Diversity: how we can change the face of the PR industry

Diversity is the future of public relations. Without a diverse and multi-skilled team, an agency cannot cater to today's ever-globalised market, writes Farzana Baduel of Curzon.

Diversity gives agencies a unique and competitive edge, providing different perspectives, life experiences and knowledge when working across international markets.
A recent survey funded by the PRSA Foundation found 56 per cent of participants felt they had not been afforded the same opportunities in PR as their white counterparts. 
This disparity, along with gender imbalance in senior positions and the ‘class ceiling’ that workers from lower socioeconomic backgrounds face, is an indicator that radical solutions are needed to solve the industry’s ever-growing problem. 
PR is about building relationships and trust, and who you know is as important as what you know. Entry into the field works in a similar fashion. 
Prospective PRs from lower socioeconomic backgrounds often lose out on opportunities to those from wealthier families, as they cannot afford to work for free to gain experience. 
Unpaid internships are at the crux of the problem of the ‘class ceiling’. I used to offer unpaid internships, until I realised the damage caused as you immediately disqualify people from low-income families. 
PR agencies should offer paid internships, to ensure opportunities are available to talented candidates from all socioeconomic backgrounds and eliminate unfair exclusivity. 
While 14 per cent of the British population are from a non-white background, recent figures show only eight per cent of PRs are from an ethnic minority, meaning almost half of the ethnic population are not represented in PR. 
Agencies can increase their diversity by working with organisations to address accessibility in the industry. 
When it comes to gender disparity, men are more likely to be in senior positions, despite women making up over two-thirds of PRs. 
The problem lies in work-life integration, made more difficult for mothers balancing their job with their home lives. 
For women, it becomes a trade-off between taking a promotion, and being able to see their husband and children. 
More flexible working hours or working part-time should be available so agencies can retain staff, and women do not feel they cannot reach for a promotion and have a family at the same time. 
There are no quick fixes to the problem of diversity. A solution requires long-term commitment and dedication to make the PR industry one that can justifiably pride itself on having a multicultural and gender-balanced workforce thriving on inclusivity and equality. 
Paid internships are the best and most practical place to start. 
It’s all about taking steps to ensure the doors to the PR industry are open to diverse, young talent.
The author of the article, Farzana Baduel is the managing director of Curzon PR.

This article previously appeared @PRWeek



PR’s Role in Promoting Your Corporate Social Responsibility Program

Businesses used to revolve primarily around growth, revenue, and costs – the economic bottom line.

However, today’s customers want to know that the organizations they buy products from or do business with share their values, leading many businesses to embrace corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a way of life.

The triple bottom line – one that demonstrates a company’s positive impact on its finances, the communities it does business with, and the environments it affects – is a must in a healthy business model.

The role of marketing and public relations in these CSR initiatives is to make sure customers are aware of a brand’s programs and efforts. This calls for well-planned campaigns that build relationships and demonstrate a company’s commitment in an authentic manner.

Engaging established and respected CSR influencers, whether they are journalists, bloggers, or key stakeholders, can be critical to communications success. Although owned and paid media shouldn’t be ignored, earned media from key CSR influencers has the potential of spreading your message much further.

Familiarize Yourself with CSR Trends and Practices

Before launching any communications, it’s important to have a strong understanding of the overall CSR landscape. If you’re not already familiar with the topic, you’ll want to start your research with keyword searches on social media and Google, then go deeper by reading articles, blog posts, white papers, and perhaps some books.

Get familiar with new websites and publications that may come up. If you have access to a PR targeting tool, use it to identify CSR-related publications that you can add to your reading list.

See What Others are Doing

Don’t forget the value of seeing how other organizations are talking about their social and sustainability initiatives. Research what other brands are doing by reading press releases or following PR Newswire’s Twitter account @TotalCSR.

Use search engines to find stories that succeeded in getting earned media, then look at how the organization communicated their efforts.

You don’t want to copy a successful CSR communications plan, but you certainly want to learn from it and leverage methodologies that align with your own initiatives.

Get to Know Your Audience

Authenticity is key to CSR outreach, so make sure your understanding of it is more than cursory.

Although you may already have an understanding of your brand or industry’s overall CSR audience, you’ll have to dig deeper to isolate the contingency speaking out about the social causes related to your activities. If you have access to a monitoring platform, you’ll want to add keywords around the programs you’re running, such as: environment, social good, or sustainability.

Identify Your Influencers

Your research will help you identify some key CSR influencers in your industry. Start making a list. Follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their blogs, and bookmark publications they regularly write for.

You should also use a media targeting tool to build your list of influencers beyond the bloggers, journalists, and industry stakeholders you’ve identified in your own network.

However, don’t just run a list based on a couple of keywords and call it a day. Any good media list is well-researched and pruned.

You waste the influencer’s time and your own by trying to get them to cover something that is not of interest to them.

You have to read their work and understand what they write or speak publicly about. Yes, it means more research, but it will be well worth it when you get genuine coverage for your story. Earned media is still the best way to influence potential buyers.

Build Relationships on Social

A relationship can start with something as simple as a handshake or a retweet. In-person meetings aside, you’ll definitely want to leverage Twitter to make your brand and its initiatives known in the CSR space.

If your brand is small, you might use your main Twitter account, but if your flagship account already has a lot going on, it might be wise to have a separate Twitter profile for your CSR efforts.

Follow, retweet, and engage in conversations started by the influencers you’ve identified. Share others’ content. Don’t be pushy and certainly don’t make these interactions all about you.

You also want to make sure your understanding of the topics you comment on is current. This means going back to step one over and over to do more research.

Don’t Forget Your Internal Influencers

It’s easy to overlook some very important influencers: Your employees!

At their heart, CSR programs are grassroots efforts. You have to get company buy-in by empowering the internal influencers who can motivate change across your organization. A top-down approach doesn’t work as well.

The collective online reach of your workforce would be a huge miss to ignore. Think of how many Facebook friends, Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, etc. that each employee has – it starts to add up.

Whether it’s charitable giving, an office volunteer day, or a long-term CSR program, you want to tell people about it. Encourage your employees to share – with photos and videos – what they’re doing. Then amplify their posts by curating and re-sharing some of them on your own channels.

Doing so can have a significant effect on staff morale. People want to feel good about what they do and who they work for.

A well-communicated CSR program will make a positive impact not only on the environment and community, but also on sales, recruiting, and employee retention. It’s a win all the way around.

If you’re not leveraging your CSR initiatives and other company enrichment programs in your public relations strategy, you’re not taking full advantage of PR’s power.

Download Best Practices for Growth: Aligning PR Programs to Corporate Strategy to learn more about using public relations to influence everything from your company’s web traffic and lead generation to buyer and investor decisions.

Victoria Harres is vice president, strategic communications and content at PR Newswire.

The article previously appeared @PRNweswire.com/blog


6 ways virtual reality can bring brands to life

Now is the time for brands to dive into virtual reality to engage, entertain, and educate consumers.

But the video game, TV, and movie industries aren’t the only ones who can leverage VR – it can be used to engage, entertain, and educate consumers across all walks of life.

Here are six ways brand marketers can jump on the VR bandwagon:

1) CSR and good causes
My first (and only) time using a VR device was during the New York International Auto Show in April as part of Toyota’s TeenDrive365 safety initiative. Using Oculus Rift technology, the automaker installed a distracted driving simulator at the show, which allowed me to virtually drive a vehicle while being faced with a deluge of distractions, such as loud passengers and text messages. It was a really fun experience, but more importantly, it was memorable and made me more mindful of focusing on the road while driving. 

At the time, Marjorie Schussel, corporate marketing director at Toyota, told me 80% of people who have tried the simulator said they will drive more safely going forward.

Similarly, on Wednesday, Unite Corporation brought its Arrive Alive Tour to The College of New Jersey, inviting students to virtually drive while experiencing the effects of being intoxicated.

This sort of VR technology can benefit beer and liquor brands seeking new ways to ramp up their responsible drinking efforts, or it could be used as part of a nationwide driver’s education program.

2) Education
Earlier this year, I saw an article about the Savannah College of Art and Design launching a really cool virtual reality program that allowed prospective and current students to experience the school’s locations around the world, including Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia, Lacoste, France, and Hong Kong.

And then I saw that the University of British Columbia in Canada recently held a virtual reality lecture for students.

VR technology can open doors for colleges and technical schools to create innovative programs. Organizations, such as Sylvan Learning, could also integrate it into their educational efforts to engage younger generations.

In addition to using VR to inspire engineers and designers, schools can use it for training and safety initiatives. National Grid in Boston, for example, uses virtual reality in maintenance training programs.

3) Fitness
For brands trying to get more involved in wearable technology and fitness, virtual reality is the way to go.

At CES this year, Oculus Rift revealed Runtastic, a virtual personal trainer and exercise program that tracks users’ movements. Along the same lines, Glassfit for Google Glass takes users through workout routines, such as yoga or circuit training.

Zumba also used VR this year to introduce prospective participants to the dance class with a short demo experience, and the creators of the program said almost every person who put on the headset started dancing within minutes.

More brands and retailers, such as Under Armour, Nike, and Sports Authority, continue to dive into fitness technology and VR can help break through the clutter.

4) Hospitality and travel
Marriott launched a VR test program recently in two hotels – one in New York and another in London – called VRoom Service. As a way to bring travel stories to life, the program allows guests to virtually travel to three locations around the world, such as the Andes Mountains in Chile, using a Samsung Gear VR headset.

Virtual reality was also used this summer to give New York commercial tenants a tour of a building being renovated for $60 million that won’t be finished until next year.

This technology can be incorporated into programs for real estate companies or travel agencies as a way to tell current and prospective consumers immersive stories and showcase products and places.

5) Gaming
Gaming – which is how I initially learned about Oculus Rift – is another really important VR sector, and it extends way beyond computer or TV games into the brand realm.

While launching interactive games is not new for companies, VR can add a creative spin to it and engage new audiences. For instance, Wells Fargo has been connecting with consumers around the country with a virtual maze game, which uses Oculus Rift technology. The game helps position the somewhat stodgy banking industry in a more innovative light.

Brands looking to spruce up their image or appeal to a younger, more tech-oriented audience should consider ways to include VR in their next campaign. Even companies people may not expect could jump into the VR mix, such as a food brand launching a virtual cooking game.

6) Entertainment
Last, but certainly not least, virtual reality can be used for pure entertainment. Across the board, VR is about entertaining users, but brands, such as Red Bull, have taken it to the next level.

The energy drink brand launched a 360-degree virtual reality program that gives fans an up-close-and-personal experience of the Red Bull Air Race. Not only are users virtually positioned in the cockpit of a plane, they get to feel what it’s like to go around the turns of a race track at high speeds.

Also, over the summer, the Natural History Museum in New York City showcased a virtual reality documentary that plunged visitors into the depths of the ocean. The immersive film, created in partnership with Samsung, is a great way for the museum to gain media attention and attract new guests.

With virtual reality still maturing and gaining traction, now is the time for brands and organizations to experiment with the technology and take creative risks.

The article originally appeared at PRWeek.



Who are the most inspirational people in PR today?

Who are today’s most inspirational PR thinkers? Senior communicators nominate those they most admire and who are helping to shape the PR industry for the better.

Alex Aiken, executive director, UK Government Communications. “Alex is transforming the way in which democracies engage and communicate with the communities it serves for greater accountability, transparency and impact. I learn something new and useful in every interaction with him, and his efforts in public service are just as influential in the private sector,” says David Gallagher, CEO of PR firm Ketchum Europe (who himself happens to be one of PRCA’s Francis Ingham‘s PR heroes, see below).

Adrian Wheeler, five-times divorced ex-chairman of the PRCA, and serial non-exec. Francis Ingham, PRCA director general, nominates Wheeler for his “optimism in the face of reality“. Ingham’s names two more of his PR heroes:

David Gallagher. “Master of making ‘you’re completely wrong’ sound like a compliment’”.

Alison Clarke, ex-CEO Grayling and ex-PRCA chairman: “Spinning the most threadbare of materials into absolute gold: the correctly-named @PitchWitch”.

Liz West, PR manager at theme park Alton Towers. Nikki Alvey, owner of agency Media Hound PR recommends West, “for a very open and well managed PR and social media response to the crisis this year.”

Caroline Kinsey, founder of and chairman of PR agency Cirkle. Neville Hunt, senior lecturer at University of Bedfordshire says: “Caroline has an enviable reputation as one of the top individuals and females in the PR industry and she has had senior roles in the two leading UK PR industry bodies. Caroline is an exceptional person who has won many personal awards and under her leadership Cirkle has won 30 awards over the past three years.”

Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why. “His work on the importance of having a purpose or belief at the heart of every organisation is very inspiring” says Richard Moss, CEO of PR firm Good Relations. Moss lists two other PR thinkers who are an inspiration:

Seth Godin, author of Purple Cow. “My thinking on creativity has been influenced by this book, which is about transforming brands and business by being remarkable, had a real impact on me. The very best creative work is always inherently remarkable – quite literally – it’s worth talking about.”

Malcolm Gladwell, I really admire his work in ‘The Tipping Point’, a book which theorises the factors at play when an idea “crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire”.

Sarah Scales, co-founder of PR agency Brands2Life. Sally Bratton, managing director or agency Bratton PR, says: “Sarah is an inspiration: I worked with her, in a freelance capacity, around 10 years ago and was impressed by her commitment to client needs, as well as the speed and effectiveness of her decision-making. In addition, she has built a strong team around her, who she works well with to achieve the best possible results.”

Michael Prescott, global head of comms at BT. “Michael has been integral to moving perceptions for BT from a utility to a modern media company in close partnership with the CEO and board. He came into PR after years as a national political and home affairs journalist. Kept his strong sense of what works for media and political audiences in terms of engaging communications. One of the best connected and most liked PROs in the UK across media, politics and other key influencer audiences.” Nominated by Colin Byrne, CEO, UK & EMEA at PR firm Weber Shandwick, who by happy coincidence is our next nominee.

Colin Byrne, Weber Shandwick. “Strangely enough as a PR professional I actually choose not to follow many of the ‘top PR gurus’ because I often find their views too corporate or outmoded. However, there is one person in the PR world who proves this viewpoint wrong; Colin Byrne. Perhaps the reason for this is that he’s not your typical PR agency head. In fact, ‘left-wing, Northern and working class' is the Weber Shandwick Europe chief's description of himself.” Byrne’s admirer is Sharon Barlow, director and PR specialist at agency Stop and Stare Marketing.

Francis Ingham, PRCA.Francis has expanded the membership, the services and the professionalism of the PRCA and the industry ... and he has done whilst enjoying himself.“ Nominated by Trevor Morris, professor at Richmond University. Morris goes on to praise two other of his PR heroes …

Tim Bell, founder of PR firm Bell Pottinger. “Never pious. never dull, often controversial, nearly always charming. Still the biggest and probably the oldest name in the industry.”

Sally Costerton, director at Sally Costerton Advisory. “For her drive, her success and her advocacy for senior women in PR”.

Paul Sutton, independent social and digital media consultant: “Paul has a good view on things, especially the intricate relationship between PR/social/content and I enjoy reading his blog. Paul, like me, has grown up in a traditional PR world but has embraced the opportunities that digital brings the industry.” Sutton is one of the choices of Jim Hawker, owner of PR agency Threepipe, his other choice is Danny Whatmough.

Danny Whatmough, head of social, EMEA at Weber Shandwick. “Danny has got a good grip on things from an integrated way of thinking and I find myself agreeing on most of his viewpoints. Danny is great at filtering news and making good reading recommendations through his Twitter channel.”

Sally Hetherington, business and creative communications consultant. Jane Austin, owner of agency Persuasive Communications says: “Sally just gets on with it and has no ego – it gets in the way of good relationships, good results and a good time. Sally has integrity, doesn't submit
to trends and has always trodden her own path. She's instinctive, tenacious, endlessly creative and always hits the spot.”

Anne Gregory, professor at the University of Huddersfield: “Anne has given great public service as CIPR president and, latterly, as chair of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management. Anne’s recent book with Paul Willis on Strategic Public Relations Leadership should be read by all PR and corpcomms managers.” Nominated by Tom Watson, professor at Bournemouth University, his other nominee is below.

Ansgar Zerfass, professor at the University of Leipzig in Germany. “Ansgar is current chairman of EUPRERA and is the leading communications management researcher in Europe and probably world-wide. He was one of the founders of the European Communications Monitor which is the annual benchmark study of current corpcomms practice. Ansgar has excellent relationships with many major German industrial and financial organisations which fund practice-oriented PR and corp comms research in a manner not found in the UK. His research papers are well worth reading as they consider current issues”.


When we asked “who are your PR heroes these days?”, two senior PROs explain why they cannot name names:

Graham Goodkind, group CEO & Founder of agency Frank PR: “I get constantly inspired by the young talent coming into Frank, they are the ones who provide the new and fresh thinking that leads us to come up with better and better ideas. As one gets older and has done PR for a while, there is a natural tendency perhaps to do the stuff that has worked in the past. A negativity acquired by experience can also develop; you start to hear “Oh, that’ll never work” one too many times. Whereas those fresh to this business have a lovely naivety, they don’t know if things are possible or not, so they naturally push through barriers to come up with really great insights and creativity.”

Jane Carroll, head of corporate development at Peppermint Soda: “When it comes to PR, it’s not necessarily hearing people talking sense, but seeing it in action that impresses me. The term ‘guru’ can be thrown around with great abandon and, in my opinion, should be approached with a healthy dose of scepticism.

“Of course, there are many stellar PR people in the industry who do excellent work day in, day out. The people I look up to in the sector are often those who do a great job, yet work quietly in the background. For example, the comms team at Alton Towers handled a very intense crisis management situation with extreme calm and proactivity earlier this summer – it’s work like this which should be applauded.”

This article previously published by PRmoment.com



How to stay in control of an interview by Andrew Harvey

The media interview is one of the best – and most important – opportunities for getting your message across.

But to take full advantage, you must make sure the interview goes the way you want it to.

Here are nine ways to help you stay in control.

1. Prepare

You stand little hope of staying in control if you go into the interview unprepared. You need to prepare in two ways. First, decide which are the two or three most important messages that you want to get across. Keep them simple, and practise them. Second, anticipate the difficult questions and work out how you will tackle them. Don’t be taken by surprise.

2. Hit the ground running

Aim to get your key messages across in your very first answer. Not only will this put you in control from the start, but it will help you to pre-empt any potentially difficult questions and allow you to refer back to your answer (“As I said earlier…”). It will also reduce the risk of the interview finishing before you’ve had the chance to say what you wanted to say.

3. Bridge to key messages

Never wait for the interviewer to ask the “right” question – it probably won’t happen and you’ll miss the opportunity to communicate your message. Use the bridging technique by acknowledging the question and giving a direct answer and then using a bridging phrase (“…but the real issue is…”, “…don’t forget that…”, “…what’s really important is…”) to move on to your key messages.

4. Draw a line

The interviewer will often try to push you into difficult territory, asking you questions which you are not prepared to answer. Deal with this head on, and state clearly that you are not willing to go any further. Give a reason why, for example by explaining that you can’t give a guarantee or a black-or-white response, or that you’re not willing to give them a juicy headline.

5. Be honest

When you or your company has genuinely done something wrong or made a mistake, don’t issue blame, denials, or excuses. This will simply make the interviewer more determined to keep pushing you. Instead, be honest. Own up to the mistake you’ve made, give a genuine apology and promise to do everything you can to put things right.

6. Deal with interruptions

Interviewers often try to take control by interrupting you. When you are interrupted in the middle of a relevant reply, deal with it calmly but firmly and insist on finishing. Say something like ““This is an important question and I’d like to finish my reply…”. The audience will empathise with this and it will be difficult for the interviewer to refuse.

7. Know when to shut up

It’s not unusual for an interviewee to get themselves into trouble by trying to fill a silence, rambling on and saying more than they should. Just because an interviewer is saying nothing doesn’t mean you have to. When you’ve said what you wanted to say, stop. It’s up to the interviewer to keep the interview going, not you.

8. Use emphatic language

When an interviewer says something inflammatory or accusatory, don’t try to diffuse it with a gentle response like “I’m not sure I would agree with that”. This won’t convince anybody. Be assertive and unequivocal in your response: “Absolutely not” or “I totally disagree with that”. Leave no room for doubt.

9. Don’t lose your temper

One of the most important things to remember if you want to keep control of an interview is to keep your temper. If you lose it, you’ve lost control. Make sure you find the balance between being calm and composed and showing energy and passion.

Andrew Harvey spent 30 years presenting the main TV news programmes on the BBC, interviewing business leaders and politicians. He now runs media training company HarveyLeach. 

This article previously appeared at PRMoment.com




11 Unusual Social Media Tips and Tricks to Drive Branding, Clicks and Conversions

Effective socia-media marketing helps build successful businesses. A recent study by Shareaholic, which tracked 300,000 websites over four months, suggested that social-media referrals now lead to 30 percent of websites’ overall traffic.
If your business website falls below this benchmark, you may want to consider if your social-media strategy is working. Then again, if your site receives more visits from social media than that rate, you might still want to know what more can you do.
Here are a few strategies to boost social-media marketing to positively impact business growth and sales:

1. Create custom-formatted tweets. Most tweets can become lost in live feeds that seem to stream on with no end, but custom formatting tweets is sure to catch a reader’s attention. Line breaks or a unique font color add welcome change to the monotony of short-form messaging. To have a tweet from your business stand out even more, include a refreshing emoji or a fun symbol, which you can copy and paste from services such as iEmoji.com.

2. Write longer posts. Though Twitter won’t budge on its 140-character limit, Google Plus is a platform that encourages conversation that can begin with a longer post.

3. Build Facebook Groups. As organic reach for the Facebook pages of companies continues to diminish, entrepreneurs, marketers and publishers should instead consider creating and managing Facebook Groups. The advantage is that members can opt in to receive direct notifications about updates.

4. Insert embedded call to actions. Add a bit of spice to common Facebook posts and generate even more customer leads. To add call-to-action buttons that drive clicks and traffic, follow Econsultancy’s super simple tutorial.
5. Market across many social platforms. Convert Facebook fans into Twitter followers and LinkedIn connections into contacts that circle your profile on Google Plus. Then by regularly sharing on every social network, you (and your company) will forever be top of mind among your followers.
6. Facilitate meaningful connections. Your clients, customers and users are incredible people, and when you identify like-minded folk, encourage them to interact with one another, over and over again. You will birth relationships that will always reference you as a common interest, reinforcing their love for your company's brand.

7. Crowdsource user-generated content and showcase powerful visuals. Leverage platforms such as Pixlee to surface and distribute moments that demonstrate the true meaning of your company's brand to customers.

8. Be a little weird. Playing it safe guarantees nothing. Instead, take a few calculated risks that may prompt your audience (and their friends, fans and followers) to admire your company's authenticity and laugh, smile and share.

9. Stand behind your actions. The best entrepreneurs know when to fire a bad customer and can do so without regret. Last year Liberty Bottleworks boldly responded to a wildly upset customer with what Adweek described as a “polite but eviscerating reply.” Because the company was forward, honest and entirely reasonable, it won massive support from social-media users and gained many new paying clients.

10. Put a positive spin on things. Rather than joining angry mobs, say something positive and uplifting about important issues that your audience cares about. Social-media users are more likely to follow you if you share happier updates. Emotions are contagious and people enjoy optimism.

11. Provide a bit of structure. When requesting replies, nudge your followers into a certain mind-set. An open-ended question without any guidance on your part may result in only a handful of canned replies. By suggesting a certain format for responses, you'll see how creative the responses from your followers will become, and if you’re lucky, they’ll also be thinking about you and your company.

Bonus tip: A celebrity takeover. For those businesses that have the networking capabilities (or the necessary financial resources) to recruit a celebrity for the task, a social-media account takeover can build up a lot of buzz for a company. Just be sure to be careful about the talent selected for the job and clear about posting guidelines.

This article originally appeared on Enterpreneur.com


Don't Just Have Social-Media Conversations, Design Them

What does it mean to design a conversation on social media? To begin, you must have a firm grasp on the contributing parts of a conversation with both written and visual language in mind.

All design has three legs: form, function and intention. Form is achieved through the personality you embed in the written tone and the style of your visual language. The function is the intended message delivered to an audience. Intention is to identify why you are having the conversation. Hint: selling something isn’t a great intention to starting a conversation.

Design of a conversation, if done right, offers thoughtful consideration for how the recipient of a message feels.

1. Social and emotional awareness. Social media is a bombardment of billions of tiny cannons when managed in the wrong way. When conversations in social media are designed, the message arrives at the right time and makes an emotional connection with the recipient.

To better connect with your audiences, you must first find your voice to give your messages form. Find confidence in your perspective and make it simplified, real and digestible.

Social is not only about followers, likes, sales, marketing or advertising. Although these things make us feel affirmed in our social standing, it is the outcome, not the origin. The core of social is in the conversations you design. Great conversations happen between people who are interested in the emotions of each other.

What does this mean in planning for social media? Find new ways to connect with your audiences to form how they will feel when interacting with your brand. For example, create personal Twitter lists such as “People: Hilarious,” “People: Magical” and “People: Authentic” to design an emotional response.

2. Find pools of passionate audiences. When considering the emotional state of audiences, some see love as the goal and anger as the emotion to avoid. Instead, the goal is for the audience to be highly emotional, avoiding indifference. Anger is merely a highly emotional state and can often be turned into love if handled appropriately.

Once you’ve come to accept the importance of emotion, it’s then a matter of seeking audience pools with highly emotional engagement.

These audiences may not fit your typical psychographic or demographic profiles, but they should be active and engaged in a related subject matter. As a business owner, defining the five most essential audience pools will help to elevate engagement, purchases and loyalty.

3. Key messages for each audience. Once you’ve defined your five most essential audiences, you must identify what you want to say to each audience and your intention for creating each conversation. What do they care about the most? How do you want to make them feel? By answering these questions and forming specific messaging for each audience, you will capture their attention, make them feel heard and build a meaningful, lasting and trusting relationship.

How do you put this into action? Write down words, headlines and phrases for each audience pool that will inspire the types of conversations you want to have with them, which is the function of the design.

4. Design visual language. Everyone knows that a picture is worth a thousand words, but few understand which words. We consume visual language first -- make judgments, decisions and have emotional responses -- then we consume written language. This means a first impression is a visual impression. If it isn’t appropriate, emotionally engaging or distinctive, the conversation doesn’t start in the right place.

The design of visual language is a process of making sure what you say in written form matches what you’re communicating in visual form. This includes consideration for typography, colors, photography style and illustrations, which all contribute to your visual language and orchestrate the first impression.

Design at its best treats its audience with respect. It initiates dialogue, invites participation, exceeds expectations and creates an emotional bond.

As Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Design conversations with your audiences. They will show their appreciation in referrals, loyalty and more business.

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