. The choice of a restaurant for your anniversary maybe made basis a Zomato review. But investors and knowledge workers may still choose The Economic Times as their preferred breakfast accessory.
Taking these behavioral trends into consideration, it has become really difficult for brands to get near their customers. Gaining their loyalty and trust for the long term is now a theory meant only for PowerPoint presentations.
Yet, the potency of PR can best be exploited by integrated campaigns, getting insights of the target audience, delighting customers and not be just pleasing them, focusing on content and leveraging technology to its true potential. These are the possibilities that digital has brought to the fore, and can be best intermingled with PR.
Getting deep dive insights about your customers
Listening to your customers, beyond the literal meaning of the word, is crucial for these insights. Knowing the demographics of the people who’re visiting your website; the average time spent on it; the page where they break off to another page; all these are vital.
From a social media perspective too, what are people associating your brand to? Are there those who’re continuously pulling your brand down or those who’re being its flag bearers? Are there unique uses of your product that are being discussed? Data from retail audits, visual merchandizing analysis etc. all are instrumental to really understand who your customer is.
This becomes important for PR professionals too, so as to pick the right publications that will make the right impact. Similarly, to leverage customer stories that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. This also helps understand whether to go for paid or earned media.
Long term focus on making a perception change
Often people look to go for short term PR assistance; maybe 3 months or 6 months. Each one has his own motive, but to make a real world impact, it takes a lot longer than that. This is not a new insight, but the ingenuity of this impact could not have been greater ever before. Take the case of ecommerce or instant messaging. How does one differentiate between the options? Each one has his own perception that one goes with. But is there any real USP that stands out? That’s why in an over-crowded brand economy, it’s necessary that brands pursue a purpose and stick to achieving it in the long term.
Content was always king, will always be so
Most brands today are fighting it out with their competitors via marketing. It’s not product differentiation. It’s either promotion or packaging. In such a scenario, content is the differentiator. Insights matter here too, but what also matters is the way it’s communicated.
PR campaigns today need to be stretched to brand propagators, beyond the scope of media. For enterprise technology companies analysts matter. For app companies developers matter. For FMCG companies nutritionists matter. Digital again steps in with tools (paid and non-paid) to find these influencers. Securing their customer stories is again then powerful content, to sway a prospective customer in your favor.
Yes, I’m advocating that PR should merge seamlessly with digital, to tell a story that’s compelling enough to influence opinion. But technology integration is also something that digital has unintentionally done for us. Be the use of RFID to send real time updates (5kms completed, 10kms completed etc.) on the social pages of athletes running in a marathon or the use of Augmented Reality at events or college fests that again send direct updates to your social feeds. Or a beer vending machine, that drops a can depending on how much head-banging you do in front of it.
Lastly, the need for PR to be closely integrated with the business, was never more important. Storytelling opportunities are plenty. From knowing the waiters story who came in line of fire to save people staying at the Taj hotel, when it was attacked in Mumbai, to the technology integration that helps ecommerce companies deliver millions of orders on a daily basis.