Changing communications environment How to deal with it Chester Zoo case
The Evolution of Communication
One way traditional communication :
Since the media were born, communication has played a significant role in people ’ s lives.
Newspapers, radio and television were the ways to inform and communicate ideas to the audiences, ideas which were expected to evoke action on the part of the receiver. This is how big national brands were born. Customers did not have much choice which messages to receive and which to ignore.
The simple model following the “ sender-receiver ” structure, was successful until the media have changed and new channels for communication were born.
Traditional Communication Model Figure 1
Improving Communication Through Dialogue
Two-way communication :
The traditional one-way model has been in decline since 1970s and by the end of 1990s it was clear that mass media is no longer effective.
Many new channels were introduced and the need of a new working model arose.
Two-way asymmetric communication in PR – generates lots of feedback but it is rather short-term
Two-way symmetric communication in PR – more open and honest way of communication, focuses on mutual respect and building long-term relationships
Two-way Communications Model Figure 2
New Age Communication
The communications environment has changed enormously. Customers have access to big amounts of information and the noise becomes almost impossible to break through.
The drastic change in the media – from mass media to social media, has led to certain changes in the way brands and companies communicate messages to the audiences.
Social media platforms allow users to be senders and receivers of brand messages at the same time. The marketplace has become interactive and companies need to adapt to this rapidly changing communication environment.
Peer-to-peer Type of Communication
This is considered the third type of communication, where businesses can only monitor and respond to the messages sent between the customers. These can be reviews, opinions and conversations about products, brands or services. More people trust this information more than any other because it is considered impartial.
If a person has had a bad experience with a brand it does not take much to send out a tweet, to write a post in their blog about it, comment on Facebook, etc. That way this person becomes a sender of a negative brand message and whoever is interested in the brand can be opinionated by this message.
Social Media and user-generated content
Web 2.0 and Social Media allowed customers to take the brands in their hands. It provides a platform for feedback and building relationship.
Customers are encouraged to make suggestions for improving products or services. That is vital if a company wants to stay current and make its customers feel part of the family.
Customers feel their opinions count and their voices are heard.
It is important that business monitor those conversations in order to have at least some limited control over what is said about them on the web.
The Corporate Website
In the new digital age it is important that companies maintain interactive and engaging websites where they can:
market their products and services
post press releases
provide media kits, annual reports, multimedia;
The website has to provide customers with the option of leaving feedback
and to be hyperlinked to the social media pages of the company in order to generate traffic.
Make Visitors Spend More Time With You
Customers appreciate interactive content. In 2009, for example, the Boomerang channel had a virtual puppy on their website, Cartoon Network had a webcam face recognition and augmented reality games. With such content companies provide the extra factor for their customers, they show they care and they want to entertain through all channels possible.
MediaCom research was held and it showed that “ interaction with content increased purchase intent, often the hardest measure for brands to shift. Interacting with the content for 30 seconds increased purchase intent by 6 %, compared with non- interaction. Sixty seconds added a further 8%, while 90 seconds added 5% to that total. ” (MarketingWeek 2009) The research proves that the more time a customer spends on the corporate website, the higher the awareness .
Chester Zoo has been adapting to the changes in communication very well.
In 2008, they hired KMP to revamp their website and make it more creative and interactive.
KMP built a new content management system and integrated a Flickr application into the website. Customers were then able to share their own photos of their visits to the zoo. When uploaded to the site, these photos were watermarked with Chester Zoo trademark and functioned as further promotional pictures.
Other features that KMP introduced were web 2.0 marketing, viral e-mails, videos and blogging.
In 2010, Chester Zoo changes to another digital marketing agency - Code Computerlove.
The online campaign includes SEO, email promotions and pay per click optimisation .
The main objectives are:
Refreshing the brand
Increasing brand awareness
Increasing online presence
Improving communication with customers
Communicating the importance of Chester Zoo ’ s zoological work
The Zoo ’ s Website
Although the main aim of the website is not driving direct sales, it is highly possible that if a person spends about a minute on it, they will want to go and see the zoo for real.
The website is highly interactive which makes it interesting for the customers. This is a pre-purchase touchpoint exploited extremely well.
The Zoo ’ s Website
The content includes:
Webcams of the giraffes and the flamingoes
Interactive map where customers can plan their visit
E-commerce to buy discounted tickets from
News updates about the field work
News updates about animals ’ personal lives, such as last week ’ s success of a lonely giraffe who found love in cyberspace
Implications of changes in communication
Companies often struggle when new ways of communication are introduced. Big budgets have to be spent for digitalisation of the communications strategy, and sometimes traditional firms cannot make this transition.
Chester Zoo, on the other hand, seems to be adapting well to the rapidly changing communications environment.
So far they have acquired good online presence and have provided a platform where they can communicate their messages to the targeted audiences.
They should follow the latest trends and change accordingly in the future as they have been doing in the past few years.
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The Drum. (2010). Chester Zoo hires Code for digital marketing and web revamp. Available: http://www.thedrum.co.uk/news/2010/05/20/13902-chester-zoo-hires-code-for-digital-marketing-and-web-revamp/. Last accessed 22 Feb 2011.
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