Powered by all the resources available through social media, organizations now have opportunities to converse directly with their audiences. We can't focus only on broadcasting general messages through the mainstream media. Now we find out who our "buyer" is and we talk directly to him or her.
In the PR world, we usually use the words “publics” or “audiences” instead of the term “buyers.” But David Meerman Scott uses the term buyer personas in his excellent book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, and to be consistent with him, I will use the term "buyers" as an inclusive term for any audience you are trying to reach, such as donors, volunteers, subscribers, students, etc.
FOCUS ON THE BUYER
The most important point to remember as you develop a marketing, PR or social media plan is to focus your complete attention on the buyer. It’s not just about your organization or your service or your product. Scott writes, “Without a focus on the buyer, the typical press release and media relations program is built on what the organization wants to say rather than what the buyer wants to hear.” Instead, you must focus on the buyers and develop relationships with them.
To have a strong conversation with your buyers, you need to first find out more about them. Most often, you will be targeting more than one type of buyer. In the old media world, an organization would use a wide brush to use the mass media to try to reach all their audiences with the same general message. Today, we need to use a narrow brush to reach specific, targeted audiences.
Scott calls these niche markets “buyer personas.” We need to create specific messages to target these buyer personas. We need to know how our buyers think and what matters to them. Scott says organizations should “target specific buyer personas instead of using a one-size-fits-all campaign that targets everybody and appeals to nobody.”
You need to do basic research on your buyers by reading what they read and trying to think like they think. Do interviews with people that are in your targeted buyer persona. Also, follow your audiences through social media. Have conversations with them on Twitter and Facebook.
Once you create your buyer personas, you can then begin forming specific programs and plans to reach each buyer persona with compelling messages and material that is relevant, useful and interesting to them. Thus, it's time to walk in your buyer's moccasins and start finding out what they think about your organization and your products or services.
Digital technology and social media are completely changing the way we access information, pay our bills, take college courses and interact with each other. Organizations, especially their PR people, need to figure out how to use this New Media World to connect with their audiences.
In the early part of this decade, the Internet as we knew it from its inception started changing. This transformation is often titled Web 2.0, which has changed the way businesses and organizations communicate with current and potential customers. Instead of the information-based, static Web 1.0, the Internet now facilitates interactive information sharing and collaboration. Examples include social networking sites such as Facebook, video sharing sites such as YouTube, wikis such as Wikipedia, and blogs where an individual or company communicates and dialogues with readers.
SPEAK DIRECTLY TO CUSTOMERS
Now, organizations don’t have to rely on third-party influencers, such as the media, to endorse brands, events, products or issues. There’s no filtering through expensive advertising or the gatekeepers of the media. An organization can speak directly to customers and buyers. And that’s a good thing!
It’s important for us to learn how to leverage the potential of the Internet for large and small companies, non-profit organizations, brands and individuals. In this New Media World, you can reach niche buyers directly and inexpensively. (I recommend David Meerman Scott's book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, for more info on this.)
Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff in their book “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies,” write that there is a “spontaneous movement of people using online tools to connect, take charge of their own experience, and get what they need—information, support, ideas, products and bargaining power—from each other.”
Today, people are getting what they need from each other instead of from companies, which can be a challenge for companies!
DON'T BE LEFT OUT OF THE CONVERSATION Organizations must learn how to be a part of this groundswell, or they could be left out of the conversation with their audiences. Unhappy customers or employees might post negative videos on YouTube (remember the Dominoes employees from last spring who posted a video of themselves spitting in and contaminating the food they were making?) or customers might announce their displeasure with your organization’s products or services on Twitter or Facebook.
You must monitor and develop relationships with the audiences via Web 2.0. You can’t control what they say or do (which corporate bosses hate), but you can develop a relationship with them — and this effort at relationship should help your organization in the long run.
It is time (past time) to start thinking about facilitating conversation between people. So start listening and talking!
I'm an assistant professor of communication at Rochester College. I specialize in teaching public relations, media writing, publication design and media studies. I'm trying to learn as much as I can about new media strategies.