Melding Your Offline and Online Communications


Breaking through the clutter. That’s our job as PR pros, but it’s not easy. As communications professionals, we face a number of challenges in carrying the conversation across channels and particularly across the digital divide. 

This article provides a framework for how to manage the transitions, starting with the planning process. 

Challenges in connecting online and offline:

Silos within organizations have long been a challenge for communicators. Digital media has added a new wrinkle by adding silos of specialization within agencies and boutique shops. 

These technical silos evolved because:

1. Channels have evolved. Whether it’s getting a news mention in a trade publication or delivering an email newsletter past spam filters, each channel carries its own unique challenges. 

2. Enhanced complexity. Especially on the digital side, channels are evolving rapidly. Staying up on the latest takes time and resources.

3. Increased risk. For example, spam filtering wasn’t an issue in the early days of email. Now, the risks associated with getting blacklisted may be significant. 

In order to overcome these challenges, communicators must plan for the flow of data, determine how that data will be used in order to evaluate audience response and be ready to adapt accordingly, even mid-campaign. 

Audience: Needless to say, if you don’t know whom you are trying to reach, you will have a difficult time communicating with them. 

Intent: How does your audience prefer to consume the kind of message your client wishes to send?  Consider the timing and sequence across channels.

Message: What are you trying to communicate?  Include a measurable goal, something that indicates that the message has moved the audience in some way that matters to the client’s business. It’s not always possible to demonstrate sales impact; sometimes you need to get a little creative. “Get 500 Facebook Likes” is a start, but if you can further define as, “Get 500 Facebook Likes, who signed up using an email address and are confirmed leads” is more specific and therefore, easier to measure.

Medium: Once you know whom you are talking to, how they gather information and you have defined the message you hope to get across, deciding which channels you should use to reach them is fairly straightforward. 

Personas exercise: One exercise that can assist in tailoring your message is to create persona profiles. Here are three approaches.

1. Low budget approach: Pick someone you know who most closely resembles the audience type you want to reach. This could be by job position if you are B2B focused, or you might choose your mom if you are targeting female consumers. Consider who they are, what motivates them, and where they go for information. Caveat: You might pick someone who does not reflect how everyone else you are targeting feels or behaves. 

2. Mid-level budget approach: Contact a few people who fit the audience description. Ask them what media they prefer use for information in the context of your client’s business. 

Using the phone over email, you gain the added benefit of potentially digging out thoughts that might not have occurred to you and that they might not volunteer through e-mail response. Caveat: You might ask a sample set (e.g. three people) whose opinions may skew differently from the majority.

3. Big (enough) budget approach: Survey the market. The advantage of a more formal survey is that you should acquire enough opinions to sift out the outliers.  

The persona outline:

For each audience segment, create a classification that describes their behavior, position or role (e.g. “the administrator” or “students”). 

List what motivates each, their role in the decision-making process, issues you must overcome to convince them of your message and so forth. 

Integrating online and offline communications is an ongoing challenge but with a plan outlining how to carry the message—and with a tracking process in place to observe if you’re on the right track; adjusting where you aren’t—you can get your messages across the plate. PRN

CONTACT:

Mike Samec is director of digital strategy at Gibbs & Soell Business Communications. He can be reached at MSamec@gibbs-soell.com.     

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