13th October 2017: “Stop shouting. We can’t hear you.”
This may well be the slogan for the 21st century, according to Dr. Ross Honeywill, renowned Australian social scientist. Our value as communicators, both online and offline will be defined by the authenticity in which we do so.
Bright lights and sweeping slogans are gradually being replaced by ‘witty’ yet meaningful, authentic messages. What we traditionally understand as a powerful PR campaign – a ‘big splash’ moment – is being replaced by the silver bullet of modern day communication – the ‘soft whispers’ – the messages and memories from brands that we carry with us without even knowing it.
Our digital world has made us more discerning than ever. As consumers, we now live in our own hyper-personalised bubble – curated to be exactly what we want, the way we want it, at any time. Our ability to ‘choose’ our bubble has allowed us to filter out the unnecessary muck that fills our digital lives. We’ve personalised every experience we have in the online world (consciously or subconsciously) so that we are only presented with what we really want to see – content that answers that very personal question, “why should I care?”
As communicators, we can’t be assured that people will care, just because we’re showcasing a big-name brand, or because we have a celebrity at the helm of a campaign. The digital world has presented brands with both a challenge and an unprecedented opportunity – it is no longer about who you are but about what you say.
Never has authenticity been so central to how we tell our stories. In the realm of public relations, never has our role been more vital in bringing an authentic brand voice to light.
The perks of traditional media
With authenticity comes trust, and this plays to the advantage of traditional media.
Traditional news sources still have a strong and important role to play as part of our culture. In their traditional form, yes, readership of traditional print papers is genuinely declining (see point on hyper-personalisation above) but news sites still reach the majority of Australians with readership numbers remaining steady over the last six years. Their ability to tell an authentic story to the masses has not changed, only the platforms on which we consume it has.
Traditional media have built reputations over many long years. Our society continues to accept our national mastheads as the most reliable (if not necessarily unbiased) source of information available to the public. With an article in The Australian or ‘The Fin’ comes a certain level of gravitas, prestige and value because we feel our traditional news publications still tell us the most accurate truths.
The numbers tell the story – according to the 2017 Sensis Social Media Report, “while more people are engaging with news content on social media, traditional media remains a more trusted news source (82% to 12%).”
Stop trying to make ‘fetch’ happen
We all have that ‘aha’ moment when we see an ingenious brand post on Facebook. One example is the NSW Police Force Facebook page. For some it might be unexpected to find a police dog, wearing doggie boots, with a headline using words from a Flo Rida rap song! Even the NSW Police are getting their groove on, and communicating with the Facebook generation. Their social media manager on Facebook is building their audience, with simple messages – creating an authentic, relatable voice for the brand. If you don’t follow them yet, do yourself a favour and join the other one million people that do.
The other side of the coin is just as important to consider. Consumers have become too discerning for a brand to exist successfully online without having an authentic voice of its own. A software company and a furniture brand should have distinctly different characteristics when it comes to their online presence and tone of voice. It is again the role of communications professionals to understand the nuances of each brand and marry these with a deep and thorough understanding of audiences. If an audience doesn’t know what ‘fetch’ is – you can’t make it happen. (OK, it’s a term for ‘cool’! Used in the teen comedy film, “Mean Girls”).
Regardless of whether your tactics are focused on traditional, or social, or a combination of both, the quality of your message is carried by the authenticity of your voice. From every big communications project, down to every tweet and hashtag, authenticity needs to be at the heart of what we do. In the world of communications, the ability to give a brand an authentic voice is our most valuable asset – let’s flog it for all it’s worth.
Written by Anastassia Keltchina – Account Executive.