Point: PR pros need to adapt to digital media trends

Sarah Skerik, PR Daily, 5/3/12

The advent of social media and the ever-increasing role of digital media in our lives means there are a number of opportunities for public relations. There are new ways to find audiences, new media through which to convey messages, tons of opportunities to connect with your brand's fans, and so on. Best of all, digital campaigns can be measured. However, there seems to be some disagreement about the skill set PR pros need to succeed in today's environment. Let's look at the trends in the PR business to help determine which skills we really need:

1. Storytelling. There's a difference between writing well and telling a story. To develop a story that will gain traction with your audience, spend a little time learning about their interests. See what sort of information (and format) resonates with your audience. Observe what they're sharing (and re-sharing) too. The intelligence you glean will be invaluable to your writing process.  

2. Quantification. "Big data" is here to stay, and it is strongly informing communications. Knowing how to organize and crunch data, correlate results, and correctly interpret and apply data are core skills that enable communicators to turn masses of data into valuable business intelligence. 
3. Visual communications.  The rise of the infographic and the emergence of platforms such as Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram -- all of which trade heavily if not exclusively in visuals -- has accelerated the trend of using visuals in PR. Harnessing multimedia and video to engage and attract audiences is rapidly becoming stock in trade for PR. Even if you have a design team at your disposal, learning how to think about messages visually is an important skill.
4. Proactive and predictive monitoring.  We're in an age of radical transparency. Instead of monitoring "downstream" -- looking for media pick up that has been published -- PR teams are switching gears and monitoring conversations and trends to predict events and communicate proactively. In a nutshell, PR can influence outcomes, rather than simply measuring them.

5. Adaptation. Content marketing, search engine optimization, video production. None of it sounds like PR -- or, more specifically, PR as we've traditionally thought of it. The ability to succeed in changing times is really part of the DNA for public relations. The only thing predictable about PR is change. Make time in your day to read, practice, and learn.


Counterpoint: PR pros should "dance with the one who brung ya"

Jon Newman, Hodges Blog.com, 4/26/12

Are we spending too much time focusing on social media when good old-fashioned public and media relations still works just fine? Before you say Jon, we can and should do both, I will quickly agree with you but add that maybe we should prioritize the time spent on both so we meet all of our clients goals. Given the choice, would you rather have a smooth and successful social media campaign, or get a media hit on Good Morning America or The New York Times?" I haven't changed my thinking about social media and what it can accomplish, I am saying...maybe we in PR need to re-look at our core competencies and what we can still offer. Sure, the media pool is shrinking, but it's not dead by a long shot. And clients' eyes still get really wide when they see their companies on TV, online and in print. As it gets harder to "break through" on Facebook and as we try on the fly to figure out if Pinterest is going to be the next big play or big fail, let's not forget what has worked for us for the last century or so. So while we blog and slog it out to see who will comment or share our next post, we may have clearer sailing and a larger "ROI" by making sure we still reach out to national media who still know and can report a good story when they see one. As Darrell Royal, the patriarch of University of Texas football used to say, "Don't forget to dance with the one who brung ya." It's gotten us this far.


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Commentary: Artistic integrity, critical response and public relations

Alessandro Masi, Hill+Knowlton Canada's blog, 4/412

Suppose you are a producer of artistic content, such as movies, books or video games. Suppose you have cultivated millions of fans across the world that freely generates word-of-mouth for you. And now, suppose that once you deliver your latest masterpiece, your fans object to some of the artistic choices you have made, and demand that you change your product to match their expectations. What would you do? Would you give in to your fan base and make the changes? Would you stand by your finished product even if your fans hate it? How can you manage a crisis like this, where on the one hand you risk alienating your fans, but on the other hand you risk setting in motion a negative precedent, so that any future product can be subject to revisions brought on by your fans' insistence. That is the dilemma facing BioWare, a world-renowned video game producer [whose new game] Mass Effect 3 is a triumph... except for one very important aspect. Fans and critics absolutely hate the last ten minutes of the game. A Facebook group called "Demand a better ending to Mass Effect 3" (also called @RetakeME3 on Twitter) was launched, and it now has almost 60,000 members. On April 5th, Bioware released a statement: [It] will not be changing the ending. Instead, this summer, it will release a free Extended Cut [which] will expand on the original ending by providing clarity as to its meaning, as well as offering closure to some of the game's secondary plot points that remained unresolved. This strategy will appease the concerns of some fans, but will not address the desires of others. At this point, it is inevitable that BioWare will upset a part of its fan base, no matter what decision it takes. But in my opinion, this compromise is the best decision BioWare could make, because:

1. It keeps the artistic integrity of its creative workforce intact

2. It contains the damage to its brand image by appeasing a portion of its fan base

3. It upholds its positive reputation in the video games industry by demonstrating that it can listen to its fans, without backing down to them


Community: When should UK regional arts orgs turn to London PR agencies?

Laura Brown, The Guardian [UK] Culture Professionals Network blog, 5/3/12

The media landscape is shifting. "Hyperlocal" is the buzzword for 2012. Are London-based agencies best placed to get arts organisations the profile they really need? With the UK media largely concentrated in the capital, London PR agencies tend to have better personal relationships with national journalists and writers -- it's a matter of proximity. However, some regional arts writers argue that if you use an external agency, you run the risk of alienating "friends and family" -- local stakeholders who can make or break your organisation, and that includes the media. Do you forsake an element of your own voice if you rely on other people to speak for you? Guardian critic Lyn Gardner says: "For a national PR company, it's only ever going to be another job. For an in-house person, it's a way of life because they live and work in that community." Catherine Braithwaite, founder of a PR consultancy that works with arts organisations across the north-west of England, [says]: "An organisation will often work with a London-based agency to guarantee coverage for a large project. However these big projects would tend to get coverage anyway." A better use of resources, she suggests, is for organisations to employ an agency to work on the more difficult projects - the ones that are a harder sell. Everyone wants a higher profile and we often see London as the best way of getting results. What is the best for your organisation in the long term?


Commentary: "Riding the wave" tactic can help create buzz

Rick Verbanas, YourGuerillaMarketer.com, 4/26/12

The crafty guerrilla marketer knows you can ride the wave of others' publicity by simply playing along. "Riding the wave," as I like to call it, is a common guerrilla marketing tactic that allows Company B to use what is successful for Company A. What if your message is similar to another successful campaign? Will this help increase your own impression? Many experts believe so. Practically everyone has seen the "Got Milk" advertisements. Most readers will also be able to recall seeing that same "Got ______?" used for other companies. Whether it is a "Got Bugs?" for a pest control service or "Got Cellulite?" for a cosmetic surgeon, it was instantly recognizable. The guerrilla marketer is always looking for different ways to reach a new audience. The key is to look at current or upcoming events and anticipate their success. When The Hunger Games was hitting theaters, The Weather Channel had on their website, "The Hunger Games and Weather." While blatant, it did give them increased exposure and traffic to their site. The savvy Guerrilla Marketer will be looking on the horizon and seeing potential buzz-worthy events to tie into. What is the next hot topic in which you can ride the wave?

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