Here’s Where Communicators are Hoping to Invest More Resources

Money can’t buy you love and it can’t buy you passionate employees, but it surely can buy you more resources. When posed with the question of “What would you do with a 15% increase in your budget?,” executives participating in a recent PR News/Crisp leadership roundtable shared an interesting wish list that centered around the elusive but most important area of their business: Audience. If I had a nickel for every time someone at a conference advised communicators to “first, understand your audience” or “go to where your audience is” (fish where the fish are), I would probably still have played the Mega Millions but I’d be richer nonetheless.

It’s such an obvious goal – to understand the audiences we are marketing to. Yet very few marketers and PR practitioners have been able to crack the code of not only who their audience is, but what their audience wants, why they want it, and where they’ll let you join in the conversation. In a sentence: It’s complicated. And made more so by a lack of understanding in the C-suite as to what the key performance indicators are for any initiative. One great tip from roundtable participant Tina Starkey of the American Cancer Society is to run the “final report” format by the C-suite prior to a campaign so the KPIs are agreed upon ahead of time.

The proliferation of social media platforms and data and analytics tools make stakeholder communications and engagement more accessible. At the same time, it challenges every communicator to develop better metrics and communications processes. Those who understand audience marketing understand their audience first. They develop comprehensive personas of their core customers/stakeholders and hold themselves and their teams accountable to persona-focused storytelling. They put the customer first. And they talk to real people in their markets to develop these personas. They also understand that data + intuition make for a better communications formula.

As for the wish list from our roundtable participants, here are the areas they say they’d invest more dollars in:

  • Audience research and testing
  • Influencer relations
  • Research/development of personas
  • Paid media
  • Employee advocacy platforms
  • Video
  • Online newsrooms
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Contextual content marketing
  • Web site redesign

The top of the wish list from the participants - from large healthcare organizations, nonprofits and PR firms - being audience development and testing is promising in terms of setting our priorities for 2019. A few participants noted that paid social – be it on Facebook, Google or other platforms – is no longer a no-no for PR pros. Which makes integrated communications more a reality than ever before. Buyer beware, though, because anyone can buy reach. The smart communicator captures mindshare. If the medium is the message, then be careful not to spend all your dollars on Facebook when your audience is hanging out on Twitter, and vice versa. Once you’ve identified the medium that matters for your audience, make sure you have a story to tell. As one participant noted: “Tell your own stories. Don’t wait for the media to tell them for you.”

So, how would you spend that extra 15% you're getting in your budget for 2019? I am assuming, of course, that you are fighting hard for more budget in 2019.

- Diane Schwartz