Marketing isn’t what it used to be. With promiscuous consumers eschewing brands’ missives with ad blockers and on-demand TV, and cynical millennials distrusting brands’ social content, it’s clear that marketers are needing to be even smarter with their communication strategies to ensure they build and maintain consumer trust. That’s why PR is more important than ever before.
No matter the audience – from baby boomer through to generation Z – storytelling from trusted sources has never been more valuable.
Our job as PR consultants, in a nutshell, is to tell these brand stories. We act as guardians of trusted content; igniting conversations, communicating intelligent and compelling messages – and that hasn’t really changed over all the years I have worked in PR. It’s just that we now have multiple platforms at our fingertips. And the power of great PR still remains. An inspiring article, written by an independent journalist, or indeed influencer, in a powerful title, never fails to deliver impact.
As Patrick Hanlon writes for Forbes, ‘it’s about how to distribute your product message across whatever channels are relevant to you so that users, consumers, and fans feel the one-to-oneness that helps them feel that they are a part of your brand community.’
Advocates and influencers
But generating trust and goodwill can also come from harnessing the power of a brand’s own audience, and most public relations and social media campaigns will include an advocacy programme. It’s not just about social chat and creating noise. Seth Godin, in his iconic book ‘Tribes’, refers to the power of a group of individuals who come together thanks to a common belief. Harnessed by a brand, or in Godin’s words “the leader”, this can be powerful stuff. This is advocacy at its best.
We also understand the importance of social influencers with large and relevant online followings. Developing a valuable influencer strategy requires careful thought and clear goals however. The persuasive power of the most popular online names has been thrown into doubt in recent years, with micro-influencers reportedly encouraging healthier engagement rates and a higher degree of authenticity.
Jay Baer writes a great piece here looking at the differences between advocates and influencers. Customer advocates are powerful thanks to their genuine relationship with the brand. They care and are keen to promote and help the brand. Influencers, may be motivated solely by money – and consumers can sniff this out.
In a world of fake news and widespread distrust, trusted storytelling from trusted sources is everything. It’s a nuanced and multi-layered landscape, but with the right tools every brand can and should navigate it.
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Words: Georgie Upton