How business narratives changed in 2018

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The past year has seen some big changes in the ways New Zealand businesses are telling their stories and promoting their products. Some of these changes have been easy to predict, such as increasing use of social media, while others may have come as more of a surprise.

Perhaps the most noticeable shift is the spike in recognition among businesses of the value of linking their brand into a larger narrative, such as climate change, and telling an authentic story about the origins of their products or services.

By doing this, businesses can attract customers who share their beliefs and want to make a difference with their spending, over and above the product or service they are buying.

New Zealand company All Birds, which is making it big in the United States, is succeeding by creating stylish shoes out of wool and natural materials.

At a time when concern about the environment and people’s carbon footprints is so prevalent, the company’s fans love the idea that they are making an environmental contribution by purchasing All Birds shoes instead of a synthetically-made alternative.

The year has also seen increasing reliance on non-traditional media to communicate with customers.

This has been exacerbated by falling staff numbers in many newsrooms and US president Donald Trump’s regular accusations of “fake news,” both of which have diminished the credibility of the media with some readers and reduced the perception of a gap between blogs and corporate news sources, and professional journalists.

As a result, many people are getting their information from other sources – often Facebook, Instagram or the websites of their favourite blogger or influencer.

A growing number of businesses are putting effort into identifying the non-traditional mediums read by their customers and putting a larger proportion of their marketing and PR budget into communicating through those channels.

Another shift is the rapid rise in the number of businesses using automation in their marketing.

It’s now easier than ever for businesses to set up pre-written marketing messages that can be sent to customers when a specific condition is met, whether that is immediately following a sale, two weeks later to prompt them to post a review, or a week before their birthday to encourage them to treat themselves.

Automated marketing messages have been around for years now, but new low-cost services are making it simple for smaller businesses to make use of their customer data for this purpose, while also making it easier to ensure these canned messages appear more personalised for each recipient.

Technological progress is also changing the way businesses write, particularly online.

A prime example of this is voice search – Google predicts that by 2020 around half of online searches will be done verbally, by talking to our phones, rather than typing our search queries in via text.

Google’s search results are based on the terms used by a person searching, so one of the implications of increasing use of voice search is that businesses will need to write more conversationally – in ways more similar to how people talk – if they want to appear high up in online search results.

Surprisingly, video didn’t gain too much ground as the medium of choice.

More businesses are using video to tell their story, but engaging text content such as articles, case studies and how to guides continue to play a critical role in storytelling and content marketing, due in large part to their searchability on Google, and the ease with which readers can skim-read them to find the information they are after.

The trends outlined here are just some of the major changes we’ve seen throughout 2018.

Businesses that adapt their storytelling to topical issues and opportunities provided by new technologies are most likely to get the best possible reach for every dollar they spend on marketing and public relations.

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James Heffield
James Heffield
Director of Bay of Plenty marketing and public relations consultancy Last Word. To find out more visit www.lastwordmedia.co.nz or email james@lastwordmedia.co.nz.

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