Saturday 24 February 2018

Friday Five: How Commodities Can Be Social

First, let’s define commodities. Google will tell you, “A commodity is a raw material or primary agricultural product that can be bought or sold such as copper or coffee.” Diamonds, tobacco, corn, the list goes on. Now that we’re on the same page, let’s talk about how commodities and other businesses work together and where public relations fits into the mix. Simply put, commodities often make up the basis for brands’ and organizations’ products.

To effectively represent clients in this space, consider the diverse stakeholder audience, relevant content for your audiences, and tying engagement back to the commodity and the regulatory environment in which they operate. Here are some key things to consider when representing commodities producers and/or the commodities themselves:

1. Stakeholder Identification

Consumers, businesses, government leaders and policymakers all look online for information about commodities. They look for information on how commodities affect them; for consumers it could be about what they buy, for businesses it could be about the market price, for government leaders it could be about ensuring commodities are safe for the public; for policy makers it could be about to regulate the industry. Prior to identifying the appropriate stakeholders, it is important to consider the objective of engaging those audiences online, like working to influence policy makers, selling more products to consumers or building relationships with commodity producers. Next, you can look at where the commodity is influential online, determine where stakeholders are engaging and engage where the two overlap, keeping communications objectives in mind.

2. Content Optimization

Due to the intricacies of the commodities communication mix, including public relations and marketing, relevant content is paramount to effective engagement strategies. Insights, such as how audiences use search – and often different terms than the industry does — to find what they’re interested in, can be gleaned from auditing, real-time monitoring, past campaign measurement and consumer segmentation studies. Since commodities often form the foundation for other brands’ products, it is imperative to understand existing content frameworks, how to optimize them for the various stakeholder groups, and how to share pre-developed and new content to align with multiple communications strategies. Consider that diamonds are a commodity, but they don’t become a product until they’ve been mined, cut, polished, and sold at the wholesale, and then retail level. Diamond producers need to consider how each of the stakeholders involved, prior to the consumer, use content to drive communications objectives.

3. Operational Integration with Trade Organization

To be successful in delivering key messaging publicly and internally, the trade organization must have the people, processes and platforms in place to efficiently share information with all interested parties so they can engage appropriately online – also known as social business planning. Few entities can benefit from social business planning as much as commodities. That’s because commodities producers belong to trade organizations, which exist to benefit the commodities industry. Trade organizations work to promote various aspects of the industry, align producers and other stakeholders and inform their members. With so many layers of people acting and reacting on the behalf of the commodity, who is responsible for communicating what, and how they do it, must be clearly defined, integrated and aligned.

4. Engaging Stakeholders

After stakeholders have been identified, a content optimization plan is in place and there is an operational workflow that supports engaging stakeholders online, a commodity can work to actually engage with those stakeholders. This comes down to tapping existing relationships through members of the trade organizations, and/or developing new relationships – using the same guiding principles you would use for other clients. Regardless of where the relationship originates, it is important to make each stakeholder interaction personable and uniquely suited to the stakeholder’s interests and objectives.

5. Regulatory Online Environment

Commodities are regulated by the federal government, which can impact communications strategies. Consider that it can take time to get approval for certain actions. Why? Commodities are traded in the futures market, where their prices are established, and media can impact those prices. Therefore, a plan that outlines your engagement framework for the stakeholder landscape that aligns with the regulations in place is essential. Ensure enough time is allotted for review with the governing body. Prior approval will allow speedy engagement through social channels when the need arises.

The five key points above will lay a framework for successful social business planning and online engagement. It takes careful planning to successfully engage online on behalf of commodities, so start early and enlist all the appropriate parties for your respective commodity. What are some best practices that you’ve seen for commodities engaging online?

Image credit: Striving to a goal

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