‘Mental Availability’, the contribution of PR, and the key questions you should be asking of it

This is an age of rich opportunity in the earned and editorial space, yet PR can be missing from the conversations around ‘mental availability’ as the marketing mantra on the top of most brand agendas.

Although ‘Frequency’ of message is one core dimension of mental availability,  the other significant element, ‘memorability’, is ripe to draw benefits from PR infused storytelling as much as any other channel.

Because it’s the idea delivered in the right emotional context that matters, and that has always been the case. Yet now we have an audience who can self-select out what they don’t want to see, versatile creativity is more important than ever.

Ad blockers are here to stay as an obvious example. And for a reason. Not everyone wants to be interrupted by the same thing time after time

And budgets are not bottomless, which doesn’t always fit with the mental availability argument linked to advertising and frequency. The theory of more push behind ads than a competitor is a key one, but I remember a conversation with one brand around what happen if their competitor advertised more leading to an answer of ‘well we would have to find the money to advertise more than them’.  Small potential hole in the theory perhaps.

The reality is that enjoyability of smart work sticks in the mind, regardless of format. And delivering that needs harder work and more inventiveness. Creative attention results from heads being turned and ideas being shareable. And trust (critical for memorability) can flow from a favoured personal media source that may not be a mass one on the bought space radar.

There is room of course for all channels if creativity is sharp and relevant. But when it comes to topical and what’s important ‘now’, memorability through a PR start point can deliver the nimble input into real life.

And for us, there are six areas that we focus on as being critical for this

  • Relevance: Ensuring the editorial storytelling focuses enough on the ‘why’ or the ‘why now’behind the idea and story, and not just the ‘what
    • Context and relevance define the vital sweet spot of editorial storytelling, where ‘brand want meets audience need’, and will shape how well an idea has traction, memorability and a live CTA. It’s the real life part.
  • Alignment: ‘Integrated’ in PR discussions is ideally more than just linking social and editorial
    • Conversations on PR led ideas should also be thinking around shopper marketing alignment, OOH, media budgets, and internal comms, or else we risk limiting the scale potential of a great idea. That is still critical for memorability, it’s just the format behind it that shouldn’t be a fixed part of the thinking.
  • Tone. We need a balance of entertainment and education threads in PR storytelling
    • The millennial mindedaudience – the demographic crossing attitude group that digital device obsession has shaped – need both, and will remember the content that is both ‘useful’ (the educative bit) and ‘generous’ (entertaining, shareable) when it lands. If it isn’t either of those things, it risks just being noise
  • Partnerships: In the influencer space, it is essential to shape a strong ‘value exchange’ approach with those we are working with. Back to relevance and context.
    • Is it an ideas partnership, or just a media buy+? Proper value for mental availability comes from just one of those…which is why we believe influencer responsibilities lie solely with the PR planning
  • Impact: Without us pretending PR has it universally cracked, we need to increasingly have bespoke conversations around evaluation of ideas and impact that focus on commercial benefits and conversation, and not just coverage -much as like our own SMI media evaluation techniques. Memorability and tangible results should go hand in hand
  • Knowledge. It’s important to have a PR team that are plugged into your sector and the media that serve it.
    • This tricky period in culture and society is the time for finding business partners above pure deliverers. And as valuable as left field disruption can be, having people who know whento kick the legs away from the table, rather than just doing it for the sake of it, matters. This is the time for specialism and really getting your story to land with on point memorability

It’s more than just a question of PR of course, and ultimately is about understanding the customer and what they want/how they react/what comms cut though above and beyond ‘potential’ reach figures. And that is broad canvas discussion that needs all the right voices around the table. The key step is having the right voices who see the bigger picture.

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