3 things communicators need to know in 2013

Consider this advice before you map out your communications plan for next year. It could make or break your success.


A couple of weeks ago I addressed an audience of senior marketing, PR and communications leaders at the PR News Social Media Measurement Summit in New York City. As I listened to all the speakers and water cooler conversations, I noticed one consistent theme: We are all in the business of content management.

I hope that in the next few years we will stop addressing each other as PR, marketing or social media strategists—or whatever the fancy titles are—and start referring to each other as content managers, because that’s what we try to do.

We invest time, energy and money to produce content that will encourage our key audiences to positively engage and respond to us.

The year is almost over, and as we define our 2013 communications strategies, I want you to keep these three critical elements in mind. These elements will make or break your success:

1. Diminish the lines between PR, marketing and social media.

As the chief marketing officer or chief of communications, your goal will be to bring together all areas of content creation and curation in your organization under one umbrella. We can’t afford to take a silo approach anymore, especially when our customers demand real-time information available to them at the palm of their hands.

Moving forward, your title will have very little to do with your ultimate objective, which is to create relevant, engaging and valuable content for your target audience that positively affects your bottom line. We need to consistently think in terms of a content strategy that helps us solve our customers’ problems.

2. Use big data to define your content strategy.

Big data is not just a buzzword anymore, but a fundamental shift in how organizations store, process and create value from their data to create high-impact campaigns.

As Don Hinman (popularly known as Dr. Data, and past chair of the Direct Marketing Association’s Committee on Ethical Business Practices) describes in a blog post:

“Regardless of how you define big data, there are five things every marketer needs to know in order to effectively leverage big data to fuel strategies and achieve ROI.

“1. Despite how the Global Language Monitor has categorized it, big data is not simply a buzz term. Big data is a fundamental shift that will affect how our industry moves forward.

“2. Big data isn’t just digital data. It describes the vast enormity of offline and online data.

“3. Big data is data from your customers and about your customers. In our business this includes Web logs, social networks and social data, internet text and documents, call detail records, large-scale ecommerce, purchase transactions and compiled data files.

“4. Today’s challenge with big data isn’t necessarily where to store it, but how to access it and take action. Data is useless if marketing—and IT—aren’t able to access it when it is needed, be that in real-time, or at least near real-time, to improve strategies and better engage with consumers across channels.

“5. A large quantity of data does not increase the value of data. Though the cloud has made big data more accessible, it doesn’t mean we need all of it. We must think about big data in terms of value, applications and solutions. Simply put: the data that matters is the data that drives business growth and campaign performance; data that helps brands acquire new customers, retain existing customers and improve the overall customer experience.”

The takeaway is that as content strategists, we need to devote time and part of our budgets to analyze the content we produce from your interactions with your existing and potential customers. How many of you try to identify repeated patterns, themes or relevant feedback for future products in the big data your organization creates?

3. Think in terms of quarterly campaigns rather than multi-year plans.

I chuckle a little when some of our clients ask us to identify multi-year campaigns. The truth of the matter is we live in the “now age” where we need to constantly customize our marketing messages to a highly-connected consumer.

How can we plan for 2014 now when we have to frequently adapt to the millions of new Facebook updates, or adjust our tactics to increase Web traffic through Pinterest, which didn’t exist last year when we outlined the 2013 plan?

Staying nimble and flexible with your content strategy to maximize results is key to success in 2013. While it’s smart to have a solid long-term strategy in place, you must also build a team of content marketers who stay on top of new trends.

Good luck, and make your efforts count next year!

Priya Ramesh heads the social media practice at CRT/tanaka, and blogs at The Buzz Bin, where a version of this article originally appeared.

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