Last week, The New York Times reported that the Biden administration had been recruiting online influencers to carry the public health message for vaccinations. Suddenly, 17-year-olds like Ellie Zeiler were engaged on TikTok, promoting a toolkit of scripted language to get Americans to make an appointment to get vaccinated.
Marketing in 2021 is rife with new challenges to present a responsible message to the desired audience. The Internet is roaring with opinionated noise and information (or misinformation). Retail is in the midst of a revolution. News cycles are faster. It’s increasingly difficult to rise above the clutter of a mind-numbing proliferation of messages on social media platforms and pages.
COVID is impacting consumer behavior in ways that is still being understood. As strategists and marketers, we are working through data to assess the driving factors behind motivations and mindshare. Promoting basic concepts like good healthcare and vaccinations to prevent disease have become politicized. Traditionally accepted government policy recommendations are upturned through conspiracy theories and misinformation online. Former President Obama remarked in June that disinformation continues to concern him, and should concern every American.
The result is a growing lack of trust in organizations, especially young or unproven brands. The dizzying cacophony of published content is creating a dearth of trust for consumers online. Consumers are increasingly weary of their data privacy, according to a 2020 Report on Trust by Edelman. In fact, 76% of respondents in a survey worried about false information or fake news being used as a weapon. And 57% of respondents think the media they use are contaminated with untrustworthy information. So, trust is still the Holy Grail and it appears to be growing even more crucial to achieve desired actions or a change in behavior.
How do we combat this growing level of mistrust? Influencers, like the ones that the White House engaged, is a wise option and should be considered by nonprofits like academic and science-based organizations. Increasing press or earned media in quality outlets is another, and the importance of striking smart, effective content-sharing partnerships with established peer organizations can help validate a brand.
But these solutions will require that we deliver even more, often with less bandwidth. Existing marketing teams are strained and many organizations are managing workforce change as the “great resignation” gets traction, as reported by many media outlets during 2021. It is also clearly difficult for internal teams to populate and manage the ever-expanding universe of digital media. We understand that we must expand reach, validate our branded messages through recruiting trusted messengers, and extend our communications onto new platforms and channels. If managing the brand status quo was difficult in 2011, ten years later it is one of the most complex and confusing conundrums in history. We are either moving forward or losing ground; there appears to be no time to rest on our laurels.
Is it time to pull back? To the contrary, now is when we must “pull out the stops” — a perfect metaphor. The “stops” in this instance originally referred to the stop knobs on a pipe organ, which are used to regulate the instrument’s sound by selecting which sets of pipes are active at a given time. The stop knobs control which ranks will have air flow, meaning which ranks will have sound. To pull out all the stops literally, then, is to pull out every knob so that air (content, in this case) is allowed to blast through every rank (channel) as the organist plays, creating a powerful blast of unfiltered sound. Applied to marketing this would require a well-researched, strategic plan to allocate budget, messages and creative.
This approach demands a level of expertise and an enormous investment of time. Research and science organizations that work in healthcare and medical innovations, climate science, technology, social science, or in many other fields are focused appropriately on their missions: advancing the science. There is more than enough work required to manage internal communications, strategic partnerships and operations — and manage external teams.
This is our purpose at ScientificBrands. Providing research, resetting strategy, planning media for optimized performance, creating compelling narratives and telling stories, cultivating earned media, and designing and producing campaigns, videos and other products — these are all the core competencies of the expert team I have assembled. We have led large engagements for some of the most respected institutions in the U.S. by delivering our client-centric approach, driven to achieve maximum yield for every budget dollar.
In 2021, and looking ahead to 2022, the idea is not to retreat or freeze marketing operations and wait it out. Because with every disruption there are challenges, but there are also opportunities to reset strategy, innovate, and pioneer new business value models and ways to educate, solicit donations, recruit or simply promote the mission and vision. Now is the time to review the new landscape and be proactive. It is time to devise the right plan — and pull out the stops.
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