The nights are drawing in and Christmas is just around the corner, which can only mean one thing: we’re in the midst of another Strictly season. I’ve been glued to the show since it first burst on to screens in 2004, and I’m certainly not alone. Since Brendan Cole lifted the first glitterball trophy with Natasha Kaplinsky, Strictly’s attracted millions of viewers every Saturday night, with the format also exported to 60 countries worldwide.
There are many reasons why the show is such a winning format – from its incredible live band, to its fantastic costume department, and catchy theme tune. But something else has kept viewers returning in their millions every year – how the show engages with audiences and creates content that resonates. And while you might not know your fleckerls from your feather steps, there are actually a number of similarities between B2B PR and the home of ballroom.
We’ve come a long way from Strictly exclusively airing live on Saturday nights. Viewers now have the chance to engage with the series throughout the week in myriad ways. To help fans catch up on all the latest gossip, there’s spin off show, It Takes Two, a weekly podcast, and let’s not forget its social channels, like Instagram and TikTok, which are kept constantly up to date with everything from the contestants’ rigorous training schedules to light-hearted quizzes on how well each pairing knows each other. There’s also the Strictly Tour, and Christmas edition of the show to keep audiences entertained long after the winner has been announced each season.
Comms professionals will usually have a pretty good understanding of the channels that their target audience are using. But they should also be regularly addressing their channel mix to make sure that as their audience and content habits evolve, they’re always targeting them in the right places. There’s little point executing a new TikTok strategy if your decision makers aren’t using the platform themselves, but being innovative in using new tools to reach them on the channels they’re on will keep them engaged for longer. Drilling down into market insights can help brands to understand the types of content their target audience choose to consume when making purchasing decisions, the channels they’re most engaged with, what, and who, influences them, and when is the best time to approach them. We’ve helped brands such as Vodafone with this critical listening exercise, which resulted in a 500% increase in Facebook engagement rates after we rolled out a new social strategy.
Craig Revel Horwood has become something of a pantomime villain on Strictly, often being booed loudly by the studio audience for giving blunt reviews of each performance. But he’s also the longest serving judge, having sat on the panel since the opening series, and is hugely respected in the ballroom industry. While some contestants might be terrified of his delivery and what he’ll say next, Craig can never be accused of not being honest, which means when he does give praise, it’s received even better.
In the same way, brands looking to cut through the noise and stand out must find experts within their businesses who can offer bold, thought-provoking commentary and who aren’t afraid to say what they think. Crucially, providing any sort of opinion or soundbite should always add to the conversation, adding new insight or useful analysis to move the story on. By using an array of insights tools and planning capabilities, we understand where the white space is for our clients to credibly own. We work closely with our spokespeople to carve out strong narratives so we can insert them into the conversation and let their expertise shine. This is something we help brands like Arctic Wolf and Onfido do, day in day out, making their voices heard in crowded spaces such as the global cyber threat landscape and artificial intelligence. When journalists know they can rely on spokespeople for sharing honest, quick commentary on breaking news stories, they’ll keep coming back time and time again, so it’s important to get this process right.
As we see the Strictly contestants grow in confidence throughout the series and develop their dancing skills, we’re also shown their back stories on camera each week – with rare insight into their family life behind the scenes, and how they’re fitting their training into their busy work schedules. This footage helps viewers get to know the contestants better, and develop more emotional connections with the show.
These human impact stories also resonate incredibly well in the media, giving readers and viewers content they can relate to. Spending time with people to really dig into their personal stories can help bring them to life in creative ways, and this is something we do for our clients every day. We worked closely with Autodesk and Coral Maker to create this stunning film to examine the environmental impact of large-scale coral reef restoration. We spent time with Xero customer, Jessica Rose, to produce an emotive video, looking at the mental challenges of running a small business. And we sat down with Automata to understand how it’s using robotics to diagnose cancer faster with the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, resulting in national press coverage.
In its 20 years on our screens, Strictly has evolved through new dance styles and themes to keep audiences entertained, but it’s still largely the same format as the original Come Dancing competition from the 1950s. It’s become more diverse and representative in recent years, inviting contestants from all backgrounds to take part and has included same-sex partnerships since 2020.
The lessons for B2B brands are pretty clear. Stay true to your core proposition and what your customers love you for but keep evolving in terms of message, presentation, content and communications channels. Get that right and the perfect 10s will just keep on coming!
When it comes to getting external comms right, Strictly provides a solid blueprint for businesses to follow. Using our proprietary LIFE framework, we help our clients build comms programmes that reach their audiences in the right way with content that resonates. If your communication strategy is in need of a Strictly makeover, please don’t hesitate to get in touch!
By Rachael Knock, Senior Practice Director, Business & Technology