Reconnect with the Basics to Thrive, Even with the Rapid Evolution of the Communication Landscape
June 9, 2023
From the first primitive cave drawings, to the debates of the Roman Forum, to memes on Twitter, communication has been a fundamental, but constantly changing, aspect of human existence. However, never before in human history has communication evolved as quickly as it does today.
Seemingly every day, there is a dramatic shift in how we communicate, whether it is a new trend, tool or strategic shift. In the public relations and communications landscape, it is vital to take stock of how these changes have impacted your own communication. We all must learn from this spike in evolutionary pace to best take advantage of new ways to communicate, or even be the ones leading the way on the next progression.
There have never been more outlets for communication. Social media has grown to envelop our lives, a 24-hour news cycle rings in our ears and all the information in the world can now be carried in our pockets. The access to information that our current audiences possess was previously unimaginable. In many ways, it is easier now than any time in history to communicate, but this ease of access does not necessarily translate to the best communication.
Even with these drastic changes in style and constantly evolving platforms, there are consistent ideas that have guided communications professionals for decades and will continue to form the basis for strategy in the future. Identifying who you are trying to reach, what you are trying to say and determining where and when to say it will remain north stars, even in a shifting landscape.
Who Are You Trying to Reach
A deep understanding of who you are trying to reach has always been paramount for a communications professional. Every audience has distinct traits we should try to understand and tap into as we seek to influence or contact them. In many ways, that has not changed, but no matter who your target audience is, there is a very good chance that their eyes are glued to a screen for a large portion of the day.
Americans spend an average of seven hours a day looking at a screen, according to a survey by GWI, and that number only continues to grow. With this influx of screen time and how dominant technology is in all our lives, comes new demographic information that must be considered in the world of smartphones and social media. What platform does your target audience prefer, what accounts do they follow there and how do they engage? There are conflicting reports about what this ever-present screen time has done to the human attention span. How do you explain the draw of 10-hour TV show binges versus 10-second social media videos? Whether the medium of choice is short or long form, the competition for audience attention is incredibly fierce.
What Are You Trying to Say
When we think about what we are trying to say, the importance of authenticity and transparency in messaging has become a paramount consideration. As we honestly assess our values and take deep dives into our business practices, we can be forced into tough conversations. Your image and your information are out there. Is the information that is available a true and accurate representation of your company? Is it the representation you want presented? Grooming that image, curating the content and establishing an authentic voice can be determining factors for success.
Authenticity can also be driven by your storytelling. Personal narratives and influencer appeals can be a great way to engage with your audience across platforms while also forming a deeper connection and standing out in a crowded media environment. Honesty can help build a positive reputation throughout the communities you are serving, both in-person and digitally. An authentic voice with personal content connects beyond the power of a slogan or a traditional boilerplate message. Using a digital platform to showcase a more human side of your operation can create a real-world connection. However, there are inherent risks with promoting personal stories or partnering to promote your company. This means taking a proactive approach to managing social media accounts, and being prepared to respond quickly and appropriately to any negative feedback or criticism.
Where and When Are You Saying It
We mentioned earlier how there is a good chance that your audience is probably glued to a screen for more and more time throughout the day, opening them up to thousands of new advertisements and messages. Social channels, that drive this up-to-the-minute cycle, are a key component of any effective communications plan, as is paid boosting and search engine optimization (SEO). All of these are tactics that have changed since their onset in the early ‘90s and continue to evolve today.
Because of the deluge of information, moments to capitalize on your message can be fleeting. You need to find your audience on the right channel, with the right message, at the right time, in a mountain of other content. Being current is vital to not missing your moment and to capitalize on a trend.
The relatively recent onset of influencer culture has provided a new wrinkle for companies looking for an authentic voice on social media. We have moved beyond celebrities and are using more “relatable” faces to directly promote a product. This can be effective to help convey a personal and authentic message that connects with today’s audiences. However, this also opens your business to whole new set of challenges. You are aligning yourself with an ever-growing number of personalities, and tying your success to their views, their opinions and their actions.
Instagram, cancel culture, LinkedIn, Zoom, Facebook social activism, Twitter, TikTok. The world has been in flux, driven by technology, but with change comes opportunity. To take advantage of these new ways of communicating, businesses need to be willing to experiment with new platforms and approaches to build strong relationships with the communities they serve. If you feel overwhelmed by the constantly shifting seas of communication and public relations, remember to go back to the basics. Think of who you are trying to reach, what you want to say, and where and when to reach your audience. Applying that information to today’s media landscape will allow you to control your narrative and stay at the forefront of this wave.