One of the advantages of being a data nerd is that everyone assumes you have data-based answers to their questions. Sometimes I do, but mostly I just read a lot. Also, of course, I have measured a lot of comms programs over many years.
Based on all that experience—and, yes, some data, too—I’ve put together a list of the techniques and tactics that I think will make you a more effective communicator in 2023. Welcome to your new year of communicating.
1. Be human.
During the past few months we’ve analyzed hundreds of posts, tweets, and other content to determine what type of content works best. The answer is, of course, heavily dependent on the audience you are trying to reach and the business you are in. And naturally, the definition of “works best” depends on your goals and priorities.
That said, one trend stands out: The more human, authentic, and real you are, the more engagement you are going to get. If your posts sound like they were produced by a committee, then they will be ignored. If they sound like a press release (especially one written by an AI-bot), they won’t be shared. (Unless you are leaking major news that impacts stock prices.)
2. Design your communications from the audience out.
Before you write or say anything, walk—if not a mile at least around the block—in your audience’s shoes. Figure out what they like, who they trust, what they’re interested in, and how they communicate. Then use their language, interests, and passions to engage them.
Maven-level tip: Make sure you are where they are, i.e., whatever platform, website, or media outlet that they trust enough to pay attention to.
3. Make people laugh—and don’t be boring.
There’s a reason why Randy Rainbow and Seth Meyers videos go viral. People need to laugh, especially when the news is constantly terrifying or at the very least disturbing. Back in the day I was constantly being quoted in USA Today on a variety of topics. I finally asked the reporter why I seemed to be his go-to source, and he said, “You make me laugh. Everyone else is boring.”
Brands like Steak-Umm have seen engagement and sales go up by making people laugh. In the early COVID days, Georgia Pacific used potty humor to both get its messages out and sell toilet paper. (See, “The Challenge of Measuring Trust: Learn How Marathon Oil, Microsoft, and Georgia-Pacific Do It.”)
Maven-level tip: Laughing at yourself is charming, and being self-deprecating is endearing. Whether or not humor and fun are part of your company culture, don’t let the suits talk you out of being funny whenever you can.
4. Don’t be selfish or self-absorbed.
It always amazes me when a company comes to me looking for help identifying the “influential authors” that they hope will cover them. And then I discover that they don’t even follow those so-called VIPs on Twitter. Building relationships is what PR people do, and in 2023 many relationships are started and built in social media.
So if there’s someone whose attention you want to attract, follow them, learn their style, their interests, their passions, and, of course, what makes them laugh. And until you’ve gotten that far do not pitch them anything.
5. Screw definitions and silos. Owned media is your friend.
Too many PR people think that the people in charge of “owned media” are from a different planet or species. The reality in 2023 is that anyone who writes, takes pictures, does interviews, or doodles on a napkin is a content creator. So vault over those barriers and go find good content that will enthrall your audiences.
6. Write once, use everywhere.
Once you have the content, make sure it goes everywhere. Yes, you may have to do a bit of editing or trimming or customizing to suit a particular platform. But once the content exists use it everywhere.
7. Employees are a source of intriguing content.
Early on in the pandemic, Georgia Pacific’s social media manager realized that her employees were a source of great content. They were proud to be making toilet paper and very happy to video themselves at work. Being a TikTok star might not be every employee’s idea of a good time. Still, encourage the creative types to send you their content, and you’ll be surprised at what will come in.
8. Be the conduit to great sources.
Most journalists, influencers, bloggers, etc. all want to be the first to know stuff. Or at least be more knowledgeable than anyone else on a topic. So be a conduit to those experts, whether it’s your own internal subject matter experts, or someone you met on an airplane. You want to be everyone’s favorite content source.
Maven-level tip: Be helpful, so the next time a key reporter needs help, she’ll come to you.
9. Use partnerships to get your messages across.
Perhaps your organization or brand is simply too stodgy or old fashioned to follow any of these tips so far. A possible workaround is to partner with an organization that shares your values and can more effectively communicate. For instance, there’s many a life sciences company that has a hard time with social media, never mind humor. But if they partner with a patient organization or an advocacy organization that does have those skills, then they have a much better chance to get their messages out there.
10. Measure at every step.
Unless you are measuring every piece of content and its impact on engagement and the path to purchase (or whatever your goals are) you’ll never know what works and what doesn’t. So set up your system—whether it’s your own Excel spread sheet or a fancy export from Sprout Social—and track every post, all the engagement, and the subject or category of that post (e.g., employee, holiday celebration, product news, etc.) This sample coding sheet is the format we use. ∞
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash.