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The relevance of relevancy


Relevancy is critically important for brands to stay current and front of mind and, in turn, attract and win customers, says CreativeRace Strategy Director, Victoria Aspinall.


But what is relevancy? 

What is relevancy?

To be relevant we have to understand what is relevant for our customers (i.e. what makes them tick) and how our brand can demonstrate this (i.e. how we apply this learning). 

So relevancy has to always start with deep insight and understanding of your market, audience, context and brand. And this insight needs to be fresh – to be relevant you have to be on top of what’s going on. So insight from five years ago, or before world-changing events (looking at COVID and recessions here!) needs reassessing.

What should we consider?

  • Audience – who are my audience and what’s relevant to them today? What drives them, makes them tick and motivates them?
  • Market – what are my competitors doing – who is doing well/not so well? What can we learn?
  • Context – what’s going on in the macro climate, politically, economically or culturally, that impacts and influences relevancy?
  • Brand – what is my brand and what does it stand for in the context of the above?

It’s only when you’ve looked across these angles that you can really understand what ‘relevancy’ means to customers today, where the space in the market is to bring your brand to life distinctively and what permission your brand has to play in that space.

The context of relevancy

Relevancy can be interpreted in different ways says Malcom Slade, Performance Director at CreativeRace. “I am relevant to my modern audience” is not the same as “I am a relevant authority in subject X”. Both are important as the first generates alignment and interest with the individual while the second generates contextual alignment. Miss one and you are likely to be a slow burner, miss the other and you will be in the consideration pool but overlooked in favour of another brand that is culturally aligned.

It’s also looking increasingly likely that relevancy is going to be, if it isn’t already, the main key driver in SEO, as we move towards search engines that focus on accuracy, facts, semantics and entities.

Where historically certain metrics such as PageRank were major levers for success, search engines are now putting vast amounts of effort into understanding, looking at whether a certain website is a good fit, its volume of topical coverage and its potential to see a customer’s journey through to the end rather than simply servicing the first search query intent.

This puts a renewed focus on understanding all users, their content needs and their habits to ensure everything is and remains relevant to them when, where and how they are exposed to your brand.

Within Digital PR we often discuss the subjects of relevance, topical alignment and topical authority. While not necessarily there yet, the hope is that in the future search engines will be able to put more weight into links between sites that are genuinely topically aligned as opposed to the current level of relevance that is page based, meaning we still see relevant content appearing on sites that themselves are completely irrelevant such as a post about online poker on an early years parenting blog.

While a link from the BBC to a site that builds rockets will always be important, the audience isn’t anywhere near as aligned to the subject as a link from NASA or the European Space Agency or potentially even an authoritative forum for amateur rocket enthusiasts – within reason, of course.

Integrating relevancy

It’s all very well and good talking about relevancy, but unless it’s considered throughout your entire marketing strategy, it’s just another buzzword, says Amy Airey, Communications Director at CreativeRace.

You can have a relevant strategy, based on relevant insights but unless it’s followed through and periodically reassessed it soon becomes irrelevant. The relevancy of your brand will change depending on the climate, the news agenda and a host of other things – there’s no time to sit back and be idle.

But there’s a balance to strike. While it’s good to show some flex and adapt to find (and maintain) your place in the market, you still need to make sure all content circles back to your key messaging, tone of voice and target market so you don’t begin to alienate the captive audience you’ve been working so hard to build up.

A prime example is through comms – and making sure you get coverage where it counts, i.e. in media that is relevant to your target audience. An old PR mantra is that it’s easy to get coverage but not so easy to get it in the right places. Coverage is only valuable if it’s in a handful of titles that should be defined at the outset of any comms activity.

Likewise regarding social. Social is the easiest channel to react and adapt on but there’s a fine line between being seen to be topical or keeping up with trends, and entering a conversation that is completely irrelevant for your brand. Think of the current war in Ukraine, for example. Showing support for the country or sharing that your CEO is driving a truck with supplies in is one thing, but looking like you’re trying to capitalise on a dire humanitarian situation is another and can easily backfire.

Sometimes staying relevant means keeping quiet – and not trying to piggyback on every event. How many limited edition jubilee items do we think we’re going to see this month? I guarantee some will be brilliant, but some are bound to miss the point…

Relevancy needs to be intrinsic in your strategies from concept to delivery. It needs to weave its way through your different channels but be seamless in its integration.

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