Effective Communications Strategies: Defining Audience Value

The following is a guest blog post by  ETSU associate professor in the Department of Communication and MarketingMel board member, Dr. Stephen Marshall. 

Delivering value to clients is the ultimate brand challenge.

Delivering value to clients is the ultimate brand challenge.

As an Associate Professor at East Tennessee State University I am blessed to teach some of the best and brightest in our region. In the professional and academic world, learning is a continuous process. The speed of communication technology demands constant learning and adapting.

Part of my continuous learning formula is to engage with clients and organizations; applying my knowledge and skills to stay sharp while providing value. I do this because I strive to deliver value to my students and professionally grow. My work with professionals moves me from academic armchair quarterbacking directly into the game. Working at Creative Energy as well as with great professionals like MarketingMel keeps me fresh and keeps ideas flowing. Whether it is in the classroom or in the boardroom, I am always focused on delivering value. But what is value?

Merriam-Webster defines value in numerous ways but the particularly applicable Merriam-Webster value definition states value is “relative worth, utility, or importance.” In marketing terms, there are numerous theories supported by hundreds of analyses of value. (I won’t bore you with them.) The most basic theme in marketing is value = benefit/cost.

Benefit examples = information, entertainment, utility, status

Cost examples = time, effort, financial

In terms of interpersonal communication, we deliver value during conversation quite naturally. (In fact, value is the sole reason you engage in any exchange!) For example, when you have a conversation with someone, you want to engage her or him in the discussion. You do so by finding the voice and content that will create the right engaging message. The right choices enable you to deliver communication value in the exchange. To illustrate… would you speak with your mother the same way you speak with your best friend? Further, the more value exchanged, the longer the conversation. Conversations end when the cost of continuing is higher than the benefit.

The key to any successful communication is to deliver value to the receiver. My students know “create value with your communication” as my classroom mantra. Successful businesses create value for their customers through their products or services. The center of any brand (product, service, idea or individual as you have learned from Marketing Mel) is the value promise of the brand. In today’s digital communication space, brands are able to deliver additional value (continuing the value promise) in their communication and measure impact more accurately.

For businesses, defining value in communication can be complex. Strategy is the key to defining, creating and evaluating. Creating value strategy means significantly understanding objectives, audience(s) and creating content that will deliver value. Delivering value should be the core of your communication strategy. How does this happen for a brand?

  1. Know your business goal and objectives
  2. Understand your audience (know your key influencers)
  3. Create digital content that will deliver on the brand promise (extend brand value)
  4. Define key performance indicators (KPIs) enabling evaluation of progress

The key to swimming in “big data” is to define the KPIs in your planning. This allows you to benchmark, set goals, understand audience flow, evaluate, and optimize. From an organizational standpoint, determining the influential KPIs aligned with organizational outcomes is the only way to move from descriptive data to data providing inference.

Extending brand value in communication efforts often means utilizing social media. All too often I hear folks, even professionals say, “let’s make a Facebook page.” While social media is important, it is often used inappropriately. Social media efforts must be aligned with brand value.

This means the social channel and content must match the proper audience. Further, content and channel must be maintained appropriately. Huge mistakes will be made if you think of media without considering all the other previously discussed steps.

In summary, knowing your audience and delivering brand value on a continuous basis is the key to brand loyalty. The digital space allows brands to extend their value into their communication. Brands should use the digital space to extend and measure their brand value.

About the Author:

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Stephen W. Marshall PhD, was educated at the University of Florida. He is a former employee of Nielsen. Dr. Marshall focuses on opportunities bridging academics and industry. His research interests include qualitative and quantitative audience measurement, branding and mass communication in a digital space. He is an Associate Professor at East Tennessee State University, a Research Analyst at Creative Energy and a member of MarketingMel’s board of advisors. Connect with him via Linkedin or by email at marshalls [at} etsu.edu.






  • Sue Painter says:

    Most small biz owners don’t really think about “KPI” but that doesn’t meet they shouldn’t. Thanks to your guest blogger for laying out the step-by-step that would improve any business.

  • Stephen Marshall says:

    Thanks for your input Sue. You are right! It’s not enough to think about the media and the content without intended outcomes driving both. Small business owners MUST think about outcomes as the foundation. KPIs are what we assign to know if we are reaching our intended outcomes.

  • Kristen Pierce says:

    Great post! Wish I could of taken one of your classes while at ETSU!

    • Stephen Marshall says:

      Kristen – Thank you for your kind words. If I am able to help you please let me know.

      Tiffany – Understanding your audience through research is the key to value for sure.

      • maryellen says:

        Thanks for the comments. I appreciated Steve pointing out the value aspect of mar-com. Ultimately, providing value to the client is what it is all about.

  • I agree whole-heartedly that, “The key to any successful communication is to deliver value to the receiver.” This does require really knowing your audience and what they want, as well as delivering content that is aligned with your brand.

  • Jessica says:

    Another great guest blogger! Thank you for introducing us to new people and their knowledge.

  • this really resonates with me: The key to any successful communication is to deliver value to the receiver.

  • Bill Painter says:

    Great article. Thanks for outlining the 4 steps for developing communication strategy. Too often we forget to measure the outcome and just assume it is working.

  • Betsy Baker says:

    Valuable post and I wholeheartedly agree with the 4 steps you outlined for delivering value. It will come back to those every time!

  • As long as you always put your audience first when planning your communication, you’ll be on the right track. When working on our communication strategy and messaging, I always ask: 1) Does this deliver/add value? 2) Does this enhance their experience? 3) Will this help me and my audience move toward our respective goals.

  • Stephen Marshall says:

    I’m glad so many have found value from my post. I cannot stress the relationship to outcomes enough. Often working from outcomes back can be very beneficial.

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