An analysis of press releases explaining the monetary policy of the Bank of Canada may be an unlikely place to start from when it comes to search marketing but in a semantic web everything is connected. Words have an impact, that impact is measured in online consumer actions and online consumer actions have an effect on such attributes as brand value, trustworthiness, brand impact, perceived brand equity and social pull. All of these affect search marketing, visibility in search and the success of a business.

In a landmark study the European Central Bank (ECB) looked at 110 Bank of Canada press releases over the time period from 2001 to 2015 and studied their impact on market volatility. While the subject matter and the industry of the study tend to be a little arcane what is of direct interest to us here is the fact that what we are ultimately looking at, is the effectiveness of a communication strategy and the impact of a particular communication channel.

The ECB study noted that the statements released by the Bank of Canada tended to follow one of two strategies: A. They followed from the previous statement made by the bank and simply added to it changing the language, tone and content incrementally or B. They started from a blank piece of paper and laid out a new statement and position that also determined a new situation or reality for the Bank and, by association, the money markets.

The study found that when the bank followed the first strategy market volatility on the whole remained low while when the bank followed the second strategy market volatility rose perceptibly. The change in investor behavior was attributed to a sense of security in the first instance and insecurity in the second, created by the change in tone and approach in the statement made by the bank.

This is interesting to us as marketers for a number of reasons:

  • Marketing is complicated. While we may not all have to communicate subtle changes in complex monetary policy our audience, nevertheless, is subject to the same massive flood of information from everywhere. Our messages therefore are glanced at perfunctorily to determine whether we are “business as usual” or “something’s afoot”.
  • Channels are important. The ECB study focused on press releases because that’s what the Bank of Canada predominantly uses. A business needs to have more than one channel utilizing more than one communication strategy. Some things are better said in an instant using a meme, others require the complexity and length of long form writing and others still can be said easier and faster in a podcast or video.
  • Content form and style have impact. In order to meet audience expectations you need to have an understanding of audience needs. When that connection is not in place marketing creates a dissonance as communication fails to adequately bridge the gap.
  • Perception creates disconnects. The fact that every marketer needs to be aware of is that the audience is not made up of marketing experts. People who come across our marketing have neither the time nor the training to analyze in depth the substance of the message. Unnecessary complexity creates an impression of difficulty and a change in communication style only generates insecurity.

What’s Important For Search

From a semantic search point of view what we see from this study is that the user experience and the brand/audience connection are key to establishing clarity, engagement and connection. Trustworthiness and online visibility are linked. Both of these stem, at least peripherally, from the levels of engagement a brand enjoys with its online audience and these are best seen in its communication channels.

So the valuable lesson delivered by the ECB study is that clarity, choice of tone and choice of channel are central to creating the kind of connection with an audience that allows the message to actually get through.

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