Why communicators should focus on audience emotions

It’s no longer enough to just provide the facts. PR pros must appeal to the sensitivities of media gatekeepers to get the coverage their clients need.

Delivering just the facts was a winning strategy—until it wasn’t.

The onslaught of digital marketing and social media advertising created such intense competition for scarce space that emotional intelligence now often determines who gets their name in the paper.

Brand managers must not only offer emotionally gripping products or services to appeal to their audiences, they must also find an emotional angle for media gatekeepers to let it through.

“With the current state of the media industry (less people doing more jobs), the competition for media attention is tight,” Nicole Wyatt with Markstein says. “The emotional appeal of a media pitch has always been important, but now more than ever it is crucial.”

How emotion grabs consumers

Becky Honeyman with SourceCode Communications argues that PR pros only recently uncovered knowledge that marketing and advertising creatives have forever known.

“That is, if you can make someone ‘feel’ something, you will increase the response rate or engagement level tenfold,” Honeyman says. “It’s fundamental for brands today to build relationships with their audiences. They can only do that by communicating consistently and authentically on subjects that are genuinely meaningful to them.”

INK Inc. Public Relations CEO Dick Grove opines that emotion certainly plays a pivotal role in appealing to consumers, but a product or service needs something new, interesting or tangible to succeed as well.

“The trick is connecting emotion to something inherently unemotional,” Grove adds. “As an example, we’re working with a company that protects and stores passwords, which on the surface, is straight tech. But it’s not tech to the person locked out of a site because they forgot their password.”

How emotion piques media interest

Technology—whether social, data or analytics—enables PR pros to know the communications preferences and times of day to connect with specific contacts and influencers. Such information can only carry outreach so far, however.

Harden Partners in Oakland, California secures top-tier placements in health care, financial services, insurance and real estate space by combining a data-driven and personal approach to journalists.

Harden leverages software and social monitoring as a baseline to gauge interests, connecting with a smaller group of reporters quarterly. It alerts both East and West Coast offices of hires and departures at national and regional outlets.

The firm also schedules biannual media days in which it invites major journalists in finance and healthcare—its core markets—to relate their editorial interests. Harden’s messaging is concise and always includes a reference to a reporter’s most recent work on a subject.

“Emotional appeal for us is based not on face-value assumptions, but data that has been gathered for each individual reporter we are pitching,” Harden public relations and digital strategist Nadine Argueza says. “In our experience, cultivating a productive working relationship can take months and can last years provided that we pitch media-worthy material in that individual’s area of interest.”

‘What’s in it for me?’

Emotional intelligence factors into the entire transaction, from appealing to specific consumers to capturing the attention of media types.

Amy Dardinger, manager of media relations at SSPR Public Relations Agency, reinforces the necessity of understanding the news relevancy of clients and how it resonates with individual reporters for successful campaigns.

“Even in the B2B world, you have to put yourself in the shoes of reporters and their readers,” Dardinger says. “Why would they care? Could our messaging be misinterpreted? Are there pitfalls to our approach? It makes sense to spend time thinking about issues important to the company and then working out how those fit into the campaign. If you figure out the concerns of your target audience, you can develop a campaign with real resonance.”

Ryan McCormick with Goldman McCormick Public Relations says some his most successful campaigns served larger, altruistic purposes.

“We think emotional appeal is the heart and soul of every effective media campaign,” he says. “If you can captivate someone’s heart—unless they are completely rooted in logic—their mind will follow.”

Dave Yonkman is the President of DYS Media, LLC, former Washington correspondent for Newsmax Media and Capitol Hill Communications Director.

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Topics: PR

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