The first Google dictionary definition of “relevance” is, “the quality or state of being closely connected or appropriate.” That’s a fairly good definition, but I also really like the second one that Merriam Webster lists, “the ability (as of an information retrieval system) to retrieve material that satisfies the needs of the user.” If satisfying the needs of the user isn’t a prime objective of your marketing campaigns, you might want to rethink your approach because that’s exactly what makes marketing and PR effective. People simply don’t respond to messages that don’t align with their current interests and needs.
They react when they are given information that is in context, timely, and useful. That’s why relevance is such an important aspect of any marketing or PR campaign, but how do you achieve it?
There are a number of factors to consider when crafting a plan to make your campaigns more relevant. They include:
It is impossible to create messages and stories that are relevant to every person on the planet, so it is essential to determine and document what makes the people who might be interested in your brand unique. What are their chief challenges, concerns, curiosities, and goals? When doing this analysis, most companies will find that there are distinct segments within their own target market. Audience interest may vary based on demographics like gender, age, income level, education, role, and location. Some messages may be relevant to more than one part of the market, while others may be very compelling to only a subset of the audience. The more aligned your campaign is with each audience segment, the more effective it will be. This may require multiple campaigns or versions of the same messaging, but the results will prove to be worth the additional effort.
It’s no accident that The Wall Street Journal doesn’t have the same kind of articles as People Magazine. Folks pick up the Journal when they want financial news and People when they want to know if Jax Taylor and Brittany Cartwright are still together. An in-depth piece about how the new revenue recognition standard is impacting finance teams would not satisfy the needs of a People magazine reader even if they are a CFO who cares deeply about accounting compliance. That’s not why he picked up People. So in addition to thinking about who makes up your audience, you must also consider why they are interested in the website, magazine, blog, or other media channel that contains your earned or paid campaign assets.
This is particularly important for social media. Your audience may use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and other channels, but chances are they use them all in different ways and with different parts of their network. In my case, for example, I use Facebook almost exclusively to keep up with friends and family. I use LinkedIn for my business network. There’s almost no crossover between the two. If you were to put something on Facebook that I would like to share with my business network, there’s a good chance I won’t make the effort to post it to LinkedIn, but if I find it on LinkedIn, I’m almost certain to share it. That’s why it makes sense to place your messages and content where it is relevant to the user’s activities in that same space.
In addition to thinking about relevance to your audience persona and location of the content, it is also helpful to think about relevance in the broader context. What else is going on in the world, your industry, and the public consciousness that can help your messages hit home? Some of the most effective PR and campaigns of all time were closely tied to current events, sometimes even in real-time. (This can also go terribly wrong. See: Pepsi.)
In order to be relevant and timely in this way, it is essential to go beyond simple media monitoring and really dig into the trends and topics that are potentially interesting to your target audience. Attention spans are short and the hot topic changes frequently so it pays to have your finger on the pulse.
By carefully aligning your marketing and PR campaigns with the needs of your audience, the place where they will find it, and what’s going on in their world, you can increase the chances that they will be compelled to take action. Achieving this level of relevance requires thoughtful planning and the right media monitoring tools, but the impact to your key metrics will be worth the extra effort.