Data, content and consumers

This has been a strange year so far. To put it mildly. But let’s ignore the elephant in the room (ahem, pandemic) for now and take a look at content instead.

More specifically, how is content being consumed by UK consumers in 2020?

A recent online Meltwater Comms Collective event by PR Moment* delved into this topic. Here are the main take away points from some of the leaders in communications:

  • The death of traditional demographics – use audience personas instead
  • The average person leaves nine pieces of content (data) online each day
  • TV is the top content touchpoint in the UK (77% of consumers, with newspapers at 31%)
  • Facebook is the most common source for news in social media
  • BUT consumers are cautious of news on social media
  • Possible future trend: increase in analogue content consumption (e.g. radio)
  • Trust in businesses, media, NGOs and the government all increased during the first months of this year

Now, let’s find out more about how this impacts content creation.

The end of demographics

Yes, traditional demographics are over.

In the past, people in a certain age or income bracket were all put together to represent a specific type of consumer. But today, that method is far too general.

Instead, audience personas go a little deeper. The reason for this is the use of data, which leads to the next point that the average person leaves nine pieces of content about themselves online each day. Like breadcrumbs of data about what they do and don’t like.

According to Perri Robinson, Enterprise Marketing Manager for Europe, Middle East, India and Africa at Meltwater, an audience persona is no longer just a “nice to have” tool for content creation. It’s essential to help with predicting behaviour, enhancing customer experiences and increasing efficiency.

Why? Because, as Perri said: “You can’t tell stories if you don’t know what listeners are interested in.”

The UK media market

When it comes to the UK media market and content touchpoints, TV is king. Followed by smartphone/tablet search and social media.

Facebook is the most commonly used social media channel and, as a result, is the most popular platform for consuming news in the social media world. However, people are most distrustful of news on social media.

What does this tell us? Basically, that consumers and social media users are more discerning than we give them credit for. Also, teenagers use Facebook less than people aged 65+, which helps to understand the audience behind the platform.

Here are some additional statistics on daily content consumption habits in the UK:

  • 63% access social media
  • 17% read a printed newspaper
  • 31% read a newspaper online
  • 48% access a news website

As you can see, online content consumption is leading the pack.

The importance of planning in PR

Planning as a discipline is not as integrated in public relations as in other professions, like marketing. But it is becoming more central to the industry as it aligns with modern content consumption habits.

Adam Mack, Strategic Communications Consultant at Plannability, said a good planner is always curious and asks ‘why’. A lot. That way, a problem can be understood, which is the first step towards finding a solution.

The use of data was also highlighted in relation to planning in PR. Especially the ability to interpret data into salient points. But there was a word of warning. We shouldn’t rely on data at the expense of listening to our instincts.

Some wise words from Adam: “Use data but trust your gut.”

Equally as important when planning is to consider broader cultural trends and being aware of possible future changes. As we’ve seen this year, the news cycle moves fast and there is always a counter reaction to what is happening in the world.  

For example, Adam suggested a possible analogue re-awakening as people distract themselves by listening to the radio, reading books and cooking.

Who knows? Perhaps 2021 will be the year of analogue content.

Consumer trust in 2020

According to Louise Turner, Head of Edelman Intelligence UK & Ireland: “Trust is a projection into the future.”

And trust becomes even more powerful during a time of crisis or uncertainty – like the ongoing pandemic (had to mention it at some point). That’s why it makes sense that in the first months of this year (to May 2020), trust in businesses, media, NGOs and the government all increased.

In fact, there was a 24 per cent rise in trust in the government. But it was related to trust in the institution to take us forward into the future. Not necessarily agreeing with all decisions made by the government.

So, what is the least trusted institution? The media.

However, out of all types of media, traditional media and search engines are the most trusted. This provides some useful insight into how consumers view content from those channels.

Final thoughts

What does this all mean for content creators?

In a nutshell, use data but trust your instincts. Pay attention to where consumers are placing their trust. And finally, read the room but be aware that there will always be changes in behaviour.

I’m intrigued by a possible increase in analogue content consumption. What about you?

*All statistics taken from the Meltwater Comms Collective: The Content Consumption Habits of UK Consumers webinar.

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