By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Entrepreneur.
I was recently on the PR After Hours podcast as hosted by fellow public relations professional Alex Greenwood. This article discusses the Active Communications Index (ACI) formula, which I talked about on the show.
The Goal of the Active Communications Index
“Getting an audience is hard. Sustaining an audience is hard. It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose, and of action over a long period of time.” Alex quoted Bruce Springsteen as he emphasised how important consistency is in an entrepreneur’s content and PR efforts.
Running a PR agency myself for the past 25 years, I noticed that companies are not consistent in their PR activities. This is why I devised the ACI, which aims to help business owners like you plan how much work actually goes into your PR, get consistent results, and engage more effectively with your audience.
Many of the companies and clients that I’ve worked with over the years have these so-called surges of content. They would put out content that typically talks about a new product, a factory opening or a showroom, or a trade show — then they go quiet.
However, public relations is about building a relationship with the audience. The scenario above is equivalent to you going out meeting someone and keeping them highly engaged for a week — and then not calling them or returning their calls again. For that person’s part, they’d feel a little bit wary about you not being reliable and consistent.
In business, people have to trust you. Socially, they’ve already got families and friends. But if you’re out there competing for their attention and for their business, showing up consistently with valuable content is key. The ACI, which is part of my SPEAK|PR program, can help you quantify your PR efforts.
Why Consistency Matters in B2B and B2C
The consistency of showing up in the business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) spaces is important.
In these spaces, it’s not just one person who makes the purchase. It involves around five to seven people in a company who all have to sign off on that purchase. So it’s not just about being consistent over time with one person — it’s about being consistent across the entire range of people that you are selling to. You need everybody on the other side of the sales equation to come to understand and trust you. Because often, the people inside those organisations are also selling you on your behalf.
For example, there’s a marketing director who is fond of you. And you can’t imagine why they wouldn’t want to work with you. It could be that when the marketing director spoke about you with the Chief Finance Officer and the Chief Executive Officer and they looked you up online for quick research, they didn’t feel reassured upon seeing that you or your company is turning up only sporadically.
The Elements of ACI
The ACI comprises three elements:
Many companies today make the mistake of sending out one piece of information on one to three channels that they’re comfortable with. Also, they tend to only send it once.
With the ACI, you can use this simple formula to quantify if you’re doing enough new content and if you’re sending it across enough channels frequently enough.
Why You Shouldn’t Focus on Vanity Metrics
Entrepreneurs and business owners look at a lot of vanity metrics, such as impressions and engagement. However, these are things that are out of your control.
For example, I posted a picture of my then-upcoming book on LinkedIn.
That post features two versions of the book and I asked the audience which one they prefer. It has garnered around 400 views and 65 comments. If I post something that I think would be equally interesting (say, the effect of light on children) and get only 40 or 50 engagements, it’s not within my control.
These vanity metrics are controlled by algorithms. The ACI, on the other hand, is what is in your control. It’s a metric that you can share with your peers and your agency as well. And it’s something that you want to be roughly the same week in and week out.
If you take care of what you put in consistently, the growth you’ll see can be likened to a fitness journey. If you work out with a good regime on a regular basis, you will become fit. But if you just worry about fitness and not about how much exercise you do, you’ll never get fit.
Mapping How You’re Faring
During my guesting on PR After Hours, I shared a two-by-two matrix that contains the aforementioned elements. At the top, there’s the word consistent; at six o’clock, inconsistent; at three o’clock, innovative; at nine o’clock, dull. There are also four quadrants.
Using this matrix, you can drill down and think realistically and honestly. If you’re not being honest with yourself, then that’s not going to help anybody.
If you’re sporadic in your outreach blogs and you’re using a limited number of channels, then you’re unnoticed. If you’re a follower, your content is dull, you’re consistent in your outreach, but you’re only using a limited number of channels. If you’re an opportunist, your content is innovative but your outreach is sporadic and you’re also using a limited number of channels. If you’re an influencer, you’re maximising things out.
How Do You Improve Your Standing
If you’re unnoticed, it’s time to innovate and stop following what everyone else is doing. You can create innovative content and use artificial intelligence (AI) tools for that. Look at your avatar — your customer, your staff, and your partner — and check what you’re doing to make them a hero.
I had a breakthrough when I was working with a team that is consistently producing graphics about their own heavy engineering product. I suggested that we look at the people who put their engineering products together in Chile. Because of that, they were able to come up with this amazing story about how their products were originally used in World War tanks. When we moved down that path, it liberated a whole bunch of innovative content from different channels.
I encourage people to have more channels than the ones that they’re familiar with. Many tend to utilise channels because they’re used to them. And this is similar to how consumers pick up the same things in the same aisles in the supermarket — when there are many more aisles left unexplored.
When thinking about expanding channels, you can choose a moving format. For instance, if you’re happy with writing a press release, you can create a video counterpart.
I’ve recently created a video release for a client who has appointed two members of staff in America. Initially, we only wrote the press release. And I thought of using Lumen5. So I’ve uploaded photos and the text, and with Lumen5, I’ve produced a low-cost video rendering form of the press release. The 60-second video release can go on LinkedIn and YouTube. Their staff members can also share that individually.
Getting on a channel that you’re not necessarily familiar with is often the first step. Next to it is the frequency — the scheduling of your content so that it’s going out at the right time for the audience.
Most people are scheduling content after they’ve made it. For example, I was talking to a group that’s selling to moms. When they get to work at 9 and finish creating content at 11, they send it right after the content is made. When I asked what their mothers were doing at that time, they answered that they would probably be picking up something from the grocery or having a cup of coffee with friends.
Upon looking at when you send your content and how many times you send it to your audience, you can use tools like Buffer, Zoho, and Hootsuite to automate your content distribution.
Right now Chiefmartech editor Scott Brinker says that we’re in the second golden age of marketing technology. There are over 8,000 Martech platforms out there and they’re all catalogued. I have 100 that I’ve catalogued in the technology application directory.
With all these, you can move from being unnoticed to someone who’s not dull or just an opportunist — you can move to the top-right quadrant.
The idea of the ACI is that if you create a framework or an approach of how to look at your content, channels, and frequency — and you keep doing that — you will build engagement with your audience. And what’s great about having PR people is that they can help you sell your services. Because as I’ve outlined with the ACI and the matrix, there are strategies to help you bring your content out and stop being unnoticed.
In my book, The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, I’ve curated 50 interviews with entrepreneurs and experts like Alex. In three months’ time, there will be another volume out to cover 50 more. You can also check out Alex’s new book called The Podcast Option to learn tips and tricks on how to make podcasting work for you.
If you want to know more about the ACI and get help being noticed, reach out at email@example.com and through my LinkedIn page. People who have stories that can be an example to other business owners and who want to share them on my podcast are also welcome to reach out.
This article is based on a transcript from my podcast The UnNoticed Entrepreneur, you can listen here.
Originally published at https://eastwestpr.com on October 24, 2021.