In today’s media landscape, it’s not enough to have an excellent product or service. That’s just the start. To cut through a cluttered market and really engage with customers, we need to leverage the right media to build relationships and tell stories about the brand.

Earlier this month, our team attended the ‘Earned Media: PR, Influence and the Media of Tomorrow’ hosted by Interactive Minds – an event that focused on answering the question many brands are facing today: What can we do to stand out from our competitors?

Interactive Minds brought together three key thought leaders:

  • Lyndsey Gordon (Senior PR Manager at P&O Cruises)
  • Ashford Pritchard (Co-Founder & Director at Kicker Communications)
  • Elizabeth Anderson (Head of PR at The Iconic)

Here are our 5 main takeaways from the event:

1. Create Content, But Make It Shareable

If you thought consumers were moving away from news publications, think again. Not only are people engaging with news more than ever before (72% consume news daily), but they’re also sharing that news. With the click of a button or the tap of an app, consumers are sharing the stories they resonate with most on social media. From there, those stories are reposted, retweeted, liked and shared again, thereby reaching huge audiences. This is organic growth, meaning you don’t have to pay a dime to get your content in front of a growing readership.

As a result, data-driven journalists are measuring their success by the number of shares a story receives. Shareable content is now king, so journalists want to publish engaging content that entices consumers to share.

So, how can we create shareable content? Ashford Pritchford says to start by asking yourself a simple question: “Does anybody care?” In other words, is this information important to the outside world? Is it timely, relevant, significant or quirky? To create shareable content, focus on what your brand can add to the conversation that is unique, interesting and relevant.

While you’re at it, take advantage of the shareability of social platforms whenever you have a major announcement to make. To get consumers talking (and pressing that all important ‘share’ button), consider breaking the news on social media first and creating content around it on your website. Do that before leveraging traditional media (such as print or TV) to get the word out. Social media will help you generate buzz and, in turn, reach new audiences and increase awareness around your product in a massive way.

2. Keep An Eye Out And Share Your Customers’ Content

In today’s digital landscape, the thought of constantly creating content can seem overwhelming. But what if I told you there are people who are already doing it for you – and for free?

Whenever your consumers talk about your brand online and use social media to share their thoughts about your products or services, that’s content. Make the most of it! Repurpose their posts on your own social channels and share their comments on your Instagram stories. By leveraging user-generated content (UGC) you may get 200 media pieces from a single event. Once the UGC is out there, it’s your job to amplify and spread the message.

With this approach you’ll not only publish fresh content more often, but you’ll also build consumer trust. Consumers appreciate brands that engage and interact, so anytime you communicate with them is a win-win. It’s a great way to foster customer relationships and create long-term loyalty. Everyday people won’t forget your brand if you put their content in front of hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of your customers. Give them their 15 minutes of fame and you’ll be rewarded with exposure.

The motto? Create once and publish often.

3. Your Customers Are Your Biggest Brand Advocates

As a brand, you want to convey a message and gain consumer trust. The problem we face is that with so much misleading content out there, consumers are wary of corporate messaging.

Adding user-generated content to your PR toolkit can help you to bridge this credibility gap. In a saturated market, customer stories and reviews hold serious weight. So, sharing what consumers are saying about your brand will cement consumer trust.

Coming directly from consumers, positive stories about your brand will sound more authentic and genuine. Rather than talking about the benefits of your products, let your consumers do that for you. Where possible, curate your social media feeds with their feedback so that people looking for information can find these highly relatable stories.

4. Transparent, Consistent Communication Is Key

Social call-outs are the norm now. With so many brands to choose from, people look for those that align with their values – and they don’t hesitate to use social media to call out brands when they don’t agree with their ethics. According to Liz Andersen, the key is to remain as transparent as possible and keep the lines of communication open with your customers. As she puts it, “PR needs to evolve. Publicity is not the endgame anymore.”

She suggests working through these strategies:

  • Take the time to understand your customer. Who they are, what they do and why they do it. This background information will allow you to connect with them beyond the sale and speak to them as a person, not just a consumer. Nothing makes a customer feel more special.
  • Be genuine, authentic and transparent. Customers just want to know more about your brand. Being open to speaking about it and answering questions is an easy way to nurture customer relationships.
  • Pay attention to the trends within your industry. It’s not a coincidence that retail companies are bringing up sustainability and body positivity more and more – they’re giving consumers what they want. You have to be culturally relevant if you want your customers to respect you as a brand.
  • Identify transparency gaps. Can you be more open about your company’s supply chain, manufacturing or internal policies? Can you communicate the values and visions that drive the brand?

And if some aspects of your brand – such as sustainability, eco-friendliness, or whatever it is your consumers care about – could still use some improvement, be honest about that. Take a humble approach and see this as an opportunity to share the journey you’re on.

Aim for progress, not perfection. Transparency and humbleness is all consumers are asking for. They’re your strongest defence in the digital media age.

5. Storydoing Trumps Storytelling

In the current landscape, cultural commentary is no longer optional. We like brands that aren’t afraid to speak up. Don’t be scared to showcase strong opinions, champion something (or someone), and take a stand on social issues. It’ll open up that all-important dialogue and help your customers to resonate with your brand.

Actions speak louder than words. If you say you’ll do something, do it – and prove it. Anyone can share ideas and opinions, but not everyone acts on it. Taking action and making real changes is what counts.

Liz Andersen said it beautifully: “Storydo, don’t storytell.”

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