Omnichannel – it’s a hot buzzword. I’m going to admit the fancy word created a mental block for me for a while. Omni is derived from the Latin word “omnis” – meaning “all, every, the whole, of every kind.” So, in short, omnichannel communications means talking about your brand, company, product ALL OVER THE PLACE!
At Portavoce PR we see big and small companies struggle with establishing and maintaining omnichannel communications approaches. But big or small, B2B or B2C, it can be done!
Why you need an omnichannel communications plan
First, let’s talk about the why. Why do we really have to be everywhere? Because being everywhere with your messages and calls to action is what gets your customer moving and acting.
Back in the day (the 90’s), when there were SO MANY MORE outlets for earned media, we’d travel the country doing media tours, host media events, schedule deskside briefings, mass mailing (and faxing!) of press releases and media kits. This was the 1990’s way of “being all over the place.”
Fast-forward to the 21st century and omnichannel communications is now about spreading your message via social media, editorial news, sponsored content, paid advertising, video, search….and the list seemingly goes on forever. The graphic below from public relations peer, Gini Deitrich at Spin Sucks, demonstrates the four main channels you need to look at – Paid, Earned, Shared, Owned (known as the PESO model). Look at each circle and the list of channels in that category for some inspiration about what channels would work for you.
Content consumption is at a high – feed the beast with an omnichannel approach
In the business-to-business space, the need to generate content and get it in front of your buyers is absolutely essential to being included in the purchase consideration process. In the preliminary research phase, buyers are trolling the internet, YouTube, social sites and Google, searching for products and services to evaluate on their buying journey. They are searching for content that demonstrates a supplier’s knowledge about the market and their pain points, as well as information about how a product or service solves their challenge. They are seeking suppliers who are experts and thought leaders in their industry.
According to CFE Media’s “Marketing to Engineers” research, engineers consume 20 pieces of work-related content a month! I almost fell off my chair when I read that. If you market to engineers, how many of those 20 pieces do you want to be about your competitor’s products or point of view? How many of those pieces should be about your differentiated offering? Maybe that is the first question you want to think about as you build your omnichannel plan.
Creating your plan
This is about the point where it starts to get really overwhelming. If we know we have to be all over the place, and we know our buyer consumes 20 (or more) pieces of content – how can we ever deliver on that?! Fret not, we’re here to help with a step-by-step plan to tackle the challenge.
1. Identify your channels
You don’t have to be on every channel, you just have to be on the right ones. People are quick to make assumptions about what channels a brand should be on, and those assumptions are usually detached from real data. Don’t assume your target is or isn’t on a channel based on a gut feeling.
Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter all have FREE ways of assessing the presence of your audience on the channel. For one, you can go through the process of creating mock pay-per-click ads. Whether or not you want to use ads, the process can help you very specifically find how many of your audience with a specific job title, hobby, age or other qualifying factors are active there. This is an amazing amount of free information that you can put to work in your targeting. Why activate on channels where your audience doesn’t spend time?
The Pew Research Center is also an amazing source of free research and data about how people of varying demographics use the media, internet and social media.
2. Reckon those channels with your content capabilities
Next, take into consideration your ability to make content for that channel. Considering YouTube? Do you have a strategy to quickly output video content? Does your brand have highfaluting video tastes and won’t post one unless it’s produced to the tune of $30,000? If so, YouTube might not be a feasible undertaking for your company. But perhaps you have a pro-am photographer on staff who can create great visuals for Instagram and Facebook. Follow the talent you have in-house if you are getting started without agency support and align those strengths with where your audience goes for content.
3. Write something
If you aren’t into fancy videos, graphics and such, there is no reason to give up. The written word is still THE major driver of searchable content across all channels. That’s why those beautiful photos on Instagram are captioned with 8 million hashtags.
To get the most content out of your time investment, we recommend clients start by developing the longest form of content you can muster. Why? Because once you talked about a topic long enough to write 1,200 words about it, you definitely have enough content to write one shorter blog about it and up to 8 social media posts about it.
4. Borrow something
We see clients stress out about how they’ll come up with so much content. “How will our small team post every day?” “Where are we going to get all this original content?” It’s true that the best way to differentiate your brand is by publishing original content with your unique expertise and point of view, but it doesn’t have to be 24/7 original content.
Set up Google News alerts that search for information, research and media articles about topics that align with your brand. Media outlets, industry associations and non-profits are a great source for complimentary content. Re-share or link to content from these respected organizations with complete clarity about the source. This helps diversify your content and demonstrate that your brand is aligned with industry trends and shares the values of other respected organizations.
5. Don’t get lazy
The cadence of content may naturally ebb and flow if your team is time-taxed or you don’t have an agency supporting your content needs, and that’s ok. What is not ok is a dead channel. There is nothing that calls into question the authority or legitimacy of a company than a blog that hasn’t been updated in 3 months, or a social channel that is stagnate for 4 weeks. That’s not acceptable. If you find yourself in this predicament, go back to step 1 and assess what has led to this. Too many channels with not enough support staff? Don’t have the talent to create that kind of content? Make some hard decisions about where to streamline, then visit the rest of the steps to get your content calendar back on track.
6. Assess & adapt
Always-on, omnichannel content comes with all these demands and challenges, but it also comes with some huge advantages – one of them being that change can be implemented really quickly. After you have your content plan humming for 8-12 weeks, dive into the analytics. You don’t need whiz bang software to get a sense of what’s working.
Using data such as likes, reads, clicks and shares from the social channels, your website source and referral analytics will give you a good indication of what kind of content is getting the most engagement and attention. If you see something outperforming – do more of it. What’s at the bottom of the list? Stop doing it and pour your resources into trying new and different approaches or create more content that is like the high-performers.
At Portavoce PR, we recently assessed how our company blogs were performing. The team created a simple pie chart to demonstrate what blog topics got what portion of the readership. Based on this input, we decided to stop writing “trend” pieces that were re-hashed commentaries of other organization’s research, and we started to increase our instructional, how-to blogs.
How do you know your omnichannel strategy is working?
People ask me, how do you know PR is working? When someone says, “I’m hearing about that brand all over the place,” then your communications plan is working!
Flashback to the 90’s again, I remember being on a media tour with my client from Kellogg. We dashed into a grocery store after the morning in-studio interview to do a store check for the product we were promoting. Someone walking by us in the store saw us pick up the product off the shelf and she says, “Hey, I saw that on TV this morning and heard about it on the radio!” That was 1990’s omnichannel communications at work. Today it goes more like, “Hey I saw that on social media and read in People Magazine that a celebrity uses that product!”