How to Take an Audience-First Approach to Your Content and Comms Strategy (And Why You Should)



Jan 04, 2023

Read Time

min read




Jan 04, 2023

Read Time

min read



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Audience-first, not channel-first, ensures the strategy is future-proof Audience analysis: How to build an in-depth audience understanding 4 insights-driven elements to your comms strategy Bonus: an audience-first approach naturally dovetails with paid marketing activity

The media landscape in 2023 is more fragmented than ever. The time your audience has available to spend online is fixed, yet the channels and platforms serving up news and content continue to increase. There are over 200 streaming subscription services, more than 131 social media platforms and hundreds of titles covering the subjects that your audience cares about (for instance, over 2,200 journalists were talking about architecture in the last 6 months).

To add another layer of complexity, your audience isn’t bound by the limitations of journalist databases, text and static images; but will be consuming news and rich media content from individuals (and influencers of all scales), blogs, podcasts, video-based platforms and public figures. They may even already have one foot in the Metaverse.

In a landscape where your own team’s resources and budget are finite, a plan that begins with audience insights will always be the smartest way to achieve your business goals.

Audience-first, not channel-first, ensures the strategy is future-proof

It’s future-proof because it keeps you focused on what (i.e. who) really matters. A channel-first strategy can mean you’re investing time and effort optimising for say a platform like Twitter, where organic reach is low and the rules keep changing, only to realise that your audience isn’t paying attention there anymore. Or it can mean prioritising link-building to optimise for ranking on Google, when actually, your target market segment favours TikTok as a search engine.

Even if Google is the search engine of choice for your audience, Google’s algorithm has always endeavoured to connect users with the answers they’re looking for as efficiently as possible: it’s so good at this now, that two thirds of Google searches end without a click.

It also means that it’s spent years tweaking the algorithm to quantify human-based factors like trust, relevance and authority. These are also objectives that PR is uniquely and expertly equipped to deliver. So rather than unpicking the algorithm or the latest obscure comments from a Google spokesperson, a comms strategy with a laser-focus on building relationships with the audience will get you to exactly the same place.

Audience analysis: How to build an in-depth audience understanding

To some brands, audience analysis = demographics. They’ll simply identify an audience’s age, gender, employment, location. And that’s the insights complete. But what does this really tell you?

Imagine your business sells construction equipment. Demographic-led analysis might reveal that your target audience is typically 25-35, male, working in the construction sector and based near London. While some might think this is useful information (we don’t), how does it help your marketing strategy?

True audience analysis should provide detailed insights into who your customers are, where you can find them and how they think. You should be asking questions like:

  • Where do they get their information? What platforms do they use?
  • What are they searching Google for? Which websites do they visit?
  • Who do they engage with online? What are they posting on social media?
  • What does a day in their life look like?
  • What are the pain points? What are their current challenges at work?

If you can answer these, you’re in a great place to engage and communicate with your audience.

4 insights-driven elements to your comms strategy

The purpose of the audience analysis we do at Energy is to inform our comms strategy. It’s more nuanced than analysis required for paid channels like programmatic. As discussed, demographic data alone doesn’t work very well for our purposes: not all 40 year old men read the same titles, are on the same social media platforms or share the same interests.

We like to dive into all of the rich emotional and attitudinal insights we can find that unite an audience group together: to understand behaviour. Such insights breathe life into the demographic data so the audience feels like real people we can talk to. This is then used to sense check every level of the strategy. ‘Would Persona X read this story?’

This approach informs four key elements of the comms strategy:

  1. Relevance: knowing them better – their pain points, what value feels like to them – we can make them feel understood, which leads to a better connection. This takes us beyond the ‘brilliant basics’ of stories, where your competitors are likely to be already, and leads us to richer territory that is more unique and ‘ownable’.
  2. Cut through: the enemy we’re fighting here is obscurity. We want to stand out and be distinctive. We want your audience to remember you after reading about you, not just mentally group you as just ‘another’ business in your sector.
  3. Media strategy: coverage in national news or big consumer titles is notoriously difficult to secure. If your audience is there, and in a receptive mindset, this hard-fought coverage is extremely valuable and we will of course go for it. If they aren’t, then our analysis will flag this so that the resource and effort can be better spent pursuing titles that are more relevant and targeted towards your audience.
  4. Format: matching content type with platform and intent. It’s not just where your audiences are paying attention, but how. What type of content are they reading, what are they skimming and what, if anything are they bookmarking? For example:

a. Skim-able or swipe-able: light touch for a browsing mindset, like carousels, round-ups and listicles

b. Long-form: bookmarkable, informative like guides, ‘how to’ videos or explainers

c. Information-rich: valuable enough to merit a data gate like a whitepaper or a report

Bonus: an audience-first approach naturally dovetails with paid marketing activity

It’s true: a more qualitative approach to understanding an audience can’t be counted in the same way as segments in a database like Mosaic, however, the two work brilliantly together.

Using marketing activity like programmatic, advertorials and social media advertising, you can pay to appear wherever you think your audience is. But what you say when you’re in front of them, to make you relevant and memorable, well that’s where our kind of audience analysis comes into its own.

To find out how you can better understand your audience, check out our four favourite audience research tools.

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