When it comes to your Corporate Communications Strategy … Is it time to evolve the traditional audience-based approach?

 

Ever since I’ve worked in PR and marketing, (that’s the past twenty years!) the traditional approach to marketing strategy within the corporate communications strategy of many of my clients, has focused on the concept of audiences. In a digital and social-minded age, isn’t it time to rewrite the textbooks and shift our focus to nurturing and growing communities?

The concept of an audience implies a passive entity. Something we broadcast to, shovelling our messages down people’s throats to build brand equity. Too often in PR we take audience insights, develop messages and then transmit, hoping they’ll stick. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.

Don’t get me wrong, the concept of ‘audience’ still holds ground. In advertising we need demographic data to facilitate effective audience targeting. Audience segmentation is still a powerful way to drill down deeper. But now I think it’s time we evolved the model and start thinking of customers as passive recipients.

The concept of community

Let’s look at the concept of ‘community’. Communities work together for mutual benefit. They operate towards a common goal. A community is often hierarchical yet everyone is in it together. They are all involved in creating and making the community better, stronger.

Over the years I’ve often found that the word ‘audience’ creates a big disconnect between the brand and intended community. It marks out the brand as an outsider and deferential to customers. Of course, brands must always aim to serve their customers. But that doesn’t necessarily mean hovering down below.

Creating and nurturing a community of loyal brand evangelists, rather than simply transmitting to an audience, changes the dynamic. Working inside a community, brands can build better equity with customers. They can do this using a blend of engagement, curiosity, partnership and service.

The importance of engagement

Engagement is integral to social media and key to building communities. Influencers (and anyone) on Instagram won’t reap the benefits by broadcasting alone. They need to continually engage with their community.

It’s the same on LinkedIn. Too often in the corporate world, businesses end up in broadcast mode. Half the time the audience couldn’t care less. Of course, sharing news and generating awareness is an important component in marketing. But we need to get the balance right and understand the needs of our communities by talking to them. What are the issues and problems your customers are facing? Talk to them in real life as well as online. Help them out, become part of their community or nurture a new one.

Let’s take a more community-minded approach to communications and your corporate communications strategy. Then we gain a richer level of detail, understanding how we can help and add value. In return, businesses generate deeper insights and greater customer loyalty.

What do you consider to be the building blocks of a successful community?

Want to know more about how you can develop your corporate communications strategy to incorporate the community elements highlighted above? Then contact us to get more advice and guidance tailored to your business.

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