Connecting with Your Audience: Four Lessons from Pope Francis
In today’s digital world, social media, blogging and the plethora of other tools we have access to provide B2B and B2C companies with an invaluable opportunity to establish a deep connection with their audiences. We see some brands do an excellent job of this over and over again (IBM, Salesforce, Target and Starbucks immediately come to mind), but one of the most standout examples of establishing a real connection with an audience is Pope Francis… yes, the pope! On his recent visit to the United States, we witnessed over and over again how understanding your audience and adjusting your messaging appropriately can make all the difference in establishing that connection.
(Image via www.atlassociety.org)
It’s a bit unfair to use this example, as Pope Francis has a serious leg up on most brands out there considering he’s a public figure on a global scale. However, for us marketers, there are some key lessons to learn from his recent visit.
Know Who You’re Talking To
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the pope’s papal address to Congress varied vastly from his address at the United Nations. Yes, in both instances he was in a room full of politicians, but the message that he intended for each was designed specifically for the audience he would be speaking with. In his address to Congress, it was clear that his goal was to connect with this specific room of American politicians and what they stand for. He even dropped the line, “in the land of the free and the home of the brave”… If that’s not a clear example of knowing your audience, we don’t know what is.
Pope Francis again masterfully demonstrated his understanding of how important targeted messaging is at his speech to the United Nations General Assembly. He politely addressed the heads of state present and promptly began addressing some of the biggest political and humanitarian issues facing our world today. The pope wasn’t shy in conveying his disappointment with instances of war, slavery, poverty, etc., but he made sure to show his respect for the United Nations and all of its activities… how else was he supposed to get a room full of global leaders to listen?
Don’t Underestimate Human Connection
For the pope and B2B and B2C companies alike, there are instances when a digital connection just isn’t enough. We know that the pope is in a particularly unique position of influence, but he still proves the value of putting yourself out there and connecting with your target demographic on a human level. At one point during his visit to the U.S., Pope Francis stopped his car in Philadelphia to bless a disabled child. It was one of the most touching moments of his time here and if nothing else, further proved the power of human connection. A more realistic example of this is companies that feature real customers in their ad campaigns. The Limited is the most recent brand to ditch models in favor of “real women” in their ads, providing that human touch beyond social media.
Don’t Be Afraid of an Emotional Connection
During his time in New York, Pope Francis visited the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. It was clear that it was an extremely emotional occasion both for the Catholic audience and those who were significantly impacted by loss on that tragic day. The pope addressed more than 1,000 Americans who were present at the memorial and also met somewhat privately with 10 families who were directly impacted by 9/11. While it was an emotional moment, the pope was able to offer comfort to those in attendance and connect with them on an even deeper level.
While we don’t expect companies to tap into this level of emotional connection with their audiences, they shouldn’t shy away from it either. Budweiser, P&G, Nike and Apple are some of the best at utilizing emotional marketing to establish a deeper connection with their target audiences. One of the keys to a successful marketing or advertising campaign, especially those that go viral, is an enhanced emotional factor.
Utilize the Digital Resources Available to You
While we’ve harped on the importance of connecting with your audience beyond social media, there’s something to be said for the accessibility and personal connection that Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram can provide. Pope Francis has a mere 7.5 million followers on his @Pontifex Twitter handle (the English-language equivalent of his eight other accounts) and tweets on a regular basis. Social media has proved that it is one of the most effective ways to reach your audience and for businesses looking to convey their message, social media really isn’t an option anymore… and even the pope knows it!
Pope Francis is undoubtedly “The People’s Pope”, serving as a guiding leader both in and outside of the Catholic Church. There are numerous lessons a business can learn from his recent visit to the States (and his PR team could learn a lesson from our blog on crisis management), but connecting with your audience is undoubtedly one of the most valuable.
If you’re struggling to differentiate your brand in a crowded marketplace, and you’re not quite as influential as Pope Francis, try this free checklist to ensure you’re executing a well-rounded marketing strategy.