This post continues what some of my colleagues are calling my “Communications 101” series. Today’s installment: What is a conduit and when should I use one.
There are basically two ways to reach your marketing/PR audiences – directly and indirectly. One of these methods offers more control than the other. While this is a basic piece of a good communications plan, it is important to assess how well you handle both kinds of communication.
Communicating directly with your identified audiences gives you more control over the marketing message and delivery. Things like paid advertising, direct mail, e-blasts, PSAs, posters and flyers, yard signs, white papers, and fact sheets fall into this category.
With indirect communications, there is something or someone between you and your campaign message. A byproduct of this strategy is your product details and talking points will naturally become subject to interpretation because they are being filtered by the conduit’s knowledge and biases. Or worse yet, you will send the wrong message if they don’t have access to information they need.
As a communications consultant, you have to select conduits to convey your information to audiences that you may not be able to effectively reach otherwise. Picking them is the easy part. The harder part is building a relationship with them so they trust you as a source, respect the integrity of the information you provide, and turn to you for additional information when and if they need it.
A robust marketing campaign is most successful when it combines direct and indirect communications. So how well are you managing your relationships with your conduits? Here are a few conduits and some things to think about to build your relationship with them.
Media: Are you just sending press releases or do you spend time reading and getting to know the journalists on your list, what they cover and what kind of information they want? Say it with me now; mass e-blast press releases are out. Tailored, well-thought story pitches are in.
Bloggers: Same goes here as it does for traditional media. Why rely on lists when you should be reading the blogger to know his/her topic, tone of voice, frequency, interests? Kevin at the Bad Pitch Blog reminded me how important this is in his recent post about Retrevos. (A rare example of a good pitch story on the site, actually)
Community leaders: Everyone wants the Mayor, the Governor, the big philanthropist, and the local celebrity at his or her event or grand opening. We all want them to talk about our product favorably. Here’s the kicker: you are one of thousands trying to reach them. Be sensitive to their time. Be succinct. Be direct. And be ready to accept no for an answer every now and then.
Faith leaders: Especially for the nonprofit world, faith leaders can be a terrific conduit. However, these clergy are focused on the spiritual health of their community. Make sure your information has a true connection before you approach them.
Social media: There are many smart people with great blog posts like this, this, and this (and this about multicultural social media) about how to effectively utilize social media as part of your marketing strategy. I’m not going to add much more here, except to echo one important piece of tactical advice.
Don’t auto-message me. Don’t auto-message anyone. Ever.
Sharing your messages through indirect communications lends credibility to your campaign and serves as an endorsement of your work. Don’t alienate your key conduits or you may not like the way your message is communicated.
If there is a theme here, it is the importance of doing your homework to understand your conduits in the same way you take the time to learn about your target audiences. It all goes back to audience development and strategic planning.
What are some other conduits for marketing and public relations and how do they fit into your marketing and communications strategy?