Copyright 2017

By Remy Raitt

At an APR networking breakfast held in Sandton, Gareth Cliff commended the South African PR industry for being a shining light in our country. Along with Timothy Maurice Webster he presented valuable insights into how communications need to shift in order to achieve maximum connection with audiences.

“The only enterprise that matters is when you deliver value to other people,” said Cliff. This was the central theme of the morning; finding ways to connect with audiences in sub-conscious and conscious ways so that they feel their individuality is valued and represented.

Cliff stressed the importance of authentic content and reaching out to audiences that count. “The market has so many options and if you’re not online you don’t matter anymore,” he said.

Webster, an author and consultant on behaviour and branding said it is important that people take heed of the times. “We are in the social media chapter of history, this era has changed the way we communicate with and relate to people.” He explained that everyone wants to be engaged on a metaphysical level and in the “new enlightenment era” we as “individuals have extraordinary power”.

“The individual has become so narcissistic, therefore we need to create messages that link to a person’s deeper values,” he said. “People are fundamentally interested in how they relate and how they can connect to the world around them.”

This is important news to those in communications because if the audiences’ individuality is not placed in high regard they will be ditched for brands who do directly interact with the audiences they are targeting.

Webster also discussed the ways people think and how this needs to be taken into account when creating messages and call to actions. “There are two critical thinking sides of the brain,” he said.

“System One is the fast side of the brain that runs off formulas that don’t require figuring out, like sitting down or anything else you deal with on a daily basis. System Two is the slow methodical side of the brain that figures out complex things. We only use System Two if there is justification.”

So, if you cannot justify to your audiences why they should remember you or act on your messages you will simply be ignored. He said that System Two can become malleable when the reasoning behind the message is justified, for example if your message contains obvious advantages that will directly affect the individual.

He also introduced the concepts of ‘aliefs’. An alief is controlled by the unconscious mind while a belief is controlled by the conscious mind, and that beliefs can be overridden by aliefs. “Markets are driven by aliefs,” he said. “You need to provide clarity, and calm the markets’ aliefs or anxieties of something new. You can get people to buy into complex new things by providing justification that it aligns deeply with their higher values.” He said when doing this it is important to remain clear in how you link your message to their values.

Cliff echoed a lot of these sentiments and kept driving the importance of placing huge value on the way audiences feel as this directly affects the success of your brand. Plus, today’s audience is not shy to share their feelings on the abundance of platforms the age of social media offers.

The breakfast was also used as a platform to encourage PRISA members to get their APR accreditation. Author, media personality and APR chairperson Rianette Liebowitz, used her own experience as inspiration to those in attendance. “Getting APR accreditation takes courage and hard work but it is worthwhile. You receive guidance from the PRISA team, and it’s inspirational to be in their presence,” she said.

She also said the process “gives you an opportunity to look back on your PR achievements, something most practitioners don’t get a chance to do”.

The next orientation is on Thursday, 9 July and is open to PRISA members with over 10 years’ experience in PR and communications and over 70 points on the PRISA system.

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