How a PEST Analysis Can Inform Communications Strategy

One of the first frameworks you learn in business school for understanding competitive threats to your business is the PEST framework. PEST stands for:

  • Political: What political changes could threaten your business? Is there legislation that could fundamentally alter how you do business?
  • Economic: What economic changes could threaten your business? For example, are interest rate changes going to impact you, or a major stock market move?
  • Social: What social and demographic changes could threaten your business? Does the aging boomer population represent a growth opportunity or a declining revenue population?
  • Technological: What technological changes could threaten your business? Could automation take over your offering or commoditize it?

While PEST is a useful framework for assessing general threats and opportunities to your business, it’s also useful for PR and marketing folks to generate news that captures the attention of their customers.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What political, economic, social, or technological changes are going to impact them in the near future? What sort of impact will these changes have? How does your product or service address these impacts and either amplify the positive impacts or mitigate the negative impacts?

For example, say you’re a company that does weddings. When you look at the search data and social trends about weddings and marriage, there is a clear decline over the last 8 years in the macro picture of people searching on the topic:

Google Trends - Web Search Interest: weddings - Worldwide, 2004 - present

Knowing this, it’s clearly you must adjust your marketing and PR to compensate. You might dig into demographic and social data to find that there’s a counter-cyclical trend in the term marriage. Searches about weddings are generally declining, but there was a reversal in that same trend about 3 years ago for searches about marriage:

Google Trends - Web Search Interest: weddings, marriage - Worldwide, 2004 - present

Digging in further, you might find that the counter-cyclical trend is being powered by interest in and searches about same-sex marriage:

marriage - Google Correlate

What was a general concern about a decline in the overall industry has shown an opportunity for more research, for more investigation and for a potentially profitable niche if the additional research bears it out. You could pivot your marketing and PR to add focus to this niche and see if it drives business results.

Do a PEST analysis on your own customers using the profiles you’ve built of who they are and what you know about them. Talk to them, see what’s going on in their worlds, and then assemble a PEST.

There are limitless opportunities to create more relevant campaigns and news, or surf the waves of existing news in ways that are relevant, timely, targeted, and valuable to your customers and the news sources they subscribe to.

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