Even in the best of times, there are market changes, new trends, and other shifts in the public consciousness – not to mention the challenges of a global pandemic. To any organization, brand, or business you are often tested to remain relevant.
Do you need to change, or do you just need to speak more clearly and effectively?
How does your organization maintain relevance in a dynamic world?
Recently I had the honour and privilege to be a panellist at the Canadian Association of Independent Schools National Leadership Conference. Our conversation was about positive transformation and how to “reframe our relevance” with all the
dynamics in the world today. The conversation was rich and fun. My co-panellists were Priya Bates (President at Inner Strength Communications) and Alex Varricchio (Co-owner at UpHouse) with the discussion guided by Andrea Carisse (Director of Strategic Communications and Marketing at Ridley College).
The audience members were conference attendees and leaders from Canadian independent schools, but the applicability of the content is universal. There were great insights shared during the conversations and I wanted to recap the salient points in this
> Personas are a great tool for marketers but can also help all communications efforts – internally and externally. To build relevance you must deliberately define who you are talking to.
> Prioritize your audience segments to avoid spreading yourself too thin. Focus your messaging where your efforts will have the greatest impact.
> Change brings opportunities and the challenge of reframing your relevance can be the catalyst you need to do things differently and reach new heights.
> Trust is the backbone of brand relevance. Stay true to who you are, be deliberate with your actions and share that story to help build trust.
Read on for a few specific tips, tools, and more in-depth consideration of these points.
How can you focus your messaging effectively?
Andrea proposed this question to the panel to get the conversation going and the conversation quickly went into a discussion about the usefulness of an audience identification exercise and the development of personas.
At Flywheel, we help our clients build personas and use them in our projects quite often. My colleague Mia Ellis-Lee has talked about personas on our blog in the past and I have touched on how personas help you start using Sitefinity Insight (formerly called Digital Experience Cloud).
My colleagues on the panel also discussed the value of using the internal audience at your organization to help you with these persona definitions. Do not forget that even small organizations have a big resource in their own staff to help describe your
different audience segments.
The practice of reviewing and formalizing personas can also be incredibly useful as an internal tool. Within your marketing functions, this will obviously provide lift, but in many other business conversations, a persona can help ensure all contributors
are using the same reference point. Additionally, as our global conversation about diversity and inclusion gains momentum, the practice of audience identification helps advance your organizational awareness.
To offer a quick way to get started, have a look at the tool we use at Flywheel for personas and journey mapping: https://uxpressia.com/
How can marketing teams prioritize multiple audiences, especially in this digital world?
As the panel discussion continued, we shifted from talking about the importance of defining your audience segments, into the consideration of how to give each segment the right attention. How do you know where to focus your time and attention?
My co-panellist Priya highlighted the value of building an “impact matrix” to help with this task.
An impact matrix is a good visual representation of how each audience segment can be prioritized relative to each other. Consider the benefit (or impact) to your organization from engaging each audience effectively. In the other dimension, estimate the
effort required to make that happen.
The matrix you use can get a bit more elaborate than the diagram here, but you get the idea. It is a simple visualization that helps the team align on priority and effectiveness. Even if you are a team of one, you will get value out of the exercise.
What are some tips to help reframe your relevance that business leaders can deploy right away?
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.” ― Mark Twain
If you think your relevance is slipping, the good news is, you can react and do something about it. If you are blind to the issue, you are in trouble. You have some work to do now but consider that a golden moment. Here are some tips to help you turn
your challenge into an opportunity:
> Measurement and Metrics
Help your organization avoid getting caught off guard in the future. Establish your own key metrics to know when your relevance is slipping. In the digital spectrum, this can be achieved by watching your web traffic or social media engagement. Zoom in
and measure the consumption of key content that can be your bellwether.
> Leverage Your Internal Audience
As mentioned above, your colleagues, customers and broader business community are a great resource. The opportunity here is to use those people as content creators. Be clear about what you need and expect, and you can tap this network to help produce
fantastic, authentic content that will absolutely be relevant to your audience.
> Try New Things
If you think you are going to change by doing things the way they have always been done, then you are kidding yourself. Many organizations have traditional, institutional traits that are hard to change. Regardless of the culture you are in, it is time
to switch it up. Build a well-grounded strategy to start from and you will get the most support.
> Drive the Conversation
Your business is unique. Workshop those special traits and build them out with your team. Draw out your differences and use that to anchor your content plan. But remember, it is also valuable to show that you know your general industry well. Even if your
competitors are saying the same thing, you cannot afford to be left out of the conversation.
> Persistence Pays Off
Perhaps the hardest thing to do when you need to see quick results is to be patient. The worst thing you can do when starting a new campaign is to keep switching tactics. You will work yourself into a frenzy and you will not gain momentum. We talk a lot
about this at Flywheel. Make adjustments, iterate, refine, and stay the course.
Returning to the words of Mark Twain, it can be difficult to pick which tactic will help you the most, but you need to start somewhere. Focus on what is manageable, start there, build momentum and grow.
With such an emphasis on speed and innovation in our world, how can you maintain trust?
In our desire to be relevant it is tempting to simply be bold, and perhaps louder than we should be. Andrea’s final question to the panel really homed in on the importance of authenticity in digital discourse. It is not enough to make statements
and offer platitudes. Of course, we all know this, but it is an important reminder, nevertheless.
My co-panellist, Alex emphasized the importance and strength that comes from listening. Be compassionate and empathetic. Do not deflect or defend. Avoid the temptation to assert your rightness. When someone calls you out in an online discussion, it can
be very tempting to fire back. But often the best thing you can do is acknowledge the message without a rebuttal – as difficult as that may be. Strengthen your own position by highlighting your action. Maintain your commitment to your beliefs
and virtues through the work you do and the way you conduct your business and trust will follow.
To put that another way: actions speak louder than words. The panel conversation explored how to help ensure your actions allow your voice to ring true. A strong foundation starts with preparation and awareness. It helps to know where you stand, what
your principles and policies are. You may need to lay some of the groundwork here if these values have not been formalized for you and your organization. In that effort, be ready to be vulnerable. Be ready to acknowledge shortcomings so that you can
be honest with where more work is required.
Many marketers and business leaders emphasize the importance of storytelling. And the panel discussion brought this up also. Tell your stories with authenticity. Give your users a voice. Give your staff and other community members a voice. Strength will
come from placing that trust in others. Your message will have a more resounding impact and your brand will be more resilient when mistakes are made (because there will be mistakes).