Increasing control of PR should be at the heart of your marketing mix in 2013, a year that’s all about enhancing business value, as the following four trends indicate.
First up, become an addict
The problem is that we do too much talking without enough listening, and when that happens mistakes are too easy to make if we don’t show respect to the audience. While excessive focus-grouping tells you what you probably already know, tapping into live, unprompted conversation is the smart way to discover and engage with genuine influencers and future storytellers. Mass media is no longer the only route to mass reach.
So 2013 needs to be the year of increased listening and micro analysis, where understanding attitude and conversation is more important than traditional profiling. PR can, and should, be driven by real-time interactions, reactions and transactions. It is the one marketing discipline that can be nimble and opportunistic, and that can shift to mirror the mood and needs of the target audience.
The ‘healthy addiction’ trend is about analysing the right information, becoming a little geeky about it, and being bold enough to talk to people, not at them. Whether for better crisis preparation, managing levels of product support, or the building of loyal long-term fan bases, ‘good’ data is never information overload. For if the right measurement and listening tools are not in place, influencers are missed, critics can be left to grow and fester, and learning doesn’t happen at the right pace.
So PR is where the real social marketing should sit. It’s conversational first and foremost, not an ad canvas, and a fixed approach to creative tactics can have less head-turning impact than being of the moment.
Act like an editor
Staying on the conversation topic, the world of social media means as a brand controller you are now also an editor. Your social canvas is a magazine that audiences can opt into or out of; they can visit once to credit you with a Facebook ‘like’ as a hugely artificial and false measure of site success, or regularly and with increasing willingness.
Brands that get social communities wrong in 2013 may start to see a negative impact if audiences feel they are not being listened to or understood. Impatience is a direct correlation of our ‘faster, faster’ world. So in content terms, shift the focus of what you share from what you want to say, to what the audience wants to hear. Social media is not a temple to your products, or to which of them people might like best. It’s about finding a tone; a theme and world that is relevant to the brand, broader than product nuts and bolts.
You can be live and ‘social’ within minutes. But the danger of doing so without a strategy, without a content plan, without having listened to what people want from you – or, critically, without a measurement plan that looks below the surface – means you will be at best wasting your time and efforts, or at worst losing audience relevance.
An editor’s role is to feed the community they serve and ensure people come back, not to serve their own interests. Magazines that haven’t listened are no longer with us, so don’t make the same mistakes in the social space now you are the editor.
Think in pictures
Sometimes there are just too many words to assimilate in one day, to remember, or to share. This isn’t the death of words, but video is increasingly smart, cost-effective, and desirable to share editorially.
This isn’t about teaching experienced visual marketers about film as a comms tool, because TV is nothing new. But what is important in PR terms is the social and editorial take on things, which is more low cost; grass roots, yet still controllable.
Which is why Vimeo and YouTube continue to grow and comment tracking is highly valuable – as part of the addiction trend; why The Guardian is considering going digital only; why Pinterest is of real relevance to brands; and why differentiating between ‘official’ media and the best of the blogs is harder and less relevant to do.
The new SEO methodology requires smart content that is discoverable time and time again, and both still images and video are showing increasing returns as referrers of web traffic. Short attention spans for consumers, plus the breadth of sources they rely on, equals a need for editorial variety.
Brands can film their own ‘news’ to be picked up by influencers or the mass market, and which goes well beyond old fashioned video news release approaches, while actual views and follow-up actions can be tracked as active measures of success.
See ‘local’ as the new ‘global’
We are in a world of entrenchment, forever altered values, and circles of trust that are embedded in the people and communities we actually, physically know. So while there is always a place for global brands that sell consistency and image, local and personal is the everyday powerhouse.
Local online review sites, voucher-driven communities, ‘what’s on’ guides, bloggers that serve a region and the power of mobile to actively target real people near to point of purchase, are all elements that can help us talk more to the individual than a global marketing budget.
And when those influencers start to share information of practical, local value with their own circle of connections, then brand stories will spread with real credibility behind them and calls to action that are simple to adopt.
There is a theme in these trends about talking to real people as individuals. While communications on the one hand get more complex, on the other it’s almost regression in the quest for simple, shareable, more one-on-one approaches. The overall trend for 2013 is one that favours PR as the tool with freshest levels of commercial influence.