Storytelling is a big, comforting blanket in a world that is increasing driven by the cold, hard calculations of data and algorithms. It's part of what makes us human and essential to engaging, persuading and convincing audiences to act on new information—which is why it's so critical to public relations, communications and marketing professionals.
But just like we've evolved beyond cave drawings and oral traditions, storytelling in the modern era has to adapt and change as attention spans shrink and competition for consideration grows more intense. Professional communicators need to understand not only what their clients and prospects want but how to reach them. And that's where redefining communications comes in.
Modern Communications Checklist
How do you ensure your communications are up to snuff in the modern era? Read on for our essential checklist to guarantee your communications strategies and campaigns are 21st-century approved.
Understand your audience.
It's not enough to just know who you're trying to reach. Modern communications require a deep understanding of your audience—what they like and dislike, what media they consume and who they turn to for recommendations and advice. Today's communicators need to go beyond target audiences to address a variety of key stakeholders, and the people and groups they interact with most often.
There are no substitutes for experience but two overlooked opportunities for getting to know your audience are right at marketer's fingertips. For one, you can simply ask them through a poll or survey. Alternatively, look for team members and vendors with ancillary professional experience to gain a deeper understanding of how client segments overlap and work together.
Create emotional resonance.
When you know your audience, you can put your stories to work to help them better understand their problems, view challenges in a new light and see a clear path toward success. Simply reciting facts and figures isn't enough—you need to tap into your own emotional intelligence to harness responses and turn them into actionable insights.
Emotional appeals are why marketers use benefits rather than features in their copy. People don't buy goods and services because they have the most bells and whistles. They seek out brands that reflect their own self image. And what could be more emotionally relevant than that? Understanding that purchasing decisions are deeply personal, even in the business-to-business realm, can help you position your communications to appeal to the human emotions beneath the facts and figures.
Modern communication initiatives have the ability to deeply tackle complex topics and issues in ways that weren't possible before. You can link blogs, videos, social posts, press and print decks in a matter of keystrokes. And today's communications need to be narrow and deep, rather than wide and shallow.
As natural language processing upends search engines as we know them, thematic keywords grouped around topics will be more important to help individuals find the information they're seeking. Your brand doesn't have to be all things to all people. But it does need to be the answer for the right kind of customers.
Tackle subjects in depth in multi-chapter pieces and don't be afraid to repackage information. It will only help the ideal client find your solution.
But stay snappy.
It's still a 140-character driven world out there. Don't say in 20 words what can be communicated in 5.
"Transmedia" storytelling will only evolve into the next wave of integrated communications. You can't just hope your audience will see your content on social channels, in traditional media or through targeted ads. Taking your stories to different channels and connecting the dots helps reinforce your brand position and reach your prospects where they are.
If your campaigns don't inlcude multiple outreach strategies, they likely aren't going to connect with your audience. Spend more time publishing and promoting the communications you create and you'll reap the rewards of an engaged audience.
It's easy to think in terms of search words, databases, algorithms and workflows. But remember, at the end of the day, our communications are written by people for people. Listen and engage as much as you publish and promote. Create communications that are endearing, touching and humorous. Create the type of communications initiatives you'd like to see—chances are, you're not the only one.