On average, the typical American is exposed to a minimum of 4,000 ads a day. These ads could be subtle, such as a brand logo on your neighbor’s shirt, or apparent, such as the unavoidable 1-800 ads on cable television. We, as humans, are constantly bombarded with brands attempting to convince us to believe in them—to buy from them. Over time, consumerism has focused so deeply on understanding how humans operate that we forget the word “human.”
We all have our morning routines. Whether that involves getting the kids ready for school or changing from your pajama pants into sweatpants and sitting on the couch, we all participate in the very activities that make us human—not consumers and not worker bees. As we transition through this pandemic, millions of us are adjusting our mindsets to cope and make it through this difficult period. We have rediscovered our collective humanity—and “consumers” are no longer afraid to make this known.
No longer are people so susceptible to the blatant appeal of materialism. Instead, they are demanding to be seen for who they are as human beings; and the brands who fail to accept this and adjust will likely close their doors as we grow through this decade.
Whether your organization is designed to appeal to consumers or business decision-makers, 2022 calls on communications professionals to embrace what it means to be human. Unsure of what to do with that information? Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know.
If you haven’t already, it’s time to transition your mindset about the hybrid experience from a last-minute decision for pandemic survival to a sustaining, expansive opportunity.
In 2022 and beyond, consider how you can integrate physical and digital components of your operations to create meaningful, human-centered hybrid experiences. This can be accomplished in many ways, such as expanding the options in which your staff can engage with your brand and investing in the technology and infrastructure needed to provide not only a seamless internal experience but a heightened one.
To effectively impress your external audiences, gather up-to-date, relevant feedback and input through quantitative and qualitative data collection. This will allow you to account for your brand’s unique audience needs when incorporating the principles of human-centered design. By focusing on the human experience first, then the technology experience second, hybrid experiences will provide meaningful ways to engage that are also flexible for both your organization and its audience members.
Done well and with intention, hybrid experiences provide an opportunity for organizations to reach more of their existing audiences and engage new audiences. Think about the possibilities hybrid experiences provide in the geographic expansion of your audience base alone and what that could mean for your organization.
Data Usage in Digital Marketing
Let’s face it. Between computer internet browsers, our cell phones, apps, wearable technology, electronic health records, and more, we’re all being tracked in many ways both known and unknown. What has been referred to for years as consumer data should now in your mind shift to be called human data. Looking at data through the lens that humans buy or buy into your brand will help you think about the entire human experience as a big part of how people decide with which brands to engage.
We’re also becoming increasingly aware that brands are “following” us—beyond just what we purchase. How much sleep we get, how much we move, our heart rates, and so on, are all being tracked. Human data is constantly being collected due to the advancements we’ve made in technology. In marketing, this means we have a choice to make: are we going to use this data to be disruptive (interpreted by us humans as intrusive) or instructive (interpreted by us humans as helpful). At Bloom, we always seek to use human data to create positive connections between our clients’ brands and the audiences with which they seek to engage. To us, that means remembering that we are also human and have a responsibility to use data to create relevant, educational, and helpful experiences; ones that build trust through good data practices, create value for the target audience and put the human in the driver’s seat throughout their brand journey.
Revisit Your Audience Personas Using Human Data and Insights
We’ve collectively been through a lot over the last two years. The pandemic has altered the ways in which people engage with their present reality, including what and how we prioritize; and as communicators that cannot be ignored. This means that your audience personas developed before 2020 are in extreme need of a refresh. Take a deep dive into any and all human data your organization collects about your target audiences. If you don’t have any, or only have a little, it’s time to prioritize its collection.
Then, get a timely pulse on your audiences by strategically leveraging research to gather human insights. At Bloom, whenever possible, we pair quantitative and qualitative research to uncover these insights for our clients. Pairing digital marketing insights with quantitative research data is a great start to gathering human data. Layering qualitative research on top of this showcases an understanding of the importance of anecdotes and life experiences. All of this information will inform you on how your target audience(s) makes decisions about brands.
Authentically Inclusive Campaigns
In the age of 2022 and beyond, not prioritizing DE&I (diversity, equity, and inclusion) is simply not an option. A part of bringing the human experience into your operations means understanding how the workplace is stronger because of our differences and how we can celebrate those differences appropriately and in a way that validates and uplifts the voices of those who are traditionally underrepresented—and this extends into how we provide communications expertise.
To authentically prioritize DE&I, it’s important to first, before anything else, define and clarify what DE&I means to your organization. Then, consider how your internal and external communications initiatives can reflect that sentiment, from marketing campaigns to messaging, to your creative development.
Additionally, be intentional and thoughtful in the ways you place a DE&I lens on your target audience messaging and in public relations campaigns. For messaging, spend time listening and learning to gain a greater understanding of the diverse audiences with which you would like to engage. For example, in what ways is your audience unique that should be celebrated? In what ways is your audience unique that should be respected and recognized with extra kindness and validation?
In PR efforts, consider mapping your target media list to the DE&I goals set forth for your organization, and ensure diversity in both the outlets and the reporters to whom you reach out. This aligns well with a PR professional’s goal to find the most appropriate reporter to bring your particular story to life, in front of your most important audiences, in a way that is authentic and relatable.
All of this means little, however, if your organization’s DE&I initiatives are not led or prioritized by and authentically important to members of the C-suite. Real change needs to come from the top to enable DE&I, then be supported by middle and upper managers to ensure alignment and follow-through.
Uplevel Your Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy
The importance of having a corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy is not new. That said, take a hard look at yours this year. Are the give-back priorities outlined “pet projects” deemed important based on the personal interests of executive leadership, or are they truly mission-aligned and community-focused? While pet projects may seem to check the CSR box, they likely offer minimal shared benefits for the business and the community.
Once you ensure that your CSR strategy doesn’t fall in pet project land, check to see if it falls in the “feel good” category. This category makes both the company and its beneficiaries feel good, but if you dig into the data, the activities generate more benefit for the company than for its beneficiaries and therefore have limited benefit to the community. This “feel-good” category can be a slippery slope as the approach can quickly turn dangerous for your brand’s reputation as society becomes more and more willing to publicly hold companies accountable for any gaps between their words and actions.
A true CSR strategy can result in significant shared value when strategic, mission-aligned partnerships are forged that enhance the reputation of your brand while addressing major societal issues that can improve the overall quality of life in your community. A good partnership is one in which each party finds value in the resources and expertise of the other, and uses that power to uncover solutions to critical social challenges.
In 2022, I encourage you to reevaluate your CSR strategy objectively with the above in mind. Then, either have the courage to start from scratch or refine it to ensure it aligns your company’s mission with the right partners to make a real difference. From there, an important step must be taken to outline key performance indicators and assign a key staff member or committee to keep your company accountable to making measurable human and community impact.
Continue to Prioritize Content Marketing, Especially Video
As communicators, our role is continuing to shift from pusher to educator. Content should be educational as consumers spend more time researching purchases. Make your company the one to provide them with the information needed to make an informed decision.
This year, re-evaluate your content marketing strategy to ensure it’s focused on relevant educational content. And, if you haven’t already, it’s beyond time to invest in video. With today’s smartphones and accessories, you don’t need fancy or expensive equipment to start utilizing the power of video to educate your audiences and share your story.
Influencers are No Longer Trendy
Influencers are part of the norm and can provide high return on investment (ROI) in marketing and PR campaigns. Micro-influencers with small but highly-engaged audiences should be considered for some of the highest ROI—IF you’ve done your due diligence in the above trend of redefining your target personas. Define your goal upfront with influencer marketing: brand awareness or conversion, for example. If conversion is your goal, consider leveraging artificial intelligence (A.I.) to engage in performance-based influencer marketing.
For business-to-business (B2B) focused organizations, it’s time to double down on LinkedIn. With much controversy and chatter clouding the minds of many marketers, my view is that business-to-consumer (B2C) focused organizations shouldn’t be too quick to abandon Meta’s Facebook. Through the haze of press scandals, its numbers are still growing, so continue to prioritize the platform IF it fits with your updated audience personas.
Human-centered Marketing Brings Us Back to Basics
With so many channels and options for tactics continuing to emerge, I remind you again to take a hard look at your target audience personas as humans, alongside your organizational objectives. Where you can find them, how they prefer to engage with you, what their values are, and more.
Make sure you have a firm foundation in the basics of marketing and PR before getting distracted by emerging technologies and tools, aka “shiny object syndrome.” It’s much more effective and efficient to dominate in one area than to spread yourself and your team too thin trying to do it all.
One of my favorite brands is Cuyana, and I frequently repeat their philosophy in my head in all areas of my life, including my work: “Fewer, better.” See how that simple philosophy might apply to your communications strategy this year to reach your most important audiences.
Communications in the Time of The Great Resignation
During this time coined as The Great Resignation, we’re seeing savvy organizations turn to PR professionals to help them prioritize internal communications—and in big ways. For some, this means going from 0 to 60 overnight to make big leaps to communicate with their employees. For others, this looks like refining and prioritizing an existing strategy. Wherever your organization falls within that spectrum, remember that employees (and employers) are humans; and that it’s been a difficult couple of years for all of us.
Therefore, before you scramble to put together an internal communications plan, or worse, just start communicating without one, take a moment to gather feedback and input from your entire team. Do not assume you know what they want and need, or look at what other companies are doing and assume you should do the same. I repeat, do not assume. After all, your organization is unique and draws certain people to work there for a reason. Ask, listen, think, plan, and then communicate what really matters.
The Lines Between PR, Marketing, and Advertising Continue to Blur
If you’re still taking a siloed approach to communications, meaning PR does this, marketing does that, and advertising does something else, you’re missing out on the power of integrated communications. Additionally, your audiences are likely receiving disjointed messages that are missing the mark, which can quickly translate into a decrease in engagement. (Experiencing a decrease in engagement? This could be the issue).
With the ever-changing communications landscape that’s constantly presenting us with new ways to strategize and engage, it’s critically important for your internal communications teams to work in an integrated fashion or for your organization to work with a full-service, integrated agency.
At the end of the day, the goal of all communications should be that your organization effectively engages with its key audiences in meaningful ways in order to achieve your objectives.
Help Our Reporters Out
It’s no surprise that in the ever-changing media landscape where legacy publications are folding, and resources and journalism talent are being reduced, media outlets are constantly looking for new ways to stay relevant and profitable. Then came COVID, which led to an even further reduction in newsroom sizes, shifted reporters’ beats overnight, and placed even further strain on reporters’ ability to deliver quality news reporting. Put yourself in a reporter’s shoes for a moment: you are responsible for churning out news, with quotas and fast-turn deadlines, now without the manpower you previously had to keep up with the demand of your audiences.
From the perspective of PR professionals, we’ve been battling for attention within newsrooms of smaller sizes, and up against now two years of COVID prioritization, climate change, and other key issues.
The combination of these pressures can be toxic, but it doesn’t have to be. If as PR professionals, we keep in mind that our ability to feed news stories is critical to helping reporters produce regular content, we have an opportunity to truly help our partners in the media by getting really, really honest with ourselves. Any time you pitch a story, stop and ask yourself: is what I’m pitching, in any way, noise being positioned as news?
Ensuring that what you pitch is not contributing to noise in a journalist’s inbox can also be viewed as a heightened responsibility we have as storytellers in today’s times. If a reporter, up against a desperate deadline picks up your “story,” be sure it’s one you would want to see in your own news stream. In short, we’re all overloaded with information—be a reliable source of what’s truly newsworthy.
Broaden your PR Strategy
Because of the changing media landscape, a smart PR strategy should lean into owned, paid, and shared content in addition to earned media. Think affiliate marketing, influencer relations, advertorials, video, and more. And, because everyone with internet access can be a reporter, monitor your brand’s reputation on all platforms with every stakeholder—internal and external—in mind. And if you don’t already have one, invest in the creation of a crisis communications plan to be prepared to respond swiftly and confidently when the unexpected occurs.
Ultimately, if you leave this blog with anything, leave with this: your people should be what you value most at your company. Without them, there is no company. By investing in them, you’re investing in a better future for everyone involved.
Need a little help prioritizing your communications? Get in touch!