Everyone bemoans what mobile technology has done to personal interactions. But who would really give up their devices? Our pocket computers provide many advantages – including deepening our connections with loved ones – and someone without a digital connection would miss out on too much of the modern world.
The desire for connection creates challenges and opportunities for brands. When brands try to reach an audience, they must compete with millions of other companies, celebrities, friends and loved ones, cute animals, mainstream news sources and verbose politicians.
To break through, successful organizations need to find ways to make emotional connections with the audience, rather than just providing information.
One great way to make sure content – especially on social media – feels authentic is to imagine speaking to a real person. When I worked in internal communications, a conference speaker reminded people not to write for a generic group such as “fellow employees.” She suggested picturing someone specific, like Carol in accounting, or John from IT. Writing as if I were sending an email to a coworker helped me keep things simple and clear.
Brands must also remember what the audience wants. People who have already taken the time to like a Twitter account or follow on Facebook have demonstrated an interest in a product or service. They want information about upcoming events and new offerings. But to build trust and loyalty, users must sense a real person on the other side of the screen with real emotions – and perhaps a sense of humor. Nobody wants to read dry, corporate copy; so don’t write it.
Listening truly sets people apart on social media. Traditional media relied on “we say, they listen” communication; the technology required it. Too many organizations act as if things still work that way. They Tweet or post on Facebook without a plan for the next step. Anything interesting online draws shares, likes, comments and reviews. We recommend group organizations designate a person, process and culture for responding quickly and consistently. It’s the key to being seen as more than self-promotional.
Candor doesn’t believe any of this is easy. Making every follower feel as if they’re the center of attention may be the greatest communication challenge we have. But when organizations set authentic connections as the goal, they take a huge leap toward generating a loyal, passionate audience.
Christmas came early for Candor. In early December, PR Daily named our makeOKbetter campaign the best interactive storytelling campaign in the nation for 2016. I know what you’re thinking: “But what does ‘interactive storytelling’ even mean?” Honestly, it’s the new way to look at PR. With the rise of digital media, our services and capabilities as PR professionals keep growing. The makeOKbetter campaign wasn’t confined to just one medium. Instead, we dabbled in: social media advertising; email marketing; web design & management; infographics; high-quality, scripted video; and even live video shot directly from our phones. We coupled all of this with some tried-and-true PR methods, such as media pitching, press conferences and strategic op-ed pieces.
Here’s some background on our campaign, why it was necessary and what it took to win a PR Daily Content Marketing Award.
During the 2016 legislative session, the Oklahoma Hospital Association faced a proposed 25 percent cut to Medicaid provider rates, which would have devastated hospitals across the state.
It was a complicated issue in the middle of a statewide budget crisis, but the OHA called Candor to create a strategy that would save hospitals and save lives.
Together, we launched the makeOKbetter campaign to ensure Oklahomans were aware of what was at stake, especially for 42 rural hospitals at risk of closing. We hoped to get rid of the 25 percent cut by urging hard-working Oklahomans to ask the Legislature to “take back” federal dollars to adequately fund health care.
We needed to pack a punch to make a difference, so we outlined three phases to highlight the campaign and tell our story across Oklahoma.
Phase One – “Educate & Inform”
These budget cuts were going to impact jobs, communities and families, so we needed the title to focus on a solution. We created the logo in-house using recognizable healthcare colors. On February 24, 2016, we publicly launched the campaign with an interactive landing page urging advocates to “join the movement.” We collected e-mail opt-ins and explained the issues and key messages. We stressed the idea of “a better future” for Oklahomans. The site received media coverage around the state and let stakeholders and elected officials know there would be an organized effort to make health care funding a top priority.
The landing page housed our first video, an animation explaining the proposed budget cut and its potential impact. We made it easy for hospitals to share the video, and also gave them posters, payroll stuffers, FAQs and social media posts they could share.
After optimizing the makeOKbetter social channels, we turned the animation video into paid ads and targeted an interested audience. We used Facebook and Twitter to display hard-hitting infographics explaining the budget crisis. The infographics cut to the core of our messaging:
• “Don’t let this happen to Oklahoma Hospitals” • “Join the movement and take back our federal funds.”
By educating and informing our audience, we were ready to kick off ‘Phase Two.’
Phase Two – “Emotional Appeal”
On March 21, it was time to put numbers behind battle cries. We used video to tell the story of the rural community of Sayre and what it meant to lose its hospital. It was fresh on the mind of its community members, so our video crew took to the streets, cafes and salons to hear how they had been affected.
That was just one town. One hospital. One community. Our audience was starting to understand the dire situation.
By the end of our campaign, the Sayre video totaled 237,105 views, reached 352,535 people and received 9,272 reactions, comments and shares.
We followed the video with opinion editorials, posting earned media hits to our social media channels and sharing media clips with key influencers. And then we were hit with a few wrinkles.
Phase Three – “Call to Action”
As the month went on, it became clear the Legislature was not going to take back federal health care funds, forcing advocates to devise a new strategy. Under the direction of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, makeOKbetter endorsed the Medicaid Rebalancing Act and a proposed cigarette tax.
Through new data and a compelling infographic, we grabbed media’s attention. We stressed the need for action, stating the proposed Medicaid cuts would mean as many as four out of every five Oklahoma hospitals would not deliver babies, nine out of 10 nursing homes would be forced to shut down and more than a dozen hospitals would close within the year. Polling found 74% of Oklahomans supported a cigarette tax increase to fix health care.
We launched a new video, stating “Oklahoma is on life support” and “health care is in crisis” to create a sense of urgency and desperation. We unveiled the video at a press conference alongside the Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers. Multiple media outlets and health care professionals attended. We asked our audience: “What are you going to do to save Oklahoma health care?”
We supported the message with infographics, door hangers for Capitol offices and a coordinated op-ed campaign from hospital CEOs.
Some legislators said our campaign was crying wolf, so we asked health care administrators to stand up and say exactly what would happen to their hospitals, services and communities if the Legislature did not act. We edited highlights from each speaker and turned them into short videos to promote on Facebook. We targeted legislative districts with our new information through detailed social media ads, and we purchased ads in newspapers.
Finally, it was time to vote. In an unlikely turn of events, the Republicans supported the cigarette tax, while the Democrats were still holding out for an agreement to accept federal funds. The Legislature left the vote open until midnight, but ultimately, the cigarette tax turned to ash.
However, within days the Legislature removed the proposed Medicaid cuts and miraculously found money to avoid the health care crisis. The makeOKbetter campaign accomplished its original goal to preserve health care funding, and developed a foundation to continue to educate lawmakers next session.