When it comes to what’s driving headlines and how culture is shifting, communication and marketing leaders are typically the most informed. But in a world where cultural shifts are happening at a dizzying pace, how can you determine what’s significant enough to drive implications to your work? And what’s just a blip?
As with most marketing and communications challenges, data can help guide you. According to Gartner’s recently published 2022 CCO Leadership Vision, expectations to expand support in areas like ESG means there’s more emphasis than ever on crafting communications strategies that strike the right cultural tone.
Today’s consumers are seeking sincerity. We all know the feeling when an organization misses the mark. Though well-meaning, an announcement is made or a campaign aimed at aligning itself with a cultural moment launches—but it just feels off—and the internet does not react kindly. Below are three ways marketers and communicators can stay on top of shifting cultural conditions and ensure communications effectiveness.
Capture cultural and conversational themes at scale
There’s no better way to get an instant read on cultural and conversational themes than through social listening. Monitoring conversations about your organization and its competitors is a given. But you must also closely monitor how people are talking about issues and themes relevant to your organization. For a personal care brand, that may mean additional trend monitoring around things like beauty standards and ingredient transparency. In the case of a government entity, it may mean broader themes related to whom they serve (like geo-specific conversations around housing and infrastructure). The appropriate cadence for this type of monitoring will vary by organization, but the insights should inform shorter-term reactive tactics as well longer-term strategies centered around audience values and journeys.
Establish a human process to preview perceptions
Analyzing your communications through the lens of your intended audiences is not a new best practice. However, it’s more important than ever to gather input and give representatives from communities attuned to cultural movements a voice. For some organizations, this may mean establishing a diverse review board (as U.S. Bank and Booz Allen Hamilton did) to weigh in on significant advertising, social media content and even internal messages before they’re shared broadly. Giving these representatives an open opportunity to speak candidly is essential. But it cannot place emotional burden while doing so. It’s an important layer to consider. Because while things may feel real and authentic internally, it doesn’t mean they’ll come across that way to external stakeholders. Organizations tend to overlook what feels like common knowledge internally. Here’s a helpful best practice guide on audience testing specifically centered around social issues if you’re just getting started.
Build community around shared cultural values
So you’ve established a process that ensures your organization understands and takes relevant cultural conditions into consideration. Now ask yourself, “How can we provide value in a way that’s unique to our organization?”. Consider where you can elevate the right voices and make meaningful contributions to the right cultural conversations, and what partners you may need to align yourself with to demonstrate further support.
Simply emphasizing organizational values will have some positive impact on driving brand connection, but using a personal benefits approach can help drive up to 3x more. Centering a community-building strategy around two things will drive the strongest brand connection: 1.) Support your audience’s personal goals and 2.) Help them present themselves to others as the person they want to be.
In summary, cultural awareness and understanding are a necessity in today’s marketing and communications environment. Establishing the right monitoring and listening strategies will build a solid foundation. Creating authentic two-way conversation opportunities will help you heed important topics and serve as a welcome contributor to cultural conversations.