We firmly believe that context and content are king and queen of communications today. In an age where we are neck deep in content from all channels, only those brands that apply the right context to this river of information can rise above the noise. It was fascinating to watch this theory play out live and in living color during our work for gunshot detection and location technology provider SST.
SST’s product ShotSpotter pinpoints the location of gun shots predominantly in urban areas and where critical infrastructure (power plants and the like) are located. The mission of this company is admirable. SST wants to put an end to gunshot violence through technology that “hears” the gunshot via sensors and notifies either law enforcement, infrastructure security personnel or both with visual and audio evidence of the shot and its location. The technology and the company behind it had been in existence for nearly a decade prior to our work on the brand’s behalf. We immediately noticed a gap between the story we envisioned for SST and the narrative that was playing out on the company in the public domain. The missing ingredient? Context.
There was no shortage of social chatter or traditional media coverage on ShotSpotter when our agency came on board. Police departments across the country had deployed the technology and virtually all of them conducted the obligatory news conference that netted 15 seconds of fame on the evening newscast. And then…poof…nothing. Social channels such as Twitter also were active and buzzing. However, that dialogue was also stuck in a point in time that didn’t capture the essence of SST’s CEO vision or the human connection to the company mission. The storyline “stopped” at the point of sale. No outcomes were present in the company narrative so neither the technology nor the company was contextually aligned around the positive impact within the communities it served.
We set out to create a new set of contextually aligned optics around SST’s overall storyline while also infusing new context within the external dialogue surrounding the company. Rather than focus on sales accomplishments, we shifted context to post-sale – the positive outcomes created within communities strategizing that this would lead to broader understanding, a closer emotional connection to the brand and ultimately increased sales.
The Agency developed and instituted the following key contextual shifts to the communications process:
- Contextualize Vision: The “sales vision” was immediately reshaped around a new contextual platform – the CEO’s vision of improving communities by generating awareness around the correlations between gun violence and public health issues. We worked with the CEO to shape the vision around the effects of “Urban PTSD” – the mental and emotional toll on people, especially children, from living in fear of constant gun violence. This new context framed the unseen ramifications of gun violence and its consequences and illustrated that the solution comes from a combination of technology, data and people. This helped soften the often hard-edged issues around gun violence.
- Contextualize Outcomes: M/P worked with SST to visualize, create and launch the National Gunfire Index, a quarterly report that sheds light on the often shocking nature and volume of illegal gun activity in America, and used these reports to drive the national dialogue on gunshot violence. This was critical new context as gunshot violence and its associated impact had been largely anecdotal. This validation contextualized the significance of the overall SST story, the Index itself and the impact of the technology.
- Contextualize Content Delivery: SST had relied on words to tell its story since its founding and many of the chosen words had regularly gotten lost in the noise of the tech industry. M/P reshaped content assets and changed the way these assets were delivered to communications channels so that new context could be added to the “how” aspect of the storyline. This “seen first, hear second” strategy provided both a deeper understanding of how positive outcomes were achieved and the innovation within the technology.
These contextual shifts enabled SST to receive more national, mainstream print and broadcast media attention than any other period in its 17-year history. In addition to numerous front-page feature articles and national television news long-form segments, the overall company connection to key issues and broader vision were properly digested and played back in the desired context. The improved optics around the brand and the storyline were used in the sales process and with other key constituencies to produce positive impact for SST.