How the cat on the three legged stool beats the advert
Marketing communications today
Humans are hard-wired to respond to stories. We respond emotionally and, given the chance, we’ll respond physically too – with applause, gasps, questions or maybe a reciprocal story of our own. If we find it compelling, we’ll take the story and replay it to others, adding our own experience and spin to its telling. That’s why we need to think like editors not advertisers when it comes to marketing communications and promotion. We need to put the story and our audience at the heart of our marketing communications.
Think about your marketing communications as a cat standing on a three legged stool.
The body of the cat is your beautiful, complex brand and all it stands for.
The cat’s four legs are the four stories you’re going to tell – this season, or this year, or for the foreseeable future.
The seat of the stool it stands on represents the content substance you create – or curate – to give life to your four story themes.
The three legs of the stool represent:
- Your digital marketing channels, that you control – your website, emails, social media, webinars and blogs
- Your physical marketing such as events, stunts, hui, networking, expo stands, outdoor advertising or print ads. Challenging, in pandemic times, but in many ways more important than ever.
- Other people’s media channels. This can be traditional media such as magazines or TV, but also other people’s newsletters, podcasts or conferences where your story can reach new ears.
Is your brand well defined so your cat is clear?
Clearly it all starts with the cat. It needs to be well defined and, like all good cats, know it is beautifully formed. If your cat is, like the Cheshire cat, only vaguely outlined, we can help you bring it into focus.
The story legs – the story themes – you choose for your cat must integrate with the body of the brand. They must make sense and suit your cat. Each leg has to carry its own share of the storytelling weight.
When we worked with Angel Food to develop their marketing communications plan, we agreed the four legs of the Angel Food cat as: The Tastiest Plant Based ‘Cheeses’, Making Allergy and
flexitarian diets easier, Putting Ethical Values into Action and Vegan Champions. The brand is summarised as ‘vegan and divine’. Angel Food is a very handsome and confidant cat. The four legs of the story help bring its characteristics to life.
The three stool legs are connected and work together to communicate the four story ‘legs’ out into the world.
Content adds substance to all four stories. The seat of the stool represents new content you create about your four stories. It might be an article you write or get written about something your brand knows or cares about, a video of a delighted client, an infographic to educate your market, a photograph with text that resonates for your customers or a piece of research you commission. Content can move, content can inspire and content might, if it’s good, be shared. Sometimes curating others’ content well can be just as effective – but always respect copywrite and honour the creators. Linking back is good.
Your marketing communications channels – the three legs of the stool
The digital marketing leg of the stool represents your website, your email campaigns, your social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram as well as other regular digital communications such as webinar series or blogs.
Plan how you will use these to share the content you have created or curated. You can use the content in multiple ways across channels, linking back to it and making it relevant to each different context and audience. Social – as you might expect from the name – involves you and a crowd. It’s a two way medium where the response is often more important than what you put out. Think of social media as stand-up comedy. You get instant adulation or condemnation or, more likely, ignored while everyone you want to notice you talks to their neighbour instead. Social media is fast and fluid and the perfect way to listen, learn about reactions and adapt your content to suit. You’re not limited to your own content – tell your friend’s stories, appropriately shared and linked, and they might do the same for you.
Remember you generally have more control over your content on your own website than on social media – so it’s worth having all paths and links feeding back to your site eventually. Have your deepest, richest content on your own website and search engines will love you too.
The physical marketing leg of the stool includes events, stunts, hui, networking, expo stands, outdoor advertising or print ads. Elements with a real word presence. Challenging, in pandemic times, but in many ways more important than ever. Like the cat, we’re mammals and there are times when pixels aren’t as powerful as presence. Plan to do a little, well. Have a contingency and when you do get to be in-person tell the stories about it in your digital and other peoples’ channels too.
Other peoples’ channels give your story credibility you can’t get on your own. For PR / media relations, the opportunities have never been greater and the demand for interesting stories is strong. Not only are journalists and editors at traditional media outlets hungry for quality content but so are all the businesses and bloggers publishing their own content with followers to entertain, educate and inspire. Having a third party share your content gives it kudos and gets it before audiences who might not otherwise discover you.
These three legs of storytelling – your digital and physical communications, and other peoples’ channels, are the essence of marketing communications success these days. Great content shared in the physical world, digitally and amplified by others’ media should drive every marketing communications plan. The traditional path of building a brand through paid advertising has been in decline for decades. Advertising can still make your brand famous fast, or, if done well, generate a lot of leads in a hurry. It can also be an expensive way to get your cat ignored or worse – make it seem a rude and yowling thing.
Advertising essentially interrupts the stories people want to see or hear. It’s as bad online as it is on TV or in the newspaper – we simply change channel or turn the page or scroll on by. Almost a quarter (24%) of people use ad-blocker software in Aotearoa NZ and that number isn’t going down.
The key lesson is, if you want people to notice, like and talk with your cat, make sure it has four legs and a three legged stool. And if you’d like a hand to shape things up, we’re here and keen to help you plan out your marketing communications, to coach you through it or manage on your behalf. Contact us today
This blog on marketing communications planning using our cat on a stool model is an update from an earlier version first published by GoodSense in 2017.