5 Steps to Promote Your Cross-Platform Brand Story

Reprinted from PRNews

Since I wrote 6 Steps to Create a Comprehensive PR Plan in 2014, the public relations and communications industry has gone through a transformative time.

The speed of communications is ever-increasing, and new channels are constantly emerging. There’s also a greater need to micro-target messages using interconnected cross-platform campaigns to create a continuous story experience. But getting the basics right still applies.

Here are 5 steps to consider when starting your campaign:

Challenge your goal. What outcome do you want to achieve from the campaign? A change in behavior, a change in perception, increased sales, increased awareness? Brainstorm with your team to delve into the outcomes required from the campaign. Challenge assumptions and think differently. This is where you determine whether a campaign is a go or a no-go, which will save you time and money in the long run. Is it the right strategy for your brand right now in the current market context?

Know your audience, know your platforms. The details are in the demographics. Determine which individuals you need to move to achieve your goal. Know how they interact and receive information about your brand. Where do they get their news? What platforms are they most active on? Who/what do they rely on as a trusted source? Who are they influenced by? How influential are they as a whole? A marketing research agency can help you segment your audience, while focus groups, surveys and polling can help you find answers to the questions above. UberConference can be used for focus groups with ability to monitor who is on the call, while SurveyMonkey offers a selection of ready-made marketing surveys.

Let your data speak. Continually mine your data for insights. Consider social media monitoring software such as nuvi.com to help you listen in and see what others are saying about your brand, the industry you are in or the perception you want to sway. If you have the budget, you can work with a digital agency; if not, be resourceful and use the data you have available on your channels. Avoid the temptation to mass-market your campaign due to lack of data access.

Create your storyline. Analyze other campaigns that are targeting similar audiences to see what is and isn’t working. What content is your audience responding to? What content are they creating? Review your agreed-upon goals for the campaign and brainstorm 3-5 storylines with your team, keeping the outcome in mind. Test your top storylines with a selected segment of influencers and revise, revise, revise based on input. You can release test storylines onto your social platforms to measure performance in terms of reach and spread across your audience segments or select influencers you are familiar with to participate in an online, closed focus group.

Determine your channel mix. Your campaign story can determine your mix. Maybe you start with a consumer Instagram Story which ties into promoted brand content on media platforms. That Story ties to an event launch for your brand, and is followed by your brand story promotion. Think of multiple ways to lead and position the story, connecting within your public and consumer audience from the beginning.

Truth, reputation and reliance are mainstays—make sure those key attributes are anchored in your approach and are reflected in your selection of media partners and influencers.

Is influencer marketing the solution?

Recently, I had the opportunity to discuss the value of influencer marketing with a CEO seeking to expand brand visibility globally. This topic has come up quite a bit over the past year in my conversations with leaders – finding that one influencer who can move the visibility needle for their brand.

Influencer marketing can get you targeted exposure to your desired customer/stakeholder, but is it really the one perfect solution to instantly increase your visibility?

Here are several tips to consider before implementing an influencer marketing strategy:

See the world from the eyes of your target audience – not your eyes. Do the research or hire a firm to help you understand the online behaviors of the audience you are targeting. View the world from their perspective – who do they follow, trust, admire? What voices do they listen to?

Uphold your brand uniqueness. Don’t chase an influencer because they are the latest, hottest person that all brands in your industry are pursuing or that they are “tried and true” – having been used by other brands in the past. Know your brand’s traits and seek out influencers that embody those traits.

Know your goals. Map out what you hope to achieve with influencer marketing and ensure your influencer and your influencer’s agent understand expectations. Are you seeking more conversions, greater share of voice, more brand awareness? Define what your measurement of success will be.

One spoke in a larger wheel. Remember that an influencer marketing campaign is part of a large marketing strategy that works together towards increasing your visibility, overall market share or donor giving. It should never be your one main approach.

Have an exit strategy. Make sure your influencer contract provides for unforeseen circumstances in case your influencer suddenly develops a bad reputation due to actions on their part, providing you with an exit and mitigation. Include start and end dates to your engagement, scope of work along with expectation and metrics to be measured.

It’s exciting and fun to work with an influencer but don’t let that excitement create a haze around your real goal for engaging them with your brand.

The Art of Storytelling

Whether you want to sell a product to a client or sell an idea to your boss, storytelling is the single most powerful way to capture your audience’s attention and to make the not yet tangible real in the eyes of others.

So how do you do it and how do you do it well?

Break it down into simple parts. Remember those story books from your childhood? Why where they so appealing? They were simple. A photograph here, one or two sentences followed. To be effective, you must break your story down into digestible parts. Even if you think it is simple, go even further.

Believe in it yourself. You, the storyteller, need to believe in your story or no one else will. Be passionate about what you are portraying and keep your energy up even if it is the 20th time you are telling your story. Remember that, for your audience, it is the first time they are hearing the story.

The all-important protagonist. Every story has one. Your story needs one too. If it doesn’t have one, you can reference a member of the audience and interlace them into your story so that they become the protagonist.

Set the scene. Create visuals that help you tell the story but do not take away from you telling the story. They should enhance the story you are telling be it a few PowerPoint slides, photos or videos. Sometimes a single photo will do the job.

Know your audience. Do your research and try to put together what the motivators will be for the audience you are telling your story to. This will require that you tweak your story as you go to fit each audience. Don’t be afraid to alter the script.

Watch the body language in the room. As you engage in storytelling be very observant of the body language in the room. Is the audience leaning forward? Has their expression changed? Both are good signs. Leaning away or checking their phones every several seconds; not a good sign. But don’t give up. Adjust your efforts – including inserting them into the story by mentioning their first name – to see if you can engage them.

Practice. Create practice that works for you and makes you comfortable. I tend to mentally run through what I will present in broad themes beforehand. This gives me the flexibility to create as I walk the audience through the story live. If you are not comfortable with practicing and get nervous presenting, contact your local theater. Most offer acting for non-actors and can help you get comfortable as a storyteller.

The Rise of Brand Narcissism

“Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”

Pepsi – and now United – are the latest example of brands exhibiting evidence of spending too much time admiring their reflection in the mirror while the societal and political climate is changing rapidly outside their doors.

‘Tone deaf’ and ‘out-of-touch’ – two terms that are now synonymous with both brands with United quickly becoming a global textbook case.

United and Pepsi are not alone – Uber, Google, YouTube – powerhouse brands that have been forced to take the blinders off and face the new reality of growing business and consumer impatience and purchasing power action.

Most of it directly correlates to company culture – when leaders and employees together perceive their brand from 1.) their vision of the organization, 2.) negate alternative realities to that vision, 3.) ignore public/consumer feedback and 4.) remain out-of-touch with rapidly changing scenarios within markets.

Communications and public relations teams can help put a stop to brand narcissism by taking the lead on bringing the public and alternative views into sharp focus internally.

Benchmark, continually. Benchmark perception on a regular basis, every quarter or twice a year. Hire an independent research firm to conduct the benchmark analysis and to present findings to yourself and your leadership team. Try to avoid a defensive reaction to the feedback and take time to assess the findings before reacting.

Pay attention to digital. Keep an eye on your sentiment analysis data and read what is being shared and said about your brand on a regular basis. Share those reports with your leadership team in your meetings (don’t just email the report, present it and explain it).

Don’t forget media. Deep dive on your brand in the media daily both on social and on the web. Who is covering you on a regular basis? Who is citing you as a source or your data/research as a source? Read article comments over time. Provide staff with weekly updates on media coverage, encourage them to read and interact with the comments.

Educate leadership. Often times, brand narcissism starts from the top and is a reflection of leadership style. Invite specialists to come and speak to your company/team about changes in your industry, changes in customer behavior, innovation in the workplace. HR can be a trusted partner in helping to provide online courses and information on a regular basis to prevent ‘group think’ from taking hold.

Last, but not least, conduct scenario analysis. Stay informed of what is happening in the news, what is trending in society, politics and culture and how overall public sentiment is evolving. “If you see something, say something”, applies here.

Building Global Visibility for Your Brand

Reprinted from PR News, February 26, 2017

PR and communications teams increasingly are pressured to own their brand’s earned media space beyond their borders to keep up with – and stand uniquely apart from – competitors. This is becoming true for non-profits competing for donor dollars and has been a constant for the private sector.

Here are steps for building and increasing global earned media visibility for your brand:

Understand the why: What is prompting this need for more global visibility? Based on the answer, work with leadership to determine what a successful outcome looks like. In addition, decide the long-term level of financial and resource investment the company or organization is willing to make. Will you be able to expand the team by hiring staff? Can you afford to hire a global agency or will your budget support a regional firm? Be pragmatic in determining what combination of tools, agencies and staff you will require to be successful.

Establish metrics: Collaborate with leadership to establish the goal(s), audiences and priority markets to target and develop a timeline. Reach agreement on what metrics will be most effective to measure success and how often and in which form those metrics will be produced.

Understand the media landscape in priority markets: What are the prevalent outlets? How do target audiences get their news? What angles/stories appeal most? Will the approach be entirely earned or is there a pay-to-play model? Are there government-owned outlets that need to be considered and managed differently? Do the research or hire an in-market PR agency to help you develop an in-depth understanding of where and how your audiences engage with media in key markets and which media outlets are most trusted.

Plan your earned media strategy: Determine what pitches and storylines are most relevant for each market and what spokespeople will appeal – either internal to the organization or external. External representatives could be brand ambassadors in the form of board members, celebrities or even digital ambassadors – popular digital stars or platforms that appeal to your target markets.

Determine messaging: This is vital. Conduct messaging exercises with senior leadership covering organizational narratives and those for key projects/products. Ensure spokespeople are well versed and messaging is consistent across owned and shared media platforms. Provide on-camera and off-camera media training for all spokespeople – including media veterans – to ensure they stay up-to-date and comfortable with your messaging.

Audit your content strategy: You will need to develop content and expand your approach so that digital content supports earned media campaigns, targeting audiences where they engage. In some countries, the web is still king as it is seen as a source of trust. What appears in the media should be reflected on your digital properties. Your owned and shared content must reflect earned and paid efforts.

Try to remain as flexible as possible. Each market is different and approaches to earned media may be very different from what you are used to. Leverage your country offices or local vendors for their knowledge and hire or contract local PR talent to help build trust with local, national and regional outlets.