Authored by: Idéle Prinsloo, Agency Lead, At That Point
Determining your business’ marketing and communications objectives for 2020 is central to any success you might achieve, however you run an extremely high risk of failing if your execution plan does not make provision for the important consumer and marketing trends predicted for the year ahead.
Rather than taking a “head-in-the-sand” approach, use these trends as your starting point to plan your products, services, campaigns etc. This enables you to devise an effective approach that actually “speaks to the people”. According to Trend Watching there are five main consumer trends that companies need to pay serious attention to in 2020, to ensure their relevance in an increasingly competitive environment.
Instead of feeling threatened, these should be regarded as promising business opportunities.
With the above in mind, set up your next internal brainstorming meeting and discuss how you can get onto the proverbial “wagon” to reap the benefits of being in sync with your customers.
Marketing Trends in 2020
To give your company a further advantage, supplement your customer trend-focussed communication and marketing approach by ensuring you consider the below marketing trends that Forbes has identified for 2020:
By Idele Prinsloo, Agency Lead, At That Point
The hard work you put into your marketing and communication efforts runs a high risk of going to waste if you do not measure the effectiveness thereof continuously and thoroughly.
By keeping a close eye on how these efforts are performing in terms of reception, reaction and engagement, you can detect any mistakes or inefficiencies early and correct them promptly to ensure you reach the goals you set out to.
The black sheep
When it comes to the content strategy of marketing and communication projects, planning, creation, promotion and analytics/measurement are the four main pillars. Each of these are critical to a successful strategy.
Whatever the reason, experience has taught us that analytics/measurement is the black sheep that gets neglected most often. Should the reason be fear of the results and the lack of knowing what to do next. Please be rest assured, you do not need a qualification to pull it off.
To determine the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts you can measure website traffic on a regular basis using Google Analytics, monitor the growth of your email subscriber list, subscribe to tools like Moz and SEMRush to continually monitor your search rankings, as well as gather feedback via social media updates and shares, direct messages, blog comments, emails, reviews and phone calls, just to name a few.
Keep up or miss out
It is however important to conduct regular marketing and communications measurement audits to make sure you are not only measuring but that you are using the right measuring tools that reveal the correct insights.
When doing such audits, it is helpful to stay informed on the latest communication measurement trends. Earlier this year, at the Summit on the Future of Communications Measurement, experts agreed that a more holistic view of the value of communications is a trend that is currently becoming gradually clear.
It has become about more than just measuring the accumulation of sales leads. C-suite executives are becoming increasingly interested in measuring the environmental and human impact of their businesses. Communications will be at the centre of building or rebuilding trust, which has become a scares commodity.
To state it bluntly, the business world’s priorities, focus areas and way of operating is changing and measurement must keep up.
According to business2community.com walls between PR, social media marketing, advertising and digital marketing are crumbling as communications professionals recognise the benefits of integrating PR and marketing functions.
Companies have come to learn that integrated communications, results in a consistent message and voice across all channels of communication, which leads to more efficient allocation of resources and more agile organisations that are capable of quicker reactions.
Industry experts therefore anticipate that all marketing and PR measurement of earned, owned, paid and social media will, over the next four years, be integrated into a single online dashboard that can be tweaked according to different department needs.
The bottom line is; to continuously evolve and update your marketing and communication measurement tools and approaches to avoid getting left behind and missing out on great success.
Authored by: Stephné du Toit, Content Manager, At That Point
Do your marketing meetings usually include a discussion around how you should be doing more video on your social media platforms? Then a month goes by and you still haven’t managed to get a single video done? Like they say, procrastination is the thief of all things.
This is usually because the process of making a video seems like a daunting task to the average person. However, it does not have to be a difficult or expensive exercise, you can therefor stop hesitating and get started. The easiest way to do this is to start at the beginning and methodically work your way through the production process.
Here are some simple steps to get you going, and before you know it, it will become second nature.
Get your team around the table, and if you do not have a team, get some of your creative employees to form part of your brainstorming session.
Ask yourselves, what do we want to achieve? What are the actions we want to stem from this video? Who do we want to reach with our message? Here you must set a definitive aim, if you shoot too broadly, you are going to miss your target.
Now you can start writing, plan your setting and create a storyboard to plot the scenes or message points of you video.
Type of video
Depending on your message, you have to decide if you will be using an articulate person to convey the message, or if you would just like to use text to elevate your main points of your message. Either way, there are a lot of free stock image and video sites on the internet where you can source great visuals to support your message
Also make sure your speaker is prepped, relaxed and as natural as possible. Remember, the whole video does not have to be done in one shot. Keep your segments short, this will make it easy to cut and edit.
Plan your video set well in advance. Make sure to focus on the small things – those that can make or break your video, such as:
Round off with some editing
No, you do not have to be a professional to edit your video. There are a lot of free and easy movie editing software online. Make sure to cut the unwanted content, use transitions to switch between scenes and add a bit of background music to create your desired mood.
Do not forget to add your company logo and have a call to action at the end, even if you are just inviting your audience to visit your website for more information.
The most important thing to remember when you create and post social media video, is to keep it sweet and short. Your aim is not to make a blockbuster movie, but rather to give a targeted message to a specific audience regarding your services, product or business. You therefor best keep to a one- to two-minute video, at the most.
Then upload your video to your website or YouTube channel that you created for your business. From there, you can link back to your video by posting a short description and link onto your various social media platforms.
Remember practice makes perfect! If you just start and keep going you will soon wonder how you ever communicated to your audience without video.
By Rosa-Mari Le Roux, Content Manager, www.atthatpoint.co.za
I have come to realise that the success of your content lies in the targeted distribution thereof. The first step of your content creation process should be to determine how and where to publish your content, a sound distribution plan is therefore equally as important as the content that you create.
Here are five tips to follow when planning the distribution of your content.
Research before you release
Content distribution is all about reaching the right audience.
Research your target audience before building your distribution strategy. Start by collecting data from your website and social media followers. Their age, gender, location and other related categories should be available on google analytics or on your social media platform analytic tools.
You can further collect feedback directly from your existing customers and followers. By asking them about their preferences for receiving communication, you will get a better idea of which platform and format to use in future.
This information will form the golden thread of your content creation and distribution plan.
The important R’s
Once the content has been created you can reuse and repurpose it on various platforms.
Let’s say you released a blog post on “Graphic Design 101”; this content might also work for a webinar or even a short YouTube video that your audience can watch if they don’t want to read an article on the topic.
Other platforms that your content can be repurposed on include podcasts, videos and social media posts that will reach and grow new audiences for your business.
You have already done the work, now use it to its full potential.
The art of sharing
There is no use in creating content that no one wants to share. Make sure that your content is interesting, easy to read and understandable.
Don’t try to sound like an intellectual mastermind, rather package your knowledge in a way that others can relate to. You will do no one any favour by making someone feel inferior when reading your work.
Making content sharable also means to make it accessible on all platforms such as Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn, to name just a few. By allowing your audience to share your content on multiple platforms, you are reaching readers that you may never have found otherwise.
Social media is a wonderful tool if you know how to use it to your advantage. By understanding the art of making your content shareable, means less work and more marketing for you.
Rome wasn't built in a day
Test all distribution channels on a continuous basis. Your content might not reach the desired audience on the first try, but people and their interests evolve.
Constant attempts to find additional channels may help grow your audience faster and more effectively. Each content type has their own audience, by using different platforms you will certainly reach a wider audience than usual.
After distributing your content on numerous platforms, collect the results and measure it against your audience engagement and feedback. This will give you further insight into what your audience likes to read, listen or watch.
Barking up the wrong tree
Now that you have researched your audience, decided on distribution platforms and created shareable content, you must make sure that you are not barking up the wrong tree.
After distributing your content, analyse and measure your results. Choose a routine time (weekly) to monitor your website visits and your social media following, also follow comments and number of shares on your content. This will help you to set a goal for the following distribution cycle.
Finally, trust in your audience. If you are as connected to your audience as you should be, they will guide you in the right direction to create the perfect content for them.
If you start your distribution process with these five tips, you should end up with the perfect recipe for delivering your content to the desired audience.
By Juanita Vorster, Founder & Strategist, www.atthatpoint.co.za
The benefits of creating content that engages audiences are well known. While there are many tools - some even completely free - available to enable easy content creation, no one has created a foolproof solution for the key ingredient to successful content creation: consistency.
Here are a few tips to help you conquer the challenge.
Don't skimp on planning
Having to decide on a topic every time you have to write, record or design something wastes an incredible amount of time and creative energy. Rather invest a few hours once-off on planning the topics and type of content you can realistically create on a monthly, weekly and daily basis.
Content planning will help you to allocate content creation tasks and deadline. It will also help you to decide whether to either explore one topic in depth across a few content pieces, or to neatly alternate between related themes.
Don't confuse information for influence
One of the biggest mistakes in content creation is thinking that an abundance of information leads to greater influence while the flipside is often true.
It's easy to include everything you know about a topic; it's much harder to decide which bits to leave out. This is often because we are used to consuming content - articles, stories, videos - from start to finish. When we however try to write this way we often become stuck in the details.
The process that always works for me (irrespective of the type of content I need to create) is to create an outline of my thoughts first:
Once I have this outline all that is left to do is to fill out the bits in between. I wrote this article in exactly the same way!
Let the power of accountability work its magic
The motivation of having a new plan and simple structure to base your content creation efforts on might be enough to kickstart the process, but consistency remains the biggest challenge.
Motivation comes and goes, so discipline is what you have to focus on developing. I've found that having a measure of accountability is what keeps me to plan. Assign a service provider or colleague to remind you of deadlines, or make a time-based promise to subscribers in the case of a newsletter or video channel.
If accountability isn't enough, use your favourite form of instant gratification as a reward. Something as simple as checking off an item on the to-do list, receiving a like on a social media post or a notification that your content has been published in the news could turn the content creation chore into a very rewarding habit.
In the end though, it all still comes down to consistency driven by discipline.
By Idéle Prinsloo, Agency Lead at At That Point
Audiences are becoming ever more suspicious of any communication that come their way. This can be attributed to several factors including; fake news, corruption, hidden motives or a general overdose of information.
When doing communication planning, it is therefore cardinal to gain and keep the trust of your audience, whether they be your colleagues, clients or those who influence your industry. In this day and age, the best route to take is the one of complete authenticity.
The first step is to undertake a communication audit to determine where your business currently stands in terms of its communication. What were the messages? How were they delivered? And what were the responses? Once you have a clear picture with regards to your current standing, you can move on to create your new improved communication plan.
Following your communication audit, the next step is to listen to your audience, as this will allow you to truly gain their trust and respect. Make sure you know their true opinion about everything that is relevant to your business. When you communicate from an informed and involved point of view, you are authentic and much more likely to catch the attention of your audience.
You can achieve this by tapping into your audience’s dialogues on social media, staying abreast of news and trends, as well as actually talking with colleagues, clients and influencers during lunches, meetings or discussion forums.
The importance of real and honest communication cannot be overstated, especially when taking into account the daily information overload we are exposed to, much of which is fake, inaccurate or based on hidden agendas.
The idea here is not to lay bare all the mistakes you have ever made or all the challenges you have encountered, but to be honest about the ones that are relevant to the message that you are trying to convey. Position your company as being approachable, while also being respectable.
Taking responsibility for your mistakes and being open about your challenges will go a long way in positioning you as authentic and instilling trust in your brand, as your audience will be able to associate with you more.
A further step could be taken by opening the floor for a discussion on these mistakes or challenges to hear your audience’s take on how to avoid similar situations in future. This makes them feel valued and involves them in the improvement of the business as a whole.
Speak Your Truth
It is a fine balancing act between being truthful and being so blunt that you offend others. The winning approach here is to speak ‘your’ truth when communicating with your audience. However, do not force your truth upon others, make it clear that although this is your conviction, you do not expect them to believe the same.
Rather invite them to have a discussion with you where they can share their views, during which you attentively take in and consider what they are saying. This can be achieved through physical or online forums, as well as social media platforms.
As author Mike Robbins rightly states, “Truth is not about being right, it's about expressing what we think and feel in an authentic, vulnerable, and transparent way.”
Own Your Message
Whatever your message is, make sure that you have done your homework, in order to back it up if you receive negative feedback. Own your message, take responsibility for it by making sure you communicate it clearly so that your audience fully understands it.
Another way of owning your message is by literally making it your own by including your personal experiences that are relevant. For example, if your message is about employee remuneration solutions, talk about your company’s internal remuneration struggles and eventual resolution thereof.
If you have checked all the facts and carried over the message properly, you will be able to defend it should criticism arise.
The bottom line therefor is, be authentic and real, it really is the only way to build a solid, sustainable and long-term line of communication with all audiences.
Administrators on social media accounts often change due to employees moving on, changes in outsourced service providers, or the appointment of a dedicated inhouse resource.
Sometimes the handover of the social media account administration rights is a smooth process with lots of help, but other times it is surrounded by hostility for a variety of reasons. Whatever the circumstances of the administrator change, it's always a good idea to check a few settings before getting started with posting content and community engagement.
If I missed anything, please let me know in the comments section!
Most people avoid speaking in public like the plague. Sharing your story on a stage however remains one of the best ways to influence stakeholders and build reputation.
To add another dimension to your public relations efforts, keep the following in mind when you are approached - or actively searching for - a speaking opportunity:
Is the occasion relevant to what you or your organisation want to achieve? Speaking engagements take up a significant amount of time, and this time is best invested if it is related to achieving strategic objectives.
You can test the relevancy of a speaking engament based on:
- the audience that will be attending,
- the overall theme of the event,
- the speaker guidelines that might allow or restrict certain types of presentations, and
- how confident you are with the topic you need to address (irrespective of your comfort with public speaking).
The value of a speaking engagement doesn't necessarily lie in the fee that might accompany it, but how you can maximise the activity around it. If the organisers are promoting the event and/or speakers via social media, make sure that you share their content with your own network. Famous by association is still very much a "thing", and your connection to an event of the right calibre and type might be of great reputational value to you.
If you develop custom content (presentation, whitepaper, article) for the speaking engagement, make sure that you share the content on various other relevant platforms after the event. Linkedin allows for sharing content in numerous formats, and is also the best place to share business related content.
Use a speaking engagement to empower, enlighten, or energise the audience. Never use it to sell a product, share a history, or show off your accomplishments.
Executives are often invited as keynote speakers or programme directors, but they might not necessarily be the best person for the job. If you are approached for a session that you feel is about your current level of speech delivery expertise, rather request whether a different type of session is available. As your speaking expertise improves, you'll be able to accept a wider variety of engagements.
Always consider the amount of preparation necessary for each speaking engagement. It is always a good idea to customise your content somewhat according to the event and audience, but accepting speaking engagements are much easier if you can rely on content that you are very confident with, and have existing presentation material ready for.
Never fall into the trap of having someone else prepare your speech or presentation material on your behalf right before a speaking engagement. A nervous presenter is forgiven much more often than a poorly prepared one.
"Tardy feedback, empty promises, and defensive or aggressive reactions are the three biggest reputational management sins on social media."
Social media tools make it easy for professionals and businesses to stay in touch with their influencers, peers, and clients. It is also a great reputation management tool – if used correctly.
A fear of loss of control has discouraged many from fully embracing the benefits possible through effective and strategic social media communication. The fear is not unfounded, as the nature of social media allows anyone to say anything about any topic at any time they want.
Many react to this risk by not participating on social media platforms. This reaction is however the worst possible option; much more responsible being responsive to comments and feedback about services or a brand in a way that will help build a great reputation.
Know what is being said about you
Managing a brand’s online reputation starts with understanding that online activity influences offline actions. The Internet it not just a faraway place that hosts static websites. It has evolved into a space where people talk to each other about products, services, and brands that impressed or angered them.
It is extremely important to monitor a brand’s reputation on a continuous basis, especially with review websites and feedback posted on social media driving a large percentage of purchasing decisions.
Regular – once in the morning, and once in the afternoon – checking of what is being said about a brand online will provide a good benchmark of the sentiment held towards a brand.
Tools that can be used to monitor online mentions of a brand include Google Alerts, and searching for a brand’s name on review sites and industry discussion forums. The easiest way to monitor social media for mentions is to have accounts for yourself and your brand, and visiting them on a twice-daily basis. Comments won’t always tag and link back to your official profiles, so a search for a brand’s name through the social media platform’s search function might also be necessary.
Know what to do when nothing is being said about you
The previous edition of the Professional Accountant journal included an article on how to effectively use social media for brand building and marketing purposes. Alternatively, there are countless free resources available online that provides advice for beginner to advanced social media users. A simple Google search on how to do social media for business is a great place to start gaining insight into the skills and strategies that deliver the best results.
Know what you want to be known for
A brand can not dictate its own reputation, as reputation is based on perceptions held by stakeholders. These perceptions are informed by a combination of experiences with a brand compared to expectations, and feedback and reviews of the brand provided by peers and influencers.
To manage its reputation, a brand can merely ensure that as many as possible of its actions are geared towards delivering products and services that live up to the brand’s promises and to reasonable stakeholder expectations.
To manage its reputation online, a brand needs to make sure that those communicating online on its behalf is very sure of what the brand wants to be known for. This knowledge will inform the type and tone of responses a brand provides in response to negative comments posted on social media.
When reviewing comments, it is necessary to try and understand the context of the comment, and see it from the point of view of the poster. A good rule of thumb is to never just react to negative comments; rather review, reflect, and then respond.
As an example, if a brand wants to be know as an intelligent, customer centered, professional services provider, then a response in line with: “Thank you very much for the feedback. We appreciate your effort to help us to always improve our service levels. We will investigate the incident, and provide feedback as soon as possible.” is much better than “We are sorry you feel that way. When you contacted us we tried to explain to you why we can’t do what you want. If you want more help, call us on our landline.”
Know who you should trust
It is for this reason that the person managing a brand’s social media should not necessarily be the person that is the most tech-savvy, but the person that has the necessary communication skills to implement effective client care.
The person managing a brand’s online reputation should be aware of everything that is happening in the organisation and with customers; both positive and negative. This will enable them to provide speedy client care online in line with what is happening offline.
Furthermore it is crucial that staff members are aware that their online behaviour – posts, comments, and conversation they make online in their personal capacity – can and will have offline disciplinary consequences.
Know how to use negative comments to your advantage
When dealing with negative comments online, the focus should be on how the brand deals with the comments both online and offline. Tardy feedback, empty promises, and defensive or aggressive reactions are the three biggest reputational management sins.
A reputation manager has a responsibility to respectfully consider the value of every comment and opinion, even if the intent seems malicious. An online response that aids in resolving an offline issue is a proven way of turning disgruntled people into loyal brand advocates or fans.
A good generic process to follow when dealing with negative comments is to publicly invite the disgruntled person to have a private conversation around the issue, and then initiate the private conversation either offline or online. Once the issue has been resolved in private, it might be a good idea to provide feedback of the resolution on the public online forum for future reference for others.
If the disgruntled person persists with damaging comments, use the privacy settings of the social media platform block them from posting, or get legal advice if the potential financial damages to the brand starts getting severe.
Once tarnished, restoring reputation takes time, but is possible through consistent effort and transparency.
A continued refusal to adopt social media as a strategic communication platform is not helping – it is merely a silent approval of the brand reputation others are promoting.
This article appears in Issue 28 | 2016 of the Professional Accountant
Social media has been a buzzword for the past nine years, and has grown up through several phases before becoming what it is now – one of the most powerful ways for businesses to promote products and services and build reputation at a fraction of the cost of traditional marketing methods.
Managing the reputation of a business used to be an expensive exercise limited to those with access to big budgets and creative content creators. The digital revolution however disrupted the marketing industry by making it possible for anyone with an internet connection to circumvent the privilege and limitations of traditional mass media.
Business owners now have more control than ever in determining the course and success of marketing efforts, but many are still hesitant to embrace the benefits of social media for business. Technology, potential reputation damage, and a fear of making mistakes on social media appear to be the three main inhibitors to getting started.
Supplementing a website with an active presence on social media has been proven to positively influence purchasing decisions. Having social media accounts is however not sufficient. The accounts need to be updated regularly, be of value to the visitor, and provide proof that a client will be in good hands.
In professional services, word of mouth marketing is the most powerful and successful marketing tool. Social media drives digital word of mouth, and can therefore not be dismissed by professional accountants as a short-lived trend only suitable for personal pursuits.
Choose the right platform and content
It is important to remember that social media is not limited to public platforms. Tools like the broadcast function on WhatsApp also form part of social communication, and can play an great part in reminding clients about deadlines, legislative updates etc. Similarly, an office group on WhatsApp can significantly improve productivity, as long as it is used responsibly and within pre-set limits.
A low-risk way of getting started with public social media platforms is to just lurk around and learn from how others are doing it. This will help to provide information on trends, strategies, and types of content that align to intended results.
Types of social stories that could work well for professional accountants include observations made during events or training attended, comments on new legislation, sharing global industry developments, advice on problems are commonly shared by clients. Content doesn’t always have to be created; balancing original content with finding and sharing content (with proper attribution and credit to the creator) that is relevant to a social audience is perfectly acceptable.
Social media has become largely driven by visual content. It is therefore important to not only rely on text, but to also share short videos with advisory snippets, photos of things that lead to a significant realisation, graphs and infographics that support statements, and even lighthearted images that trigger a desired emotion.
After the learning phase, the best way to get over the fear of participating in social media is to pick up a smart phone, start taking photos and videos with the phone, and posting it on social accounts through the apps downloadable to the phone. The apps have been programmed to take new users through each step with relative ease.
The most popular social platform for pure business is Linkedin, but Facebook has been proven to also drive sales and loyalty due to its more personal nature and easier interface. Twitter is still the most popular for sharing thoughts during events. For those more experienced in social media use, Instagram and SnapChat are predicted to rise in popularity and give the more well known platforms a run for their money.
A simple Google search will deliver a myriad of articles, guides, and videos on the Internet on how to get started – or how to become a more advanced user – of social media tools and how to grow the number of relevant social followers.
Grow the social audience
The mere existence of a social media account won’t attract followers – called a social audience – just because it exists. The relevance and number of followers will grow steadily only if a social account is promoted on platforms that already reach the intended audience.
Including a link to or mention of social media accounts in email signatures, on websites, letterheads, and marketing material makes it easier for potential audience members to connect with a social account.
For those that stumble on a social media account after an Internet search, a great first impression relies heavily on the information contained in the profile section. An official logo or photo as profile picture, combined with comprehensive information in the profile fields is imperative. The profile section is also a great place to set expectations by stating what type of content the audience can expect.
A social media audience will only interact with posts if it is of some value to them. Stories that are entertaining, helpful, or educational to the audience will encourage them to regularly visit and interact with the social account, while posts that just sell a service or promote a product will be a strong deterrent.
The golden rule of responsible social media use is to overthink everything before posting. Make sure it aligns with the SAIPA code of conduct, and the morals and values of the business.
When responsible social content does trigger an unintended response, it is best to be prepared to respond with a link to independent third-party content addressing opposing views and stating facts. If this does not defuse a situation, it might be necessary to contact an offender via direct message as a next step to determine whether a resolution is possible.
In the case of verbal abuse or unrelenting negative comments it best to make use of the privacy settings of a social account to block transgressors from further interaction. A public social account is better than a private social account, but not if it is undeservedly detrimental to the reputation of a business.
The best precaution against potential social media risks is proactively training, rather than reactively monitoring, anyone that will be managing social media accounts. Managing social media accounts should not be relegated to the youngest employee based on an assumption that they are more comfortable with using social technology. Business owners should take responsibility for stay on top of social activity by actively participating, even if the responsibility for social activity has been assigned to someone else.