By Jim James, Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of The UnNoticed Podcast.
Are you a follower, an opportunist, an influencer, or simply unnoticed?
In my latest The UnNoticed Podcast episode, I’ve talked about the active communications index (ACI). It’s a formula that creates a synopsis that helps business owners decide if they’re doing enough work for their publicity. This is important because many of the clients that I work with are not consistent with their marketing and communications.
The ACI measures three important variables in public relations: content, channels, and frequency. When I map out these variables, I get a number from zero to 100. This helps me put different companies into different categories — whether they’re a follower, an opportunist, an influencer, or unnoticed.
I’ve spoken to many entrepreneurs and big companies and what I found out is that they actually don’t know how much is enough. The ACI can give a good guide on that. While everyone is focused on vanity metrics (e.g., impressions, page views), it doesn’t necessarily measure the work that it’s taking them to get seen. The ACI is a simple formula that you can use to see if you and your team are doing work enough consistently and if you’re having engagement with your internal and external audience groups.
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Using and Visualising the Active Communications Index
I’ve shared the methodology of the ACI on my podcast because you can apply this yourself straight away.
First, we have to look at the three elements that I’ve mentioned. Content refers to how much content you’re creating on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Channels are about how many channels you’re using. Many companies are using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Some use YouTube. However, there are many channels that many companies are not currently utilising (e.g., Medium, Outbrain, Issuu, Vimeo). Frequency, the last element, means how often you publish your content.
When these three variables are entered into a formula, I can give you a classification. It’s simple but it’s useful for people in terms of identifying which areas they can work on.
When we enter your data into the formula, and the number falls within zero to 25, it means that you’re unnoticed. If you get from 26 to 50, you’re a follower. If you get from 51 to 75, you’re an opportunist. If you get 75 to 100, you’re an influencer.
Now, think of a quadrant where one axis is content and the other is frequency. At 12 o’clock, we’ve got consistent content; at 6, inconsistent; at 3, innovative; at 9, dull content. If you’re creating dull content inconsistently, you’re unnoticed. You’re a follower if you’re creating content consistently but it’s dull. You’re an opportunist if your content is innovative but inconsistent. You’re an influencer if you’re creating consistently and your content is innovative.
These four quadrants are defined by the amount of content you create, where you put it out, and how often you publish it. Based on these and your company’s current condition, we create plans and give you prescriptions that can get you to the top right-hand quadrant.
To summarise: you’re an influencer if your content is innovative, you utilise an optimal number of channels, and you’re consistent with your publishing. If you’re an opportunist, your content is innovative but you’re sporadic in your outreach and you use a limited number of channels. If you’re a follower, your content is dull and you use a limited number of channels. However, you’re consistent with your outreach. You’re unnoticed if your content is dull, you’re sporadic in your outreach, and you utilise a limited number of channels.
What you’d want is to be on the top right-hand corner, wherein instead of you chasing your customers, it would be them chasing you.
For the UnNoticed
As mentioned, if you’re unnoticed, your content is probably dull. You’re also not using enough channels and you’re sporadic in your outreach. But what can you do about that?
- Content. In terms of content, it’s time to innovate. Stop following something that’s considered as the best practice in your market or something that you’ve read. Look at the opportunities of storifying your business. As what I talk about in my company’s SPEAK|PR program, it’s about how you can put your customer at the center of the story. Make them the hero and create content around who your business serves — from customers to your staff to your partners.
- Channels. It’s also time to increase the number of channels that you’re using. Maybe, you’re only currently using those that you’re familiar with. However, they may not be the channels that your next body of audience is using. For example, you’re on LinkedIn but you’re not using Medium to publish your articles. Think of the channels that you can add to extend your reach.
- Frequency. If you’re unnoticed, you’re probably not scheduling or sharing content frequently enough. Therefore, your content is appearing only every now and then. It also may not be scheduled when people are ready to read, watch, or listen to it. This is especially important if you’re working across timezones. In my case, as I have listeners and clients in Asia, America, and Europe, I have to be careful about when I send out my content.
For the Follower
If you’re a follower, then your content is dull and you’re probably using a limited number of channels. However, you’re consistent in your outreach because you’re trying to keep up. You’re not left behind, unlike the unnoticed.
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- Content. For your content, you also have to innovate. What could you do to lift your content, to make it more fun or more leading-edge? Could you use more research? Could you be showing more pictures or videos?
- Channels. It’s also time to extend the number of channels that you have. As I mentioned above, you may already be using channels that you’re familiar with, but you’re not using those that you’re not comfortable with. For example, you may just be embedding content from a generic YouTube page instead of from your own channel. You may also not be using other platforms such as Reddit, which is faring well in the Business-to-Business (B2B) space.
- Frequency. Currently, it could be that you’re sending out enough content. But you’re probably doing that manually because you simply want to keep up with everybody else. You’re probably just publishing when other people are posting things or when you’ve got something to send out. You have to get it scheduled and get it batched so your content can go out more frequently.
For the Opportunist
If you’re an opportunist, your content is innovative but you’re only using a limited number of channels and you’re sporadic in your outreach. You’re just taking the opportunity (e.g., interview, podcast, article follow-up) when it arises. However, you’ve got something that moves the whole conversation on. This means that you actually have the potential to become an influencer.
- Content. Your content can be enhanced. You have great ideas that can be read, heard, and watched by more people. If you don’t have the time to create more original content, you can simply repurpose it to make several pieces of content. You can use platforms like Lately, which can automatically generate multiple iterations of a single content for you. You can also use tools like Lumen5, wherein you can put your web address or URL and a video will be automatically created for you.
- Channels. Take a look at the number of channels where you’re publishing your content: Can you add some more? For example, do you have a Wikipedia page? If you’re innovative and you have patents, copyrights, or trademarks, what channels can you use to take that great content out?
- Frequency. For the opportunist, frequency is a weak point. You’re only sending it out when you think there’s a good moment (e.g., a trade show or a speaking conference). However, in communications, consistency is key. If you’re not communicating on a regular basis with your audience, then they won’t know if they can rely on or trust you. People will only buy from someone that they can trust. And like friendship, they’ll get to trust you over time if you’re always there for them. Therefore, you have to schedule content across multiple channels so that you can move to the top right quadrant.
For the Influencer
If you’re already on the top right quadrant, it means that you’re already producing innovative content. You’re also using an optimal number of channels and you’re consistent in your publishing. You’ve got a great ACI, which is 75 or above. But what can you do to get better?
It could be that you’re an influencer in your own niche or community. But how could you grow your influence into concentric communities? You can further build your audience and your business by bridging into new communities. And this is what media relations is all about: Going into communities owned and managed by publishers.
- Content. Could you create content that you can register as intellectual property? For example, you can transform your content into a course. Could you make it an asset, like a book, for instance? Could you create new revenue streams? Could you partner up and have your content on other people’s websites? Could you have your content go in as contributed articles?
- Channels. Have you fully optimised your audio and video channels? Have you thought about channels by time zone, if you want to be more geography-specific? How about translated content, if you’re working across multiple languages? Finally, have you thought about your internal and partner audiences? Most people think that communications are only external — about winning new customers. However, it’s also about bringing all the members of your team with you — the people you pay and the people that you rely on but you don’t pay directly. For instance, you could start a newsletter. You can also use internal engagement platforms like MoWork, where you can give rewards.
- Frequency. How frequently are you reaching out? Are you mapping out your avatar or your ideal customer profile? Do you know when your customers are actually accessing your information and on what device? Recently, I’ve made some videos for a client. If it’s going into China, we need to make sure that the video is mobile phone-friendly. If it’s going out on LinkedIn, it needs to have a landscape orientation. However, in both situations, we need to add subtitles because people are not going to listen to the audio if they’re on a train or at work.
If you’re an influencer, ask yourself: How do you move over and above that area where you currently are?
The active communications index (ACI) is a very simple formula that you can use to start putting your strategies in place. But really, you don’t need the formula if you’d simply take a look at how much content you create, which are the channels you’ve set up, and how frequently you send out content.
In the meantime, I’m going to do more work about the ACI. I’d put it online as a test as well. If you’ve got questions or if you’d like to work with me on it, reach out at email@example.com. I hope that you can use this internally and with your partners to measure how much work goes into your marketing, help you take control of how much you put in, and eventually, let the results speak for themselves.
This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast The UnNoticed, you can listen here.