Obren Msuku, Managing Director of Msuku Media, states that in order to drive business value and growth, media exposure has to be of the right quality, and should be experienced by the target audience in the right context.
A million views or likes or shares might sound great, but the real question for a brand is whether they are reaching their audience or not – and whether that audience is actually engaging with the details of their message. Brand exposure opportunities have both exploded and fragmented in recent years, with new technologies and communications platforms opening a world of possibilities to PR professionals and beginners alike.
In theory, this seems like a positive development, but the litany of choices is proving increasingly difficult for brands and their communications agencies to navigate. When the whole world is shouting at the top of its lungs, shouting even louder, although tempting, is at best a short-term solution.
In a country with eleven official languages, cultural context is an especially slippery force. Not only do brand narratives need to be carefully crafted in terms of tone, style and language, getting content distribution right also requires several types of expertise.
In South Africa, a lot of different cultural reference points, icons and stories have to be catered to. We all understand that you can’t use classical music on an urban youth radio station – the dividing line is very clear. There are many other lines within our various communities and cultures that are far less clear, however, and which also have a big impact on whether the message a brand is sending out will be welcomed by a media channel, or its audience.
How should brands approach getting their voice ‘out there’ in 21st century South Africa? Two crucial elements: audience understanding and industry relationships.
In South Africa, it’s not enough to just do a generic demographic breakdown of age, race and gender – you need to be much more specific. You need to understand your audience and be able to converse in their language – literally and in terms of narrative. This applies as much to the urban context as it does to peri-urban and rural areas. If you have a cultural understanding you can use humour and style to get your story across, and really engage your audience. If you’re taking a one-size-fits-all approach to a brand narrative, really, you’re just shouting as loudly as you can, and hoping people will listen.
In addition to audience understanding, industry relationships can be a crucial testing force for South African PR narratives. Simply put, the better the feedback loop between the communications agency and media gatekeepers, the better the chances of long-term placement success.
‘If producers and editors don’t like your content, they’re effectively telling you the context is wrong for their audience. Often, they’ll tell you this directly, in fact. If you listen to them, interact with them and re-develop your concepts and content according to their feedback, you can improve the rate and quality of coverage a lot.