Try turning on any local or international news broadcast, picking up a newspaper, or checking the news app on your phone without finding a story headline that includes COVID-19. The coronavirus is still everywhere, every hour of the day, and can easily become all-consuming. A recent Pew Research Center survey cites that, perhaps not surprisingly, 71% of American adults need to take breaks from COVID-19 news. And now, as we move closer and closer to Election Day, political headlines will also continue to dominate the narrative and add to the news fatigue.

This article isn’t about the pandemic or politics, but how can B2B communicators make sure their stories are not overshadowed by these topics? Should we just throw in the towel? Certainly not. Now more than ever, it’s time to innovate. It’s time to be nimble. It’s time to be heard. Those companies who can maintain a strong share of voice outside of the polarizing headlines will come out on top.

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This year has taught us that change is inevitable, but it’s also opportunistic. So even if you think you know your brand and your audiences, let’s reset the clocks and return to the basics of how to get a seat at the proverbial news table.

  • Be where your audiences are. With millions of Americans still working from home full-time, media consumption habits have shifted as people spend an increased amount of time scrolling online feeds and watching television. A survey this year conducted by RAND researchers found that 24% of Americans use broadcast television as their primary news source, closely followed by online sources at 23%. This doesn’t mean, however, that social media isn’t important, that print is entirely dead or that radio shouldn’t be in the mix. Multiple studies, including this one, note that different demographic groups get their news from different sources, with younger audiences relying more on social media and older audiences turning to print publications and traditional broadcast. And keep in mind that the media landscape is ever-changing, with emerging, non-traditional news sources available on streaming platforms and devices.

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    Now may be the time to dig deeper into your target demographic. At the factual level, what is their age, household income, job title? And at the emotional level, their behaviors? Their professional challenges? Their approach to making decisions? Creating customer personas based on these answers can help you streamline and articulate the audiences you’re trying to reach, ensuring you can tell your company’s story in the right places at the right time to the right people.

  • It’s not (about) me, it’s (about) you. Taking a spin on an age-old excuse, storytelling shouldn’t be about your company. It needs to be about your audience. At G&S, we often counsel our clients that the media is a conduit to tell your story to customers and prospects, but the media itself is not your direct audience. Take the example of launching a new product. We’ll give you—the company, the expert—the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s designed with the best features and benefits. Instead of listing them out, create a narrative on the why behind those features and benefits. How exactly will they help your customer’s business? What’s in it for them? Your customer or prospect should be the guiding star.

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Ryan Gorman, President & CEO, Coldwell Banker (Client)

  • Data is the new content. B2B buyers want to be educated, not sold. Demand Gen Report's 2020 Content Preferences Study found that 67% of B2B buyers rely on content to research buying decisions. This includes rich, engaging, quick-hitting information, which may be right at your fingertips in the form of data. Communicators use data to inform decisions, from planning to strategy to measurement. You can also harness that data as a most powerful content tool externally. Sharing statistics from surveys and research, for example, connects with target audiences in a way that’s much more credible than traditional marketing content. If you’ve surveyed your customers—even informally—to get their feedback on a product, program or initiative, then consider communicating those findings in a data-rich, visually engaging way.

    As communicators in advanced manufacturing, it’s not only okay—it’s welcome—to let the world know your brand is still here, while remaining compassionate and cognizant of your audiences. Your B2B customers and prospective customers are hungry for new information and for a break from the daily headlines. In many ways, it may feel like the world has come to a halt, but maintaining your momentum and telling your company’s story through the right news channels is more important now than ever.
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