How to use audience data to guide your PR strategy

Your audience is bombarded by so much content that it is difficult to keep them tuned in to your message. Here’s how you can learn about what they want to hear.

The market is crowded—so you must learn about your audience to break through the chatter.

The surplus of media channels is at an all-time high. Attention spans are at an all-time low. Multi-tasking is a cultural norm and consumers are overwhelmed. No wonder brand managers have a difficult time breaking through.

To complicate it further, the customer journey is unpredictable. It’s dynamic and changing constantly, often in real-time. The linear purchase funnel taught in marketing classes is no longer relevant.

Consumers Google everything. They spend hours researching, seek 3rd-party endorsements and then Google some more. They might see a banner ad or commercial and then not purchase the product until weeks later.

With all the chaos surrounding consumers, there’s nothing more important today than brand relevance. It’s more important than differentiation and it’s the strongest indicator of a company’s long-term success.

How does a brand become and stay relevant? The most critical factor is to have an amazing product. Other than that, a solid understanding of your audience is also crucial.

Here are four ways to use audience data to drive long-term brand relevance:

1. Narrative. Audience intelligence involves analyzing “real people” and “real behavior.” Consumers leave digital breadcrumbs everywhere they go online as a part of their browsing and sharing patterns–their favorite brands, where they shop, what they read and more.

This data can uncover a “consumer truth” or space in the market which can spark a brand narrative, editorial strategy or a creative campaign. The data can also give insight into the natural language and vernacular used by the audience when they talk and share online. This is extremely helpful when developing branded content.

2. Media relations. Smart brands are using data to uncover which media publications are resonating with audiences and which ones aren’t.

For example, you may learn that your audience prefers to read Elle more than Bazaar for fashion-related content. When it comes to relationship advice, they may prefer Vogue more than Elle. This type of intelligence can help prioritize not just a media outreach strategy but also the angle of a pitch or byline.

3. Branded content. Brands must also think about owning their narrative and telling the stories that the media won’t. You might thik this is just blogging, but it’s much more than that. Owned media si where executives, subject matter experts, influencers and even customers can talk about important issues using long form content.

This type of content can have a long shelf life once it is indexed by Google. Audience data can inform the headlines, keywords and the most effective content distribution channels. This applies to social content also.

4. Influencer activation. Activating one influencer can result in reaching large audiences. The challenge for brands is reaching the right influencers. Audience intelligence coupled with data showcasing reach, relevance, resonance and reference can ensure that brands are mobilizing the right influencers.

Reach is simply a function of an influencer’s total network size–friends, fans, followers and subscribers. Relevance is a measurement on how often the influencer is writing or talking about a particular topic. Resonance is an engagement metric; when the influencer publishes content, is it resonating with their audience in the form of shares, likes, retweets, favorites and inbound links?. Lastly, cross-referencing influencers with audience data will seal the deal.

Learning about your audience takes hard work, rigor, machine learning, human analysis, clustering and lots of pivot tables. It’s time to start using data to make smarter marketing decisions.

Michael Brito works for Zeno Group. You can tweet him @britopian.

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