Engagement is all you ever hear about in the world of public relations.
Stakeholder engagement. Employee engagement. Customer engagement. It’s the PR buzzword of the moment, but what does it actually mean and more importantly, how can you engage your customers?
It’s quite simple really – to get engaged you need a relationship first. And to do that you need to be honest and authentic. You wouldn’t just walk into a nightclub and shout out random proposals to everyone on the dancefloor would you? No, of course not – so why would you do that with your communications?
It can be hard work to build that relationship. The rise of social media and search marketing means that your customers can drop in and out as they please and find the content they want to see. That’s where the authenticity of your relationship with them comes into play. It’s about empathy; understanding your customer, building trust and opening a two-way dialogue.
Sure, you could jump on every hashtag going and people may flutter their eyelashes and glance in your direction, but it isn’t real and it won’t last. Anyone can pander to the mass market, but it isn’t authentic. And inauthenticity isn’t engaging. You need to differentiate yourself above all of the noise with content not just to get noticed, but to keep people coming back.
There’s a misconception that engagement, by which I mean something as simple as a Like on Facebook or a Retweet on Twitter, will lead to conversion. Engagement is actually part of a far more drawn-out buying process for customers. I see a relevant piece of content and actively engage with it. Maybe it makes me laugh, teaches me something new or reinforces something I already believe. But even if I do share it, I don’t automatically Like the page or buy a product.
No. I actually probably only do that if I see relevant content multiple times. And then when I need to make a purchase, or solve a problem, I already have a relationship with that company. I recognise them in search results – they’re a trusted brand that understands me and the things that interest me. That’s where the value of engagement lies.
Research. Empathy. Understanding. In the world of engagement, insight is king. You need to learn everything you can about your customer base. What are they talking about? Where are they having these conversations? What matters to them? Only when you answer these questions can you tailor your content strategy to appeal to them. Once you do, you’ll have people hanging on your every word, instead of being the person who just shouts at everyone in the bar, confusing volume with substance.
That’s where we come in. Public relations is all about spreading the message. We are communicators; offering insight into the channels that work for your business and finding the stories that matter in your organisation. Cutting through the noise so you can build that relationship and deliver those messages in a way that will, ultimately, impact your bottom line.
It isn’t easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. But then, anything of value rarely does. Remember to open up those channels of communication and to understand your customer base. Don’t just engage for the sake of it – have clear goals and messages that resonate with your audience and keep them wanting more. We’re in this for the long-haul.
Relationships. That’s what engagement is all about. The rest is just a one night stand.