Is UX the next big approach to PR?

You probably have heard of the emerging term “UX,” or User Experience, on the rise,  likely from the nearest marketer or millennial in your office. UX encompases all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with a company, its services, and its products. Today’s most effective communication strategies align more with UX than you might expect. 

As modern PR professionals know well, the media landscape is evolving at an exceedingly rapid pace–it isn’t what it used to be. With congested and overstimulating content streams, mobile apps, social media, digital publication and blogs alongside traditional outlets, all of which are fighting for our attention on a 24hr basis. The way we consume media is more and more on our daily touch screens and we continue to grow more tech savvy, aware and expecting more seamless interactions and faster consumption experiences.

Whether you are aware of it or not, we are living the results of UX in the media streams and products we engage with everyday. For example the way we consume news on mobile apps are based on our behaviour, emotional response and pain points when we engage with these media consuming platforms.  We as audiences are no longer passive receivers; we are interacting with campaigns and helping form them more than before. This calls for a more agile response than traditional media allows.

In principle, the process of developing UX software isn’t much different than developing a PR plan. As UX enhances the user’s satisfaction in enhancing the process and journey of the product, platform or service being used whether that be digital or physical. UX attempts to identify the way users feel or anticipate using a product, system or service, it is these feelings that we must understand when approaching our campaigns. UX is not just about usability but research, clarity, reliability and creativity. 

Applying the UX process to PR strategy gives communicators an advantage in this complicated landscape. Integrating UX means that users are more meaningfully engaged at a whole new level and through more touch points than before.

So, how do you apply UX and make sure your message cuts through the noise?

1.     Take into account the context

It’s important to figure out where your user is likely to be along the buyer's journey when they consume your content and whether or not they will see it. Could they be reading your email in the office or scrolling social media on the train? First, if your message is not reaching the desired audience, understanding the foundations of the problem of the context is key. Before, pinpoint the context and where your user is likely to be on the buyer's journey when consuming your message. This can vary depending on whether the buyer is from B2B or B2C decision making process. 

The first step is understand your buying or consuming persona and understand who they are. The second step is to understand the journey your buyer takes in terms of how they progress through their own buying process. The third is to map the content of the buyer's journey, addressing the challenges in each step and how they can overcome the challenge before moving to the next stage of the final purchasing process.

For instance the persona Karla is a busy interior designer who lacks time to take care of her skin and you want to sell the new The Ordinary Intensive Moisturiser cream. Due to lack of time, Karla uses her commute on the train to work every morning to relax and do online shopping on her phone, favouring the instagram app for the latest trending influencer products. Here we can gather the context of the user where the pain point is, lack of time and emotionally is stressed using online shopping is on instagram during her morning commute as her only time to shop. Already, with this UX buyer mapping approach more in depth analysis of the context, pain points and user needs. Meaning the product must be marketed by an influencer as a scheduled media post in the morning, targeting the pain point in the content written within the post.

 So, remember to first ask yourself what stage of the journey is your user on.

2.    Content is still key

High quality content is still essential, especially in the digital media landscape because we have to think more carefully when it comes to selecting the right medium and appeal to the person on the other end. Just as UX highly considers the context of the user’s journey via mobile, tablet, or laptop, as communicators we need to focus on content that feels more personalised and fitted to them. Not to mention in a data-driven society, combing through user data and analytics or CRM tools can help with this process of personalisation, based on their user. Setting up the right technology is the basic foundation before considering how to leverage data to improve your UX and message.

For instance, Danielle Laporte’s who is best selling Canadian author and inspiring entrepreneur provided an entire media library, complete with downloadable recordings rather than tossing in a cheap, cheesy ebook at her subscribers. This helps make subscribers feel they have received great value for their subscription loyalty and in return. 

3.    Don’t forget about the details

Users now expect your content to flow seamlessly across an ever-growing number of devices, so ensuring a responsive design that looks great on every device is a best practice. Before securing the crucial components of social sharing, calls to action, newsletter subscription forms and commenting – make sure it all flows. It’s what is called a fluid digital experience. How the content aligns with the design and the intent of the message is another key intersection for PR and UX.

Just as Instagram Stories interface designed a harmonious and personable experience for the user, while Facebook Messenger does not.

For instance, the brand AirBnB takes great detail in the visual elements, typography, media files that resonate with the brand emotions and share-ability via social platforms. They originally lost business due to their low-quality images. After discovering this initial pain point, the founders physically visited the place to replace it with high quality images. This resulted in doubling the profits and social platform sharing since then because the details helped make it worthwhile for people to share and take interest in the brand. 

So, next time when you set out to plan a campaign or content, make sure to question whether it is worthwhile enough to share–take the time to learn from and listen to your consumers.

Overall, PR and UX intercept and make an interesting strategic combination with a potential of untapped value in the development of a communications product whether that be launching a new product or service via digital marketing, PR campaigns that collaborate with influencers or  customer experience management for a new service. If anything, UX is paving the way for new potential means of how our messages are presented and shared as the hunger and demand to consume content on seamless responsive devices is growing ever more than before altering the media landscape.

 About the Author

Marika Suzuki is an Australian, Vancouver-based communications enthusiast with expertise and knowledge in content creation, UX design, copywriting, tech, social justice, and women’s leadership. An established author and travel writer, she has a passion for all cultures and people from all walks of life, and is always up for an adventure or new challenges, no matter the size.