Anatomy of Effective Communications within Local Government
The fundamentals in an ever-evolving media landscape
Media consumption trends continue to evolve and expectations around relevant, trusted content have never been higher, even despite 2020 being a massive sucker punch.
Recently, YouTube surpassed TV1 in audience share, and a recent study by NZ on Air showed radio, press and free-to-air TV are all in decline against the growth of streamed/on-demand video. In this dynamic landscape, selecting the right media mix to maximise audience reach is a constant challenge.
Here, we’ll examine this landscape and demonstrate the importance of omnichannel strategies in connecting and resonating with an increasingly tech-savvy audience.
To say our communities are diverse would be an understatement. From young children to school kids, teenagers, adults, newlyweds, single parents, empty nesters, retirees, and everyone in-between.
They are road users. Beachgoers. They use our water treatment plants and transfer stations. Enjoy our local parks and shopping centres that they get to via both private vehicles and public transport.
They are ethnically and religiously diverse, with different income levels and a variety of occupations, from mechanics and doctors to accountants and farmers. They are deeply connected to the land, while some aren’t. They are heavily involved in our local councils, while some don’t care at all.
But whether involved or not, council activity and assets are interwoven into the fabric of our daily lives.
Our audience is best summarised as ‘diverse and complex’, with key insights providing valuable information for council efforts:
- Council is under the microscope with unprecedented intensity
- Central Government is reviewing key infrastructure services – such as the Three Waters Review and roading
- Ratepayers don’t understand the value they receive for their money
- Councils struggle with communicating value for money
- Most councils suffer from constant criticism and negativity
- Communication teams swim against an incoming tide of projects, internal dynamics, challenges, frustrations, limited resources (people), time, budgets, and hefty expectations
- Ratepayers and the wider community are suspicious of council, councillors, and their activities.
Media Consumption Trends
Media consumption trends of all people aged 25-54 show a growing trend toward online media consumption. In this audience:
- 98% of all people have been online in the past week
- 90% have watched TV
- 71% have seen an outdoor ad
- 71% have listened to the radio
- 44% have read a newspaper
The majority of this audience has three devices they use daily and consume the majority of their news via mobile phones.
A mixed strategy of Digital and TV is the most effective way of reaching them, followed by outdoor and radio. TV is too expensive to consider and cannot be regionalised for Local Government purposes.
Reaching our Audiences
The media landscape has changed dramatically. A mix of media and relevant content is essential to reach and connect with audiences. This media mix may include print, digital, radio, outdoor, direct mail, and is dependent on the objectives, audience, activity, requested response, and audience size.
Digital is used as a ‘catch-all’ to cover a wide range of online options, including SEO, SEM social, display video and more. Soon, digital billboards will be available by programmatic buying.
Effective digital media plans can be complex and it takes the expertise of a wider team to deliver effective digital media plans across a range of platforms. Ultimately though, the transparency and measurability of digital are unsurpassed, providing key insights and the ability to continually optimise performance against objectives. CPM and CPC as well as Life Time Value (LTV) and CPA are all metrics that effectively pinpoint campaign effectiveness and can be used to measure success.
Radio and other media can be programmed into a digital schedule to observe trends and attribute performance to ad spend.
Achieving our Objectives
Reaching your audience with the right message at the right time requires high quality, consistent content, effective media, and creativity that inspires action.
International and local studies recommend:
- Quality information
- Front foot issues and events
- Quantity and frequency
- Valuing of opinion
- Positive content with community relevance, showing the direct impact the council has on people’s lives to build brand reputation through the demonstration of value.
These should all be considered when planning campaign activity in order to achieve cut-through.
Targeting and Planning
Achieving reach and frequency requires a budget that obtains a relative share of voice. A great planner will work to maximise CPM, CPC, reach, frequency, and other campaign measures to achieve effectiveness.
Balance your Spend
Marketing works in two ways – brand-building and campaign activation. If you’re always in campaign activation mode, people will tune out.
A balance of spend across brand and campaign will achieve the best results. The evidence across a number of studies suggests a 60:40 split in favour of brand building.
In a Local Government context, we suggest a proactive and positive campaign about the activity the council is working on, and the value it provides.
Plan for Reach
TV is preferred for large budget campaigns as its scale and popularity enable it to deliver efficient returns at high volume spends. With lesser budgets, we have to be more creative. Media allocation also varies by sector.
Categories with low budgets, such as government and not-for-profit, are highly digital-led, as are transport and tourism; a category where consumers are increasingly online and ‘cheaper’ to reach.
Integration Drives Better Results
A single channel campaign will rarely achieve every objective. Multi-channel integrated campaigns are more effective, working together to increase reach. We’re also finding traditional media are working better than they used to, with measurable increases in ROI from TV to outdoor, radio, and even press in some instances.
The Value of Video
In a digitally saturated world, video is essential for producing the best brand response. The richness of the emotional palette and capacity for captivating storytelling make it a highly-effective format.
All campaigns should be driven by data and performance measurement. Existing customer data is gold and allows you to optimise a campaign faster, with lookalike audiences and more specific campaign objectives that provide a metric of success.
These allow you to measure performance against a preferred outcome e.g. awareness, reduction, or action (drink driving, water consumption, public transport).
In the digital space, a combination of platforms is effective, including display, audio, animated, and video. Campaign evidence suggests video is highly effective, for its ability to communicate emotion and distinctiveness, even within six seconds.
The time of day should be considered as well as the ad unit type, A:B testing on messages and creative, and the consumption device (mobile, tablet, desktop). Targeting should consider language, events, weather, and geolocation, with campaigns able to be served incredibly accurately e.g. within five-metres of a local library or transfer station.
While budget, media placement, and timing are all key, the biggest single influence on success is less predictable. All other things being equal, creativity makes the difference. There is now substantial evidence that creativity delivers increased effectiveness when it produces communication that is distinctive, engaging, and emotional.
Research into award-winning ads found they delivered more substantial business effects (e.g. market share, penetration, price insensitivity, or profit) than those without. When adjusted for equal excess share of voice, the creatively awarded campaigns were more than twice as efficient, with emotion-based appeals driving long term effectiveness. The conclusion was that creativity is not a replacement for ad budgets, but a way to supercharge the budget you have. Be creative, emotional, and distinctive.
When it comes to media planning, proactivity is key. Positive messaging is essential across everyday communications and campaign activity. All activity needs to be planned to maximise reach and frequency against the right message delivered to the right audience, at the right time.
This right audience will be segmented based on their activity, location, behaviour, and other key insights – data that can help to inform progressively refined campaigns. With these insights, develop a media plan that reaches them when and where it’s relevant, with engaging content and consideration of the consumption device. Mobile targeting should always be part of the mix.
While the media landscape is ever-changing, adhering to these fundamentals will give Local Government the ability to communicate effectively with audiences and maximise campaign ROI. At the heart of this communication is an understanding of the audience and meaningful content, delivered in an engaging visual format on the right platform. Following these guidelines will drive more meaningful connections between council and local populations and better shape the ways in which we communicate and ultimately live.
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