There must be a movie, a book or a game which at some point absorbed you so much you forgot about the whole world. In brief, this is what user experience design, or UX, is about. Evoking emotions and engagement is the cornerstone of communication today. We live in the times when laconic messages should be replaced by user experience design.
Nowadays, consumers and journalists may browse information and select the content they find of particular interest. Therefore, we carefully choose the information we want to consume, both in traditional media and in online and social media. Considering the fact that we encounter advertising messages 5,000 times a day, we are slowly beginning to ignore the content that brings nothing into our lives, not being inspiring, funny, controversial, eye-catching, or offering us new knowledge or experience. The same trend can be observed in PR.
Regardless of whether you choose media relations or direct contact with groups of recipients, you should replace your dry business messages with engaging stories and design emotions.
In Harvard Business Review on Innovation, Ian McMillan argues that building innovative solutions as part of business strategy consists in creating a relevant consumption chain which would be based on positive experiences of the consumer at every stage of contact with the brand. This refers to sales and to any promotion activities. Therefore, the concept of designing experiences is not new.
The term “User Experience” (UX) was first used in 1993 by Don Norman, professor of cognitive science and usability engineering, who, while working at Apple Computers, named himself “a User Experience Architect.”
What is the mysterious UX? It denotes user experience gained while using a product or service. More importantly, there is no general and objective target group experience, as experience is always individual and subjective. Does it not reflect, however, the relationships in times of online platforms and customised messages?
When designing user experience, you must take certain important aspects into account. Firstly, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the form of your press information in any way attractive for the user?
- Is your message useful?
- Is reading it enjoyable and satisfactory?
If you have answered “no” at least once, keep on reading. The guidelines presented below are for you.
First of all, you should collect information about the needs of your recipients for whom you prepare the content. For instance, before launching communications of a given brand, you may send an e-mail to your base where you present yourself and your client and ask about the interests of a specific journalist, as not everyone wants to receive product information, but they may prefer information about marketing campaigns instead. Then you must organise the received feedback and on its basis prepare your communications to address the needs of the target group and to evoke positive emotions in the group at each step of the process.
If you want to design positive experience for your journalists, you must prepare your own customised communication flow and select the tools that would allow you create aesthetic and engaging stories. How to do it?
UX is based on six main categories by which we assess websites or applications. They include usability, accessibility, usefulness, findability, desirability and credibility. Application of those six categories in public relations is very easy.
This category implies the possibility to find a website, application, product or service online when we need it. Findability includes adequate terminology, marketing communication, as well as possibility to find the company website and press office using a web search engine. This is of particular importance for a PR specialist. Not all contact details are included in the media database. A journalist doing the research and seeking topics or experts will first ask Uncle Google for advice. If it helps them find us, we will profit.
According to Peter Morville, author of Ambient Findability and Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: “You can’t use what you can’t find.” Therefore, if you want to effectively communicate with your target groups, opinion leaders or journalists, let them find you – make sure you offer sufficient SEV (Search Engine Visibility).
This category is the second important component of the positive experience building process. Even if you send a press release, what if someone cannot open it and read it? Make sure your information and online press office or company website including a news tab are responsive, i.e. adjusted to different devices and display resolutions. This will permit journalists to learn the information you provide regardless of the device they use. It is also important in the visual context, as your information or press office are also assessed by their graphic design. A new user will promptly decide whether to stay and browse your website or not. If the site is not visually attractive, user experience will be worse. We will discuss that below in more detail.
This category informs whether the product is “user-friendly.” Usability includes a few components which support positive user experience design. Firstly, make sure that the information reaches the persons for whom it might be actually interesting. (Use the collected feedback and database segmentation.) Nothing worse than sending information about roofing sheets to food bloggers. Your effectiveness is also measured by whether the content is useful for a given journalist and whether they can use it in their work. Moreover, positive user experience involves lack of any mistakes, such as typos, wrong register or poor spelling. In technical terms, it means that you need to hide the list of recipients and customise your e-mail as appropriate; you may jeopardise any good relationship by addressing Joanna as Christopher in your e-mail.
This category defines the comfort of use of your materials or press office services and how well it meets user expectations. Make sure that your press information contains all files that a journalist may find necessary – multimedia, pictures, additional information and presentations. Include contact details for the media in your information and in your press office. Your newsroom should offer press kits and a link to an internal search engine to facilitate materials browsing and file search. Moreover, you may improve your usefulness with a social media stream to facilitate the research and provide a full review of the information published by the brand. Keep in mind that an important aspect of social press releases and direct contact with target groups is enabling them to share your information in social media.
This category defines the visual value of the website, its aesthetic nature and effectiveness. Make sure that the graphic design of your press information is appropriate – visible, clear and offering a “wow effect.” In order to improve it, try embedding multimedia components – videos, infographics, pictures – in your content. As it is a difficult task to do in MS Word, consider placing each release on a dedicated web page.
This category is aimed at convincing consumers that our product will meet their expectations. In the context of a PR – journalist relationship, this mainly implies assurance of the quality of the provided press information. Nobody likes liars and conmen. Therefore, support your claim with hard data if you are working with a given journalist for the first time.
With regard to technical matters, your brand’s press office should be placed under a relevant domain and the sender should be a credible person. (“From:” field must not read “buffalo87238”, for instance.) Keep that in mind as well.
Those few components create your value. In practice, this means that you send a journalist, a blogger or a consumer a “product” which fully satisfies their needs and requirements. For a PR professional, this means better relationships with specific journalists, as well as better confidence, credibility and reach. A well-designed message can be found online or shared in social media, but it will only be possible when we focus on emotions and treat journalists just like we would like to be treated, and offer them what we would like to receive in their situation.
UX and PR share many common features. Both areas are interdisciplinary and require analysing recipients on many levels.
Let us know what you think.