It is hard not to be aware of the seismic shifts taking place in the world of brand and corporate communications. From advertising and digital marketing through to the new technologies to ‘engage’ an audience in conversation; from decreasing newspaper sales through to social media and digital influencers, the rules for the comms professional seems to be changing all the time.
However, I, for one, am gratified that the PR approach for earned-media and building relationships remains the one discipline that can effectively address all new media channels.
Every marketing professional wants to be able to show tangible return on investment and it is no surprise that the benefits of pay per click and the measurement tools of digital marketing are enthusiastically grasped. But there is now growing scepticism over digital marketing.
Buying followers and likes for the latest piece of ‘content’ has been shown to be a hollow and often automated exercise. See our blog, which explains that thousands of likes can be generated by a machine and hide the reality that the stats bear little or no relationship to the number of real people viewing a post.
Meanwhile Facebook has had to move to reassure advertisers whose brands have appeared alongside unsuitable or offensive content with a new set of rules. While Proctor and Gamble slashed $100m from its digital marketing budget and saw no notable difference in its sales.
This is not to say that brands cannot be built robustly through new digital channels. Compelling or authoritative content will attract an audience and there is plenty of evidence of new businesses that exist entirely because of their clever use of social media platforms and interactive tools.
TEV is one such example of a company that has built global awareness and a cohort of supporters through dialogue on its social media channels. As a result, this Ayrshire-based non-profit firm has been invited all over the world to give talks on its pioneering eco-transport project.
There are also industry leaders spearheading the new era of brand communication, who encourage us to delve into the world of new technologies. Mark Kiernan, MD of Digital and Content at Accenture, says the key to technology is to embrace it, try it, explore it and then scale it when it works.
But, what underpins and drives the momentum of a successful brand or marketing communications campaign are authenticity, trust and relevance – values that are most powerfully served through intelligent PR and public affairs.
The German dairy industry is currently running a very interesting public relations campaign, Superkühe, or Super Cows that fully embraces new technology and media platforms. It aims to boost consumer understanding of dairy production at a time when the industry is under growing attack.
Superkühe uses cameras and a host of sensors to track the lives for three dairy cows – Uschi, Emma and Connie. Their ‘diaries’ are documented on Facebook and on a dedicated website where consumers are encouraged to ask any question, which will be answered openly and factually. No subject is out of bounds.
This is a distinctly PR approach to address misconceptions and promote responsible industry practice.
One of the big lessons of today’s changing consumer is that they seek out information and recommendations from digital influencers such as tripadviser, instagrammers and our Facebook newsfeeds. Who we trust and how and when we receive our news and opinion is critical.
And I would always argue that good PR strategies for building reputations, fostering relationships and speaking with integrity are the foundations of any brand communications campaign that seeks to achieve these goals.
We can never be afraid of change. But in the dazzling new world of the media, change should not mean we lose sight of the fundamental principles of good communication.
Elizabeth Lambley is a Director at Indigo