Audience Insights

Keep Your Audience Engaged: 5 Steps to Make Your Message Resonate

Keep Your Audience Engaged

The most effective communications aim to get people engaged, influence their behavior, and, ultimately, move them to action.

Too often, though, your targeted audiences end up like the geese in this picture I snapped the other day. The fake coyotes were enlisted to deliver a simple message – keep off the grass.

Clearly, as far as the geese are concerned, that message is no longer resonating.

As communicators and PR pros, we need to constantly work to ensure our audience doesn’t become a flock of indifferent geese. Here are some ways to make sure your messages don’t go stale:

Don’t just throw one pitch – Pitchers who throw only fast balls aren’t pitchers for long. It’s key to find new and different ways to deliver the same or similar messages. Focus on adding variety in how the message is positioned, who delivers it, and how it gets distributed. A blend of digital, print, video and even in-person communications helps ensure your message stays fresh and connects with the full range of your audience. 

Stay connected to your audience – As Peter pointed out last week, it’s essential to know your target audiences. Developing audience personas can be a game changer in terms of identifying your audiences -- and gaining a deeper understanding of what motivates them and how to reach them. Beyond personas, look for ways to gather ongoing feedback to make sure your messages are resonating. 

Avoid boy-who-cried-wolf syndrome – You can go overboard with trying to get your message out. Flooding your audience with messages, particularly if they are not very compelling or actionable, can cause them to check out. This is also true when you're working with the media. If you pitch the same reporters twice a week with mundane press releases, they may not be open to listening when you have a really compelling story to tell.

Make sure you hit the porch – Back in my newspaper days after we hit deadline a savvy old editor would often quip, “well it was all for naught if the paperboy misses the porch.”  Wise words. Even the best messages can’t get traction if they are not reaching your target audience. Make sure you know the right delivery channels and platforms to connect effectively -- and keep up to date with new ways people are getting information.

Monitor and measure — These days, people are getting bombarded with messages. As a result, they can tune out quickly. It’s essential to develop multiple ways to track and measure whether your messaging is resonating. That can include drawing insights from Google Analytics, tracking click and open rates, and measuring response rates or actions taken based on a particular message or campaign. It might make sense to establish an editorial advisory board, either online or in-person, or conduct some polls or surveys to gather more feedback.

Take it from the geese: Delivering the same message in the same way will bring diminishing returns. Be proactive and open to new strategies and tactics if you want to keep your audience engaged. 

Know Your Audience: A 6-Step Plan to Creating Personas

 Your messages aren’t going out to faceless silhouettes. Put a face on your audience by creating personas. Flickr Creative Commons photo by  ephidryn .

Your messages aren’t going out to faceless silhouettes. Put a face on your audience by creating personas. Flickr Creative Commons photo by ephidryn.

A successful message isn’t about the message’s creator. It’s about the person who is reading, watching, or hearing it. 

What does she value? What is she hoping to achieve? What motivates her? What will turn her off? What will spark her to take action?

These are crucial questions — and they are important whether you’re composing an email, shooting a video, putting together an annual report, or creating something else.

Yet in a world where many of us are busy trying to keep up with our crowded editorial calendars, it’s often difficult to take a step back and think about the individuals who are on the receiving end of our messages. As a result, chances are pretty good you’re missing the mark with at least some of your target audiences.

Now imagine if your communications team truly understood the intended audience for every one of its messages.

Your open rates would be higher. Your social media content would get shared more regularly. Your revenues and brand awareness would soar.

There’s one especially effective tool for helping you achieve this state of communications nirvana: personas

Personas are composite profiles of your key audience segments that help your team identify, understand, and talk to these key audiences.

When created and deployed properly, audience personas can help time-strapped communicators understand and connect with their key audiences. Personas help put a face on the people you’re trying to get to take action — and they offer true insights into what your target audiences care about most.

Scott and I have come up with what we have found to be a great system for creating personas through working with groups like the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America and Wolters Kluwer.

Here are 6 lessons we’ve learned along the way:

1. Identify your goals

Before you define and learn about your key audiences, it helps to understand your priorities. Are you looking to advocate for an outcome, raise more money, launch a new product or service? By articulating two to three key organizational goals, you can begin to identify your highest-value audiences and work backward from there. 

2. Map your audiences to your goals

Once you define your priorities, identify which audiences you most need to reach in order to achieve these priorities. Perhaps you need to find more people who are similar to your existing donor or customer base—or you need to target an entirely new audience to achieve your goals.

3. Gather the relevant data

The most useful personas blend art and science. The science, in this case, is data. Review your organization’s CRM, web analytics, donor surveys, and any other key data about your current audience to begin to better understand who they are and what they care about. When possible, supplement these data with information from external sources to paint a more vivid picture.

4. Put a face to the numbers

Data is crucial, but so are insights from real people. We recommend interviewing people who are in your target audiences to gain insights that go beyond the numbers — and to reach outside of your organization to talk to folks who aren’t familiar with you. These interviews will help you learn more about what they value, what they think about your organization, and what it will take to gain the attention of others like them.

5. Make them engaging and accessible

Personas are designed to be easy to understand, so try to avoid word-heavy narratives. Use photos, quotes, and breakouts to give them color and help your team feel connected to them. And present them in accessible formats, such as posters that can be tacked up in office cubicles or flip books. Here’s an example of a package of personas we helped create for Make-A-Wish Foundation of America.

6. Embed them in your culture

Train everyone in your organization on how to use the personas in their marketing and communications efforts. Find ways to incorporate your personas into your planning process for events, new campaigns, and other activities that involve interacting with your key audiences.

The Takeaway?

Creating personas takes some work, but when done well, that investment is more than paid for by the added clients, donors, customers, and champions who come your way when you know how to speak their language.

Want to learn more about how personas can help your team? Drop me a line (peter@turn-two.co) and we can chat more.

The 8-Second Key to Engage Gen Z

 You better have a good story if you want to capture the attention of Gen Zers.

You better have a good story if you want to capture the attention of Gen Zers.

Can you spare eight seconds?

That’s a question that communicators and marketers of all stripes should be asking themselves these days. 

If you’re still with me (after all, my time is up), I’ll explain. 

So eight seconds is the estimated attention span of Generation Z -- those people born after 1997.

Experts have summed up Gen Z’s approach to processing information as ‘Blink, Share, Laugh, Forget.’ Spend any time with Gen Zer’s ripping through their smartphones, and that description likely resonates. 

And it’s not surprising. Gen Zers have lived their entire lives awash in a flood of information and messaging. In many ways, ‘Blink, Share, Laugh, Forget’ represents the only logical way to process information and navigate through a day. 

Yet what does it mean for someone hoping to capture a bit more than eight seconds of their time?

In my view, the key is to find a way to flip ‘forget’ to ‘remember.’ The best way to achieve that: Tell a compelling story. 

“This generation loves story,” Marcie Merriman, executive director, cultural relevancy and brand strategy, Ernst & Young, told me during an interview last year. “What’s the history behind it? Why is it relevant? What does it mean to me?”

It makes sense. Stories are a way to differentiate your content from all that other information that Gen Z quickly forgets. Even better, a good story works for people of any generation.  

So whatever your mission, look for the story—something that provide context and meaning. 

Then find the best way – and medium – to tell it. 

But make sure you lead with a strong hook. You have eight seconds to make the sale.

Get Outside of Your Echo Chamber

 Creative Commons photo by David Shankbone

Creative Commons photo by David Shankbone

One of the first rules of effective communications is to know your audience.

No matter what you’re trying to sell, or who you’re trying to persuade, it's critical to both understand and speak to your key audiences.

But in a culture that has become toxically divided, is it possible that we’re becoming too good at targeting our most ardent supporters?

In politics, in business, in nonprofits, and on our Facebook feeds, people and institutions are incredibly adept at stirring up the people who align with them. As they do so, they are turning off massive waves of people who might otherwise hold similar values and ideals.

This approach can yield great short-term results — but it also carries a dangerous long-term cost.

For a politician who is fighting to win an election, playing to the base can help drum up support and enthusiasm — but it can lead to massive dissent once he or she gets into office.

For a nonprofit that is looking to capitalize quickly on a hot-button issue, this can help inspire folks to donate — but it doesn’t really help grow the donor base long term.

And for those of us looking to vent on Facebook or Twitter, it can feel satisfying to get folks to retweet and like our comments, but it can actually damage long-term friendships (which I’ve seen happen all too many times among some of my friends).

As communicators and marketers, Scott and I are passionate about helping organizations identify and speak directly to their core audiences.

But we’re equally passionate about helping them expand those audiences — to help them change minds and lead movements.

You can’t do that if you’re only talking to your base.

Whether you’re trying to change minds about important policies, expand your customer base, or win an election against an entrenched incumbent, you can’t accomplish your goals if you’re only speaking in an echo chamber.

Over the coming months, we’re working on projects that will require us to help our clients reach outside of their core audiences and convert new people.

During these divided times, this challenge is greater than ever before.

We’re excited to share what we’re learning as we attempt to conquer that challenge. We’re also looking for examples of others who are trying to communicate across the invisible — but very real — divide between our core audiences and the ones we need to reach.

Tell us how you’re communicating in a divided world — and what you’re learning as a result. These are challenging times and we all need to be in this together.

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