We write across subjects on this blog – Jason has written a good amount on social media recently, and Anthony on public relations and relationship building just today. So when you look across subjects one central element that runs through is the importance of engagement. Or more specifically – purposeful engagement. Whether in forming professional relationships in person or through a digital medium, connecting with customers through social media, or reaching out to past customers, one of the ever-present goals is purposeful engagement. What is meant by this is that when marketers connect with audience members, they want it to be meaningful and impactful, inspiring them and moving them to action. Marketers need this communication to hold value for the audience members and not just be token promotion or commenting.

We all know what each feels like in everyday conversations with friends, colleagues, and even traditional promotions that we are exposed to. But transitioning this to the digital landscape is a challenge. How do you meaningfully engage with 25k followers if you are a business on Twitter or with the 10k account holders who liked your business on Facebook? These are essential questions. One specific concept from PR theory that helps with the background of this strategy for purposeful engagement is the Two-Way Symmetrical vs. the Two-Way Asymmetrical Model of Public Relations from PR researcher James Grunig.

Two-Way Asymmetrical Model
In this model of public relations, marketers and PR professionals engage in two-way communication with the audiences. They send crafted messages, receive feedback, do research, but the goal is still persuasion rather that genuine communication and engagement. The slanted downward arrow represents the persuasive element in the figure for this model below.

Two-Way Symmetrical Model
In this model of public relations, PR professionals and marketers engage in dialogue with the audience and the goal is mutual understanding and purposeful communication where both parties receive benefit. Research is done here as well but rather than using it to determine how to persuade the audience, research is used to learn the direction to take the company’s genuine communication in order to better cater to audience needs and establish how to motivate them to authentic action. Notice the two straight lines.

In Action
Two-Way symmetric may seem a bit idealist or pie in the sky, but it really is not. It represents the optimal method of interaction that will win customers because they are heard and treated to communication that carries value rather than strict promotion. It represents the long-term rather than short-run mindset that businesses should be taking in relation to the interaction they have with their audience – and there has never been better time where more tools are available to put this sort of purposeful, genuine, two-way, symmetric engagement into action than now.

With social media at marketers’ finger-tips, they need to utilize their resources in SEO companies and marketing firms that offer such strategic assistance to implement a meaningful campaign. Businesses need to make a concerted effort to research their audience and know what subject matter will be of value to them. Further, engage with that in mind and most importantly listen, take feedback, and address customer concerns and questions in the social space, making all efforts to connect with as many unhappy or concerned customers as possible.

Reach out to me directly at rbuddenhagen@webimax.com and @ryanwbudd for more information regarding how your company can purposefully engage with their audience.