One of the hardest challenges that all Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) and marketing professionals at large face is cracking the awareness challenge. How can you communicate, educate and motivate a target audience to the point where they understand their own need relative to your value proposition and are willing to take steps to engage in order to do something about it? How do you break the noise barrier when it seems like every other company is saying the same thing in the same communications vehicles with the same level of conviction?
According to Wikipedia “public relations (PR) is the practice of managing the flow of information between an individual or an organization and the pubic. PR provides an organization or individual exposure to their audiences using topics of public interest and news items that do not require direct payment. The aim of PR by a company often is to persuade the public, investors, partners, employees, and other stakeholders to maintain a certain point of view about it, its leadership, products, or of political decisions. Common activities include speaking at conferences, winning industry awards, working with the press, and employee communication.”
That Was Then
For decades, if not centuries, getting awareness was as easy as hiring an agent or agency, paying them a monthly retainer and then showing up whenever they scheduled an interview or speaking engagement. You paid regardless of what influence or awareness was created and the only measurements of success were either clippings reports or very expensive awareness firms who did laborious focus groups for unaided recall (who remembered what you said without having to be reminded). The thought of creating a conversation with your target audience never entered the PR equation because all vehicles were primarily one-way.
This Is Now
Social media has forever changed the PR landscape. I’ve already spent time on this subject so won’t repeat what you can find here. I will add that analytics and measurements of success have also dramatically changed. The availability of profiles and details are beyond “Big Brother is watching” status such that smart companies can know more about their consumer patterns than the consumer themselves. The best treatise I’ve come across on this was from Avinash Kaushik’s blog in September of 2009 which is still relevant for marketing professionals today.
If there is any advice I can give for everyone reading, whether a small independent contractor or a ginormous multinational corporation, it would be to pick your awareness targets carefully and then use one carefully executed strategy to own it. Don’t try to be all things for all markets at all times with one message. Today’s consumer is much more savvy on what they want and how they consume information for which to find it. Take advantage of that preference and choose your awareness battles along trade, vertical and business vehicles at a minimum. Then engage in a conversation as the more education you provide, the more communication your prospects will come back for and ultimately be motivated to take action (preferably with your solution).