Social media. Mobile apps. Virtual reality. Live video. Artificial intelligence. Dark Social.
Anyone paying attention to expert commentary on the latest public relations trends should be is familiar with these terms -- for good reason.
Digital tools have removed barriers at all levels of communications planning and execution, allowing practitioners to reach global audiences and measure communications impact instantly at a lower cost than ever before. This potential has not been ignored by organizations, which have increased overall spending to stake their claim in the
In the scramble to adopt emerging channels, it may be easy to forget one major benefit of digital platforms — facilitating face-to-face communication. Often, interactions over social media are referred to as ‘direct’ communication, However, these connections are not purely direct as the parties may stay disturbingly unfiltered behind a screen where the platforms and channels dictate how conversations play out.
Communicating with anonymous accounts is also a challenge for organizations concerned with online brand sentiment and customer reviews as they distinguish authentic feedback from Internet trolls and bots.
Face-to-face remains the truest form of direct communication and also may be the most effective strategy for building relationships and applying a human touch to a brand.
In essence, a handshake is mightier than a Facebook poke.
Just like digital strategies aim to present a trustworthy persona for consumers to relate to a brand, finding time for personal meetings between a brand and buyers remains relevant for building relationships, fostering engagement and encouraging future transactions or advocacy. Social media also has a role in facilitating both one-on-one and group interplay, whether the organization is communicating a new event or establishing groups and forums where like-minded users can meet online under the brand’s umbrella before connecting in the ‘real world.’
This means brands must make the most of every public appearance. Just because trends are pointing towards digital, and will be for the foreseeable future, doesn’t lessen the impact of a great first impression. Staffing events and conferences with energetic, personable and relatable brand advocates are a must, but beyond simply seeing someone behind a booth at a conference or fair, organizations might create opportunities for buyers to meet with influencers and executives or create a volunteering event to build rapport with community members and local businesses while performing a positive service.
Consumer brands must remember that the needs of each individual are paramount. Just as organizations can no longer drag their feet when engaging in social media, they can't expect to conduct all communication through digital spaces without losing that human element.