The communications landscape is evolving at the speed of thought. Every day, there are new approaches, new technologies, new challenges, even new consumers that brands need to reach out to.
At one time, in fact, brand was just something product companies were concerned with. Today, brand could mean the entire corporate entity, the products, of course, and also services. For each, the imperatives of communication are differently nuanced.
The channels of communications have also changed and evolved. While in the developed economies traditional mediums are under severe strain, here in India, both traditional and new mediums are thriving, which only gives communicators more room to play.
More than anything, though, it is important to consider that while it’s easier to catch up with technologies and tools, it is the more intrinsic aspect of communications that brands need to look and see where they are on those parameters. I was recently part of the jury for exchange4media’s Indian Marketing Awards 2014. One of the things that clearly came through was that brands are increasingly looking at the long-term impact they have—on consumers, on the civil society and on the industry. The winning brands all passed this criterion.
Content and engagement: If a brand wants to build long-term relationships with their consumers and cultivate loyalty, it needs to engage with them through various touch-points. For that it is critical to not just keep throwing its own brands-speak at them but create and share content that is of value to them. Content marketing is no longer at the periphery but at the very core of communications today. Brands need to build a sustained pipeline of content that doesn’t just end at the level of broadcasting it to their consumers but actually starts conversations and builds long-term engagement.
Creative storytelling: Attention spans are receding rapidly and the only way for a brand to grab attention is through creative storytelling. Consumers—for both B2C as well as B2B brands—respond well to narrative flow, especially when packaged creatively in videos, infographics, and other visual tools.
Thought leadership: Owning and projecting knowledge goes a long way in establishing leadership in an industry. Also, it is important to engage with influencers in the subject that the brand has knowledge in. Already, it’s getting crowded at the top, so if a brand hasn’t already espoused a knowledge area, it needs to move fast.
Integrated thinking: No longer are there walls between advertising, PR, digital marketing, events, and so on. Integrated communications is the only way ahead. However, while integrated communication has been a recurring theme for many organisations, there are very few that are actually able to convert the concept into reality and deliver it. For that, it needs to be more intrinsic to the way the organisation thinks and works.
Speed of delivery: One of the biggest areas where change has happened in the last decade is in the speed of communications delivery. Nowhere is this more evident today than in the times of crisis. Brands don’t have the luxury to sit down and contemplate strategies after a crisis has broken. They need to be prepared with scenarios ahead of time and be really on-the-ball with their response.
As communicators, agility is today our most relevant skill. I wish you more of it in the New Year.
The author is Prema Sagar, Principal & Founder, Genesis Burson Marsteller