I had the privilege of being a panel expert at NEXT Marketing & Design Agency’s unique BRAND CHATTER™ event earlier this week. BRAND CHATTER™ is the name coined by NEXT’s CEO, Sandy Gerber – something she uses to describe the buzz around a brand. I joined four other experts in social media, networking and broadcast media. An interesting discussion ensued that gave the 80-strong audience of business owners and marketing directors food for thought. I think the discussion accurately reflected the ever-evolving communications industry – how social media is now a necessity and not really a choice and how the value of traditional media and campaigns is being scrutinized more closely. Business owners now want the most cost-effective options that will create the most buzz and engagement for their brand. So, what’s the answer?
Here are some key take-aways from the discussion:
- Integrated campaigns are key. As seasoned communications consultants, we should be recommending campaigns that have a mix of traditional PR, social media and, depending on the brand and its objectives, an element of advertising. Word of mouth and networking is still crucial to a brand’s success and should also not be ignored. A lot of brands need to reach multiple audiences so leveraging different channels will help achieve this. That said, it’s important to ensure that communications are always clear and consistent, regardless of the platform.
- Keep it simple. Be realistic – you can’t be everywhere all the time. And, if you’re a small business, you will have to prioritize what’s best for your brand. Just because other brands are now exploring Pinterest and Google+, shouldn’t automatically mean that you also have to be there. Perhaps Twitter is your best option at present, along with a simple media relations campaign. Building a brand’s reputation takes time and patience.
- There’s no set formula or template. We were often asked, “where should I be” and “what should I be saying and when?”. The important thing for business owners to realize is that there’s no winning formula that can be applied to every brand. Ultimately, it comes down to what is going to bring you the best ROI. A good consultant should review your vision, objectives, audience, budget and resources and make recommendations off the back of that.
- Content is still king. It’s an old one but a good one. And it won’t go away. However sophisticated a campaign may sound or cost, it must include compelling and regular content that engages a brand’s audience and makes them want to come back for more and share it with others.
- Don’t just broadcast your message. Listen to your fans, followers, readers…Whether it’s through social media or more traditional focus groups, letters to the editor, surveys or blog comments, brands should be responding to the needs of their markets and not just shouting how great they are. If you go with the latter, it may well be falling on deaf ears – you will never know. Ambassadors can be a great way to create BRAND CHATTER – they garner interest and credibility – something that can prove priceless.
- Metrics – this is something every communications professional should feel accountable for. Campaigns can be relatively easy to measure – i.e. number of coverage hits, circulation, readership or the equivalent advertising cost – or metrics can be more difficult to define, especially in the social arena. Still, it’s important that metrics are agreed upon at the outset of a campaign so that everyone involved is aware of what is being used to define success.