Make Engagement Great Again: the new measure of real engagement in marketing

Brands have always competed for share of voice, constantly vying for people’s attention. Now, we live in unprecedentedly complex times and people now want more innovative and interesting ways to experience brands. Content creation is king and no longer the sole domain of brands and institutions – anyone can now create better and more engaging content.

Which begs the question – if no one cares about what you’re saying or doing, what’s the point in having (and in some cases paying for) thousands or even millions of followers?

The Brægen 2019 State of Brands report takes a look at 20 consumer brands – ten of 2018s Superbrands and 10 alternative or disruptor brands in the same industries. It provides rigorous analysis of all their Tweets, posts and their wider communications and marketing strategies using the new Brægen Brand Conversation Index.


Brand engagement is about so much more than likes, shares and followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Engagement is about captivating an audience and inspiring them to think, feel or do something. It can be about providing people with a platform to make or create something. In its simplest form, it’s about having a two-way conversation with an audience – online, in the real world or both.

Taking back the word ‘engagement’ in a bold attempt to make it great again, Brægen have created a new index and measuring tool for brand engagement, the ‘Brand Conversation Index’, to measure what is real vs. faux engagement and tested it out on some of the world’s most well-known and ‘trusted’ brands.

Turning ‘metrics’ on it’s head, it looks at how well brands are engaging with consumers, not whether consumers are engaging with brands by giving them a cursory ‘like’ or by sharing a post because they like the headline (but haven’t read the post or watched the video – you know who you are).

It takes a look at what’s shaking the PR & Marketing industries and provides some basic recommendations for brands who want to start embracing two-way conversations, dialogic and truly effective engagement.


What did we find?

On the whole, brands aren’t putting their 1000s and tens of thousands of followers (and in some cases way more) to good use. Rather than truly engaging them in conversation, they are generally pumping out promotional messages and broadcasting announcements. ‘Missing a trick’ is probably the most accurate summation overall.

However, there is a glimmer of hope, a few shining stars that are showing us the way – showing us how its done. Yay!

Introducing the new League Table - Superbrands vs the disruptors

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What next?

We are not calling for a revolution but for the digital PR & Marketing industry to start a conversation on how as a sector, we can meet consumer demand for higher levels of engagement from brands.

Brægen’s second un-White Paper provides a way forward for brands that want to take on that challenge, starting with how they communicate across their social media channels to how they devise their marketing & PR strategies.

With the astonishing speed that technology is advancing and the number of disruptors shaking up numerous industries and changing consumption habits, innovation in our industry is insignificant by comparison. This new and fast-changing landscape is creating demand for more emergence rather than control over messaging. The PR & Marketing industry not just missing an opportunity but ‘mis-stepping’ change by responding with light touch add-ons, faux listening and sticking with the devil-you-know.

Ultimately, it will affect brands’ bottom line as: 

  • They can no longer assume people won’t switch to disruptors who are providing better, faster and more captivating products and services

  • Seismic shifts are happening in how we consume, live, shop, eat and interact with each other

  • Plus many more key trends affecting consumer behaviour

How can we better respond to changing habits and expectations and find a new way to measure engagement?

Who would you be without your story?

We are connected and shaped by multiple stories of our lives.

Stories are how we make sense of the world, how we retain and pass on information. We are neurologically designed to respond to storytelling. We are emotional beings with 100 or more neurotransmitters that trigger reactions in our brain, releasing chemicals to make us happy and optimistic; oxytocin to feel kindness, trust in others and cooperation; and adrenaline as a reaction to fear, among others.

Beware of the stories you tell yourself—for you will surely be lived by them.
— William Shakespeare

Stories make us who we are. We make sense of things and find meaning through them. The stories we weave and the stories we tell about ourselves to ourselves and to others have the ability to help or hamper us. What we see in our mind’s eye is often what we get.

The stories we tell about ourselves reinforce how we see ourselves in our world, communicate about about ourselves and our world, and participate in our environment. Not only does story-telling provide meaning but it can also act as a lever to drive our motivation, our energy, our appetite to move forward and progress or it can grind us down and hold us back.  

A story is like a tree, you water it and give it enough sunlight, and it grows bigger, stronger, taller and deeper in the ground. The bigger it gets, the more it becomes the driving narrative with deep roots becoming harder to shift.

Photo by Zach Reiner on Unsplash

How often did you say to yourself or confided in others...

  • I am not a good leader

  • I am just a dreamer

  • I am not a good presenter

  • I am not good at my job

  • I’m too old

  • I don't have what it takes

  • I don't think I am good enough to go for that promotion

What if you could change that?

Change happens when we make shifts in who and how we are as ‘Author’ of our stories, as ‘Actor’ in stories with others, as ‘Agent’ in the narratives around us, and as ‘Activist’ for better narratives.

As a PR & Marketing professional, I have worked with brands and organisations for 17+ years to help them shape their stories and understand the power of storytelling. I understand language is the medium for looking again at the narrative so you can re-write it.

As a business coach, I have developed a programme to help you change the stories you want about yourself to help you move forward and achieve whatever you want.

This is about providing a space to explore alternative perspectives, for you to find your own way to move forward, progress and make it happen. We're not the magicians, you are!

 Ask yourself the following:

  • How is my story serving me?

  • What am I afraid will happen if I let that story go?

  • What would a different story help me see or do?

  • What has been my story up to this point?

  • Do I want to continue or change my story?

  • If I want to change it, what pieces can I bring forward to help me?

I will create a safe place for you so you can explore your thinking, ways of being, and the stories you tell yourself that are preventing you from going where you want to be - in all aspects of your life.

Anthony is an incredibly talented natural coach. He’s been invaluable in the search to find my future vision for my career. He has helped me to focus and I’ve been better able to look at problems in different ways.
— Jayne

Find out how I can help including the range of services I offer or get in touch to start a free consultation.

The art of coaching: Turning possibilities into reality

We live in a fast-changing and increasingly complex world, with demands on our time and attention, plus social media impacting on how we interact with each other and magnifying how we see our place in the world.

We often fall into the trap of ‘shoulds and shouldn’ts’ imposed upon us rather than connecting with we really want deep down. In this increasingly crowded space, many of us find ourselves stuck, unsure of how to move forward in our life and career, feeling the grind of our day jobs or not achieving our best.

Coaching is a space to explore new possibilities. We work with you or your organisation to turn possibilities into reality

The power of coaching is this - you are expected to give people the path to find answers, not the answers.
— Tom Mahalo

Together we will create a safe space for you to think and be listened to, a space for reflection and getting in touch with your true self before setting goals and going for them.

Expect the unexpected. Expect to be challenged to look deep beneath the surface to discover how to make sustainable changes, so that you can finally make that leap – a new job, a better work life balance, a more profitable business, a more positive sense of self or better state-of-mind - or all of the above!

Whatever your objective is, whatever you come to the coaching sessions with, we can tackle things together to get you where you want to be - both physically and emotionally.

Find out how we can help including the range of services we offer or get in touch to start a free consultation with us.

Life Coaching: What it is and isn’t

Coaching is not about giving advice, asking lots of questions or telling people what to do. It’s not about diagnosing people, being a therapist or a counsellor. It's about having someone sit there and be a mirror to you.

A life coach isn't someone who's nailed it at life and can tell you all the secrets of how to nail it too. Being a coach is about being the person who helps someone to help them-self by empowering them – empowering people to see that if the problem lies within, then so does the solution. You will become empowered to seek the right support, become independent or get confidence back in getting what you want out of life.

More than anything, coaching is about listening. Not talking, but really listening to someone who just wants to be listened to and be understood by someone who won't judge. It’s about being listened to by someone who will simply understand you and demonstrate their understanding by reflecting your words and affirming your strengths back to you. 

Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.
— Bernard M. Baruch

We will help you to reconnect with what really matters to you and help you to work out a plan based on your own personal values. Coaching is not about telling people what they 'should' do. 

Photo by  Casey Horner  on  Unsplash

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

With compassion and without any pressure, we will help you to rediscover who you really are and help you to realise what you need to do to help yourself (almost) all on your own. 90% of the realising comes from you hearing your own words come out of your mouth and the other 10% comes from the coach gently steering and helping you to make a plan.

We will help you realise that as much as negative triggers can make a person spiral downwards, positive triggers can help you to spiral upwards into recovery and good mental health.

When I ask a client “how are you feeling?” at the end of a session and they tell me they feel “energised” or “inspired” – I know I’ve made a difference to them in some way, even if it’s just for that day.

Photo by  Charles Etoroma  on  Unsplash

Some of my clients have said that coaching has worked better or is better suited to them than counselling. They tell me that it worked for them because it’s real and “person to person”.

Find out how we can help including the range of services we offer or get in touch to start a free consultation with us.

United colours of storytelling: Told by some people for some other people

Once upon a time, Data said to Story “I am stronger than you because I have the science behind me, I am product of years of research. I am impact.” The story retorted: “I will be remembered a lot longer by a lot more people than you. I am engagement.”      

Stories are how we make sense of the world, how we retain and pass on information. We are neurologically designed to respond to storytelling. Humans are emotional. Our brain has 100 or more neurotransmitters, and stories are more effective at releasing them. A happy ending to a story triggers the limbic system, our brain’s reward centre, to release dopamine making us feel hopeful and optimistic and oxytocin to show kindness, trust in others and cooperation. Data might be the new oil, but the power of stories is as theoretically inexhaustible as renewable energy.

You’re never going to kill storytelling because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it.
— Margaret Atwood

Is brand storytelling dead?

Only last year, Mastercard’s Global Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Raja Rajamannar, told Marketing Week: “Storytelling, which has been effective for so long, is now dead.”

Our interpretation of this is: Brands can no longer rely on flogging stories hoping people will readily share, like or talk about them to create a buzz, increase brand love, boost sales or gain market-share.

The communications industry has been peddling the ‘every brand needs to have a story’ strategy for a while. This resonates with brands who want to control and manage their reputation and works for brands that have a long and interesting history, or an innovative USP. Yet not every story is compelling enough to be retold.

Human storytelling 2.0

In addition to this and most importantly, this is becoming a much more crowded space – crowded with real people. Now, anyone with a smartphone can potentially start a worldwide movement generating more interest, traction and impact than a multi-million-pound advertising campaign. A 15-minute video posted by an influential vlogger or a bunch of Tweets by someone in the public eye can have more penetration and impact than a brand’s TV advertising campaign. People are not just out-doing companies and multinationals, people-powered campaigns are raising more funds than established charities.

Why is this happening?

Marketers have tried to segment people into 'types' and profile 'consumers', whilst technology has made individuals more interconnected. This means we have separated from traditional structures in a manner that intensifies societal and political complexity and uncertainty. Read our first Un-White Paper that talks more about this.

People want to tell their own stories and they are able to consume and share news and stories with each other across multiple platforms and at speeds never envisaged before. People power is not just down to the smartphone and the internet though, other seismic societal shifts are making consumers more savvy, less trusting of established brands, more cynical of brand hype and less easy to b***s***.  Consumers (people) have been there, done that and bought the T-shirt 100 times over, controlling storytelling is no longer viable or effective for brands.

Words are how we think; stories are how we link.
— Christina Baldwin

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Is it possible to embrace this as an opportunity?

As an industry of communications professionals, we are not just missing an opportunity but ‘mis-stepping’ change by responding with light touch add-ons to our existing strategies, faux listening and sticking with the devil-you-know. Our recent research of well-known brands’ social media channels found very little dialogue between them and the public.

This tech-led empowerment opened an opportunity to create a new kind of story - storytelling across multiple platforms with shared ownership. Brands need more genuine engagement. This is no longer simply hovering around social media sites tweeting and responding back, instead, brands need to co-create their stories conceding some of that power to their target audiences. 

We are not the only voice in the industry so we can’t claim to be the first to raise it on this subject. After all, it was Fjord (2017) that stated traditional brand storytelling is “over, thanks to the democratization of content creation and the rise of image over text.” Yet conventional practice of pushing a narrative out at every cost is still prevalent.

Where next for storytelling?

Working on the premise that controlling the story is no longer viable, interesting or engaging. What do brands need to do instead?

Social Media management can be less about control and patrol. Brand websites and social channels can provide an open platform for dialogue and ideas, a platform that inspires healthy debate, sparks creativity and enables collective problem solving.

Brands can start the conversation, let people take over, keep the story going and see where it takes us. Brands can be the enablers of people-powered stories, not the storytellers themselves. Marketeers need to think about how they can create platforms for the people to tell their own stories and join in. Stories can take on a life of their own and the world is their oyster – and that’s a GOOD THING. If people can take ownership of their part of the story they will be more connected with the brand that enabled them to do that.

Brægen works with organisations to set up platforms for co-created stories and help them start conversations with their public through dialogic communications campaigns. We empower organisations to take the dialogic path rather than sticking with ‘safe’ controlled communications that favour press releases full of facts and stats and announcements for social media posts.

Join the conversation or get in touch to find out more and start a face-to-face meaningful dialogue with us – the people who wrote this.

The New Truth: People are Brands

The New Truth: People are Brands

People are building their own personal brands. People are now the story-makers, the photographers, the service deliverers, the fundraisers, the coders, the curators and the prosumers.

A conversation about conversations

A conversation about conversations

The conversation continues, it moves on, it sparks ideas and one another’s imagination. This is a dialogic conversation. This is what we believe brands need to be doing with people