Blog Post:

The Direct-To-Community Playbook for PR Pros

6 minutes

Jackie Davies

The success of direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands like Allbirds and Everlane are turning retail on its head. In an era of widespread store, brands and even mall closings, DTC brands are on the rise, doubling in size and becoming unicorns (i.e. have a market evaluation in excessive of $1 billion).

It’s no secret why that is. Consumers are attracted to and reward brands that share their values and let them know it. While those values vary widely — ranging from product quality and authenticity, to lifestyles, interests, passions and so on — they have an important commonality: they’re effective motivators in brand loyalty. They also are the foundations of a community.

Here’s what Affinio’s machine learning —  applied to multiple and massive data sources — has taught us: every brand has communities of people who share specific, and often surprising, commonalities. By identifying and activating those communities, PR professionals will have the ability to advise their clients as to who their communities are, the issues that are important to them, as well as the most effective places to reach and engage them as an entire community. Let’s explore how.

The Set-Up – Let’s assume you’re a PR firm who has been hired by a vegan brand to help promote its new frozen dessert.

Step 1: Replace brainstorms with data

In a typical scenario, the PR team will sit in a conference room surrounded by a whiteboard and brainstorm about the audience. But there are 1.62 million vegans in the US, and it’s pretty unlikely that a single message can affect the behavior of that many people. So the first step is to replace brainstorms with data.

Using Affinio we identified nearly 500K people whose online behavior indicated an interest in veganism. Next, Affinio clustered the audience into six vital and active sub-communities of vegans.

Affinio cluster data for vegans

Common sense tells us that messaging that’s appropriate for animal rights activists probably won’t impress a foodie. Once again you can brainstorm about those differences, or you can see what the data has to say.

Affinio lets you dig deeper into their interests and motivations by seeing the sites they visit and the content they engage with. You can see who their influencers are, and you can mine social data to understand what they talk about. These insights will become the foundation of your messaging strategy.

We used Affinio to get a sense of the types of people who make up each sub-community:

Vegan Foodie Interested in vegan restaurants, food bloggers and haute cuisine
Vegan Recipes Regularly search for vegan recipes and tips on maintaining a vegan diet. Likely that these consumers are new to veganism.
Game of Thrones Loving Vegans Watch Game of Thrones, and follow vegan influencers and accounts
Vocal Vegans Very active on social media, and vocal about being a vegan
Vegan Awareness Shares lots of content around environmental and health benefits of veganism; advocates for veganism to friends and family,
Animal Rights Activists Advocates for animal rights, follows PETA, shares content regarding animal cruelty.

Step 2: Meet your community where they already hang out

Depending on who you believe, consumers see between 4,000 and 5,000 ads per day. How does anyone, much less a new brand, break through that clutter?

By knowing exactly where community members meet when they talk about the things that are important to them. Affinio lets you quickly hone in on the content sites where these issues are discussed:

Animal Rights Activists The Dodo
GOT-Loving Vegans The Dodo, Vegnews, National Geographic
Vegan Foodies BBC Good Food, Delicious magazine

Step 3: Create highly relevant messaging campaigns

Now that we know there are distinct sub-communities of vegans, it’s time to start building a messaging plan that’s specific to each sub-group. An Affinio report helps you do just that. For instance, we learned that the animal rights activists sub-committee support cow sanctuaries. To build an authentic connection with this group, you can advise your client to adopt a sanctuary, and even live stream the happy cows on their website.

Meanwhile, vegan chefs or bloggers are more likely to resonate with vegan foodies, and content that features innovate recipes incorporating the new frozen treat will go over well.

Step 4: Infuse your product announcement press release with what you’ve learned

Now that you know who your client’s audiences are, what they talk about and where they congregate on the web, you’ll have all the tools you need to create a product announcement they’re likely to see.

For instance, consumers in the vegan recipes community are highly concerned about all-natural ingredients, while the animal activists are concerned with compassion. Include all relevant keywords — plant-based, ethical treatment, all-natural — in the product announcement press release.

Step 5: In a crisis, speak to each community individually

Let’s say the unthinkable happens: someone discovers that the chips in the mint chocolate frozen treat are dairy-based. The vegan’s first response is that the brand deliberately misled the community to gain market share. Beyond the heart-felt apology how does the brand recover?

  • Run a report to see who is sharing the bad press
  • Segregate out members of the press and competitors from true vegan community members
  • Dive into the six vegan sub-communities to get a sense of how they’re feeling and why
  • Assess the types of content they respond to: funny, sarcastic, heartfelt, political, etc.
  • Respond in kind (e.g., if funny, say, “we were unhappy when we HERD the news. COW can this happen? We thought we could trust a supplier, but we were UDDERLY wrong.”

Step 6: Plan an awesome kick-off event

Events are all about the vibe, which doesn’t happen naturally. Good vibes are planned. Your client needs the right people who share the same values to taste-test the frozen treat at launch.

Consider first who you want to attend: your best bet, in this case, might be inviting the “Vocal Vegans” because they will talk about it, post about it, and create more buzz. To get them to show up, target them directly or engage their top influencers.

Customizing your event to the personalities and preferences of a community will ensure that they leave a fan of the brand.

Step 7: Collaborate with community influencers

Vegans are keenly interested in the topic and the implications of diet on their health, the planet and animal welfare.  Because they care so deeply, they’re likely to listen to influencers who are knowledgeable on the topic. Affinio can help you identify the top trusted influencers for each cluster or sub-community.

Unless you want your PR falling on deaf ears, make sure you know exactly who your community is – that way you can create the products they want to buy, content they want to read, and campaigns they want to engage with. When you listen, they listen – when you get to know your community, they want to get to know you. #direct2community