Strategic Communications Part 12: Generating Buzz about Your Project

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(This is the 12th in a continuing series on strategic communications. Click here for earlier segments)

By Owen Eagan, The Saint Consulting Group

What is buzz?  According to Emmanuel Rosen, the author of The Anatomy of Buzz, buzz is simply person-to-person communication about a brand.  But, obviously, buzz pertains to communication about any issue including your development plans.  Therefore, you need to influence this process and know what people are saying about your project.

So, where does buzz come from?  And how do you generate and measure it?  In terms of frequency, most word-of-mouth is happening offline.  In fact, according to the The Keller Fay Group, 73% of conversations are happening face-to-face, 17% are over the phone, and only 10% are online.  However, Rosen argues that the 10% of online conversations is probably more important because they accelerate the process.

But how do people get their information and what are they talking about?  The Keller Fay Group also found that on any given day 55% of Americans have at least one conversation related to media and entertainment.  This means that when it comes to generating buzz, it’s still imperative to use mass media.

This can be achieved by creating earned media opportunities through major outlets such as television news, dailies and periodicals.  But paid media is also very effective as The Keller Fay Group states that 21.6% of brand conversations refer to advertising.  And, as mentioned, despite the fact that most word-of-mouth is occurring offline, the use of social media can be a powerful tool in stimulating buzz.

This is not to imply that buzz can be generated by simply developing earned, paid and social media strategies.  You also need to give people something to talk about by having a good story to tell.  And, let’s face it, some things are easier to generate buzz about than others.  For instance, the launch of a new technology gadget is likely going to generate more buzz than the fact that your project is going to offer free parking.  However, once you identify the most significant benefits of your project and/or those aspects that are new and innovative, you need to target those constituencies for whom these issues are the most relevant.

These constituencies are best reached through groups that Rosen calls hubs – those groups that tend to talk more about your category.  Once these hubs are identified, they must be seeded in an effective way.  For example, buzz for the book Cold Mountain was stimulated by sending an inordinate number of first edition copies to influencers for endorsements and reviews.  Although, Cold Mountain also generated a lot of buzz because it was a great book and people were easily infected by its social contagion.  After all, the better the product, the more likely it is to generate buzz.

So, once you’ve started to generate buzz about your project, you must measure and assess its impact at the same time.  There are several ways to do this.  First, there are a number of tools available to measure the impact of social media such as Google Analytics and Facebook Insights.  And, to measure the impact of buzz offline, the best way is to simply ask people what they know about your project and how they know it.  This should be an integral part of any grassroots campaign as much can be gleaned from interactions with residents through field organizing activities.

Owen Eagan is a Senior Consultant for The Saint Consulting Group, email, phone 781-831-2494

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