Jake Rosen is the ​Senior Vice President & Partner of Social & Digital, FleishmanHillard.

You can reach him at ​​​Jake.Rosen@fleishman.com​​

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Many assume that messaging will simply be embraced by their target audiences. And that’s where many brands fall short.

Day 3:

Published Voice vs Perceived Voice

Brands work long and hard to create messaging platforms, content strategies and creative guidelines. They work equally hard to plan how those efforts will be published and promoted across their social platforms. Many assume that messaging will simply be embraced by their target audiences. And that’s where many brands fall short.Why assume messaging will resonate with target audiences when we have the tools available to actually check message impact?

Organic social media conversation provides a perfect environment to pressure-test whether the messaging is getting through at optimal levels. Doing a deep dive into a brand’s published voice (owned conversation) relative to the perceived voice (organic conversation) among audiences provides the ideal barometer for understanding which messaging was received successfully and which may have fallen flat.

Let’s use McDonalds as an example to bring this to life a bit more. It should be noted that I’m not using McDonalds to promote or pick on them in any way. The fact that they are the example company is more a credit to how powerful and top-of-mind their brand is. For the sake of ease in this example, we’ll focus in on a single platform — Twitter.

To evaluate McDonalds’ published voice compared to the perceived voice in its simplest form, we followed five key steps:

  1. Reviewed the content published by McDonalds on the brand’s primary Twitter channel over the last 90 days
  2. Determined specific campaigns that have accounted for a good percentage of the company’s social focus
  3. Broke down the keywords and phrases used in these campaigns to understand the voice and messaging that McDonalds conveyed
  4. Determined how many tweets have included that messaging to get a general understanding of the focus of that campaign relative to all brand messaging
  5. We then compared published voice and messaging to all McDonalds organic conversation across Twitter, and specifically how much of the campaign-specific published messaging had been adopted in the organic posts.
  6. This led us to an evaluation of how well owned efforts — published voice — mirrored adoption of messaging in organic conversation about the company — perceived voice.
  7. BONUS STEP: With the right tools and knowledge, brands can also evaluate sentiment and engagement, resulting in even more in-depth comparisons between the owned messaging and organic conversation.

After we followed these steps in our McDonalds example, it became apparent that there have been five focus areas for McDonalds in the last 90 days, each with its own crafted and consistent messaging in every published tweet:

Let’s look at a couple of these campaigns more closely.

The Tailgate Sweepstakes has clearly been a concentration based on the fact that 21.58% of McDonalds’ owned tweets (not replies) included messaging about the campaign. Unfortunately, we found the owned effort did not result in an equivalent adoption in organic posts among social users.

On the other hand, when it came to the brand’s free breakfast coffee campaign, we see the percentages of owned content on the @McDonalds twitter account matches up more closely with organic conversation, telling us the social audience has greater adoption and is better able to perceive McDonalds as a brand associated with free coffee versus tailgating. More importantly, the analysis suggests that organic recognition is on par with the amount of effort McDonalds invested to build the campaign voice. Success.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Many variables could account for the higher adoption and sharing of free coffee messaging – including advertising dollars, images used, time of day the tweet was published, barrier to entry, or just that fact that it is, after all, FREE COFFEE.

Understanding the differences between a company’s published voice and its perceived voice won’t give you all the answers to why one campaign works better than another. But it does help point you in the direction of which campaigns to focus on learning from and replicating.

As 2014 comes to a close, I urge every brand and company to take a look back at campaigns they ran throughout the year and determine whether all that planning, messaging development, creative and social advertising hit the mark. Using data intelligently will help brands and marketers plan smarter campaigns, craft better messaging and potentially impact the bottom line for 2015 and beyond.

Feel free to reach out with questions about the tools needed to do such a review. Many of these resources are free and easy to use get you started on this important social and digital message measurement track.