PR & Marketing Communication are the Linchpin to Growth
Celebrating eight years of communications strategies creating attention
Happy Birthday to us, Happy Birthday to us, Happy Birthday Dear Xpresso, Happy Birthday to us!
This month, Xpresso has turned eight! Will you celebrate with us? Of course, our founder and leader CEO has faaaar more than eight years of experience in the broadcast media industry, but it was eight years ago that she took her knowledge, experience and vision, and crafted these elements into a guiding set of principles and ideas that she would end up calling ‘Xpresso’.
The magic of numbers
Although unrelated to the infinity symbol in terms of its etymological development, there can be no doubt that there is something graceful and powerful in the shape of an 8: an unending flow that communicates an idea of constant movement whilst still remaining true and focused in form. That seems to be a pretty apt description of Xpresso as we head into our eighth year.
The extent to which you think there is any value in numerology will of course vary (numerology being the belief in a divine or mystical relationship between a number and the nature of things or events that occur in life). But there can be no doubt that numbers often have a psychological impact on us, even if they aren’t mystically determining the events that unfold around us.
The way we phrase things numerically has a great impact on how we perceive them. We’re familiar with the common tricks: putting more expensive items at the top of the menu, pricing just under the round number (€0.99.), and indicating that things are being offered at a discounted rate. But there are a number (haha) of other ways that numbers change our perception: for instance, do you feel the same way about a two-week fitness plan as a 14 day one? (Fun fact, that’s called unitosity). Or, take this other illustration:
70 items for €29 vs €29 for 70 items
€50 for 20 items vs 20 items for €50
Which seems like the best value? In reality, they’ve got the same unit value (ish), but two factors influence our assessment: firstly, the one that is more difficult to calculate (and thus makes us guestimate rather than develop a concrete answer) has more allure, and secondly, the order of calculation (big into small as opposed to small into big) affects our perception – the larger benefit should always lead.
Pre-Suasion and the importance of attention
So this thinking about the psychological impact of numbers led us to think about the psychological tools we use in less overt areas of communication (away from the more conspicuous field of advertising and marketing).
One of our favourite works on the topic is that of Robert Cialdini, who talks about the idea of ‘Pre-suasion’ – a process of setting a psychological frame in which your interactions are set: spending far more time and attention on the setup of a request than the actual request itself.
One of the key themes that emerges from his work is the importance of ‘attention’. When something receives a lot of attention, then it automatically raises the perceived importance of that issue in the subconscious of the audience. This is why effective PR and communications need to be the linchpin of any effective sales strategy – they raise awareness, and thus perceived importance.
Let’s take an example, at the moment we hear a lot about COVID – and rightly so, it is genuinely important. But has it perhaps dominated our thinking at the cost of all else simply because we are constantly exposed to coverage of it? It certainly means that we see and hear less of other matters – smaller things that once would have had a greater share of the limelight, and of our attention.
And this includes your business messages. Their lowered exposure means that they’re perceived importance drops also. Some people are fearful of what the future might bring at the moment, and are therefore closing down on ‘extraneous’ spending. This applies to both clients and their purchasing decisions, and vendors and their marketing messages. In reality though, now is exactly the time when a boost in exposure is absolutely vital. Because under Cialdini’s theory of Pre-suasion, increased exposure increases your perceived importance, and therefore makes your brand or product more of a priority in the minds of potential customers. This is vital in a time when the instinct of customers is generally to deprioritise purchasing.
How to build attention
How then do you go about increasing this exposure? It isn’t just the quantity of exposure that you build, but the quality of that exposure. Four key components contribute to maximizing exposure.
Changing Direction of Attention
Asking the right questions (Creating a shaped dialogue)
Grabbing attention (particularly by communicating novelty)
Holding attention (by shifting the focus to the other party)
All communications efforts from your business need to be considering these four elements. But so few organisations are in a position to think through their comms in such a strategic, psychologically-orientated way. It’s at times like these that the experience of a professional firm such as Xpresso becomes invaluable: we know how to integrate these elements into every individual piece of communication, as well as the wider communication strategy in general.
Is the psychological approach compatible with building authentic encounters?
For some firms though, it isn’t that they don’t have time, it’s that they are actually actively a little resistant to adopting such a ‘calculated’ approach to their PR, marketing and communications strategy. And certainly, they are not wrong to ask questions about how deliberate a marketing and communications strategy should be.
For instance, does the employment of such deliberate psychological strategies actually count as ‘manipulation’? Does it take away from the authenticity of the interaction? Just as we are now conscious and a little bit skeptical of psychological devices such as the 0.99-style of pricing, does this mean that the consumer base as a whole will eventually become savvy to these kind of techniques, and actually end up resenting them and the companies that employ them? Is all of this psychological trickery and cleverness ultimately going to backfire?
Building meaningful connection
At Xpresso, we’d argue that there’s a balance to be made. It is possible to be conscious of the psychology of interaction and the way you present yourself and your message, without that necessarily being at odds with the ‘real you’. Developing and maintaining relationships is what we do – and these can’t exist without their core coming from a place of real meaning and mutual benefit.
Cialdini actually addresses this in the theory of ‘Pre-Suasion’ as well, because one of the main components of his idea is creating a feeling of ‘unity’; bringing the target of your intentions under your own umbrella or values, ideas and care systems. The very purpose of the ‘attention grabbing’ elements of the Pre-Suasion is simply to bring people into your fold; into your community. It’s about far more than simply securing a one-time sale. So it may make use of psychological tools to start the process, but the way that relationship develops and is maintained is entirely genuine. To us at Xpresso, the idea of building a community within wider technology industries is the single biggest driving force of our efforts.
Don’t let another birthday pass by without making sure you’re on the right track…
We are proud to be hitting our eighth birthday because what that really equates to is eight years of growing, pushing forward, making progress. What birthday will you be hitting in 2020?
Will it be a birthday where you know you’ve maximized the attention you’re getting, in a time when attention is too often focused on issues of fear? Have you maximized your importance to your potential customer? And have you developed a way to hook your customers and draw them into your community, creating a lasting and meaningful relationship?
If you recognize that your approach to communications could do with an overhaul, don’t wait ‘til your birthday to treat yourself to a present. At Xpresso, we have the knowledge, expertise and experience you need to grow your business, even in times when people think growth is impossible. It just takes a solid understanding of communications psychology, a team of talented and creative content writers, and (quite a lot more than) many years of experience and connection in the industry.