I remember, many moons ago, when I interviewed for my first job at WE (then Waggener Edstrom). I was going over the PR basics in my head, the routine answers I would turn to if the nerves prevailed and all else failed: know your audience, build relationships, be concise, etc.
In this day and age, it’s easy to overlook the basics. We live and work in a time when the ways to consume information are more diverse than ever before. When YouTubers are the “it” influencer one day and Snapchatters the next. When brands constantly question how they break through the clutter and remain relevant to consumers.
So I was humbled when I came across an article in the Columbia Journalism Review about how The New York Times is incorporating design into audience research to understand what people need in breaking news moments. The line that stood out the most? “If you’re not doing audience research, you risk just taking shots in the dark.”
This was a good reminder about one of the basics of communications. For brands, success depends on understanding your audience, knowing the best ways to connect with them, and identifying the style of content that will leave the most impactful impression. This is at the heart of WE Communication’s recent Stories in Motion research, a study that examines consumer behaviors in relationship to branded content and how these behaviors change by channel, platform, time of day and product category.
The type of content that resonates with consumers of one product category may be completely different than the next. For example, consumers in the automobile, wellness and tech categories are influenced by product-focused content that informs them about new features or benefits for daily life. The spirits category is unique, however, and places a much heavier reliance on entertaining content. 42 percent of people buying spirits are influenced by entertaining content, compared to 33 percent who are influenced by product information.
Let me briefly return to the CJR article. Author Heather Chaplin defined the first step of any design process as the following: “don’t make anything until you know you who are making it for and why.” Storytelling is similar to design process in that regard. Audiences are comprised of individuals who have different emotional needs and desires. Before brands create a communications strategy and plan, they need to go back to the basics and learn anything and everything that defines the holistic individual they are targeting.
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