PRovolve or perish: back to the future of marketing

5 years, 5 months ago

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The lightning-fast rise of Digital has triggered a rethink of service models in the communications business. There is a huge opportunity here for Public Relations. By Georgios Kotsolios.



In 2012 Martin Sorrell, head of a major advertising group, cited the growing availability of big data analytics as one of the reasons for the continuous growth of the PR industry.  As a PR man myself, I like the ring of Sorrell’s remarks. Finally, we have entered an era during which PR is getting the recognition it deserves. 
 
Our content-driven industry can now rule by tapping into the wealth of available data hidden dormant in servers or hovering in clouds around the world, waiting patiently to be picked up by communicators who can spice up their storytelling with some compelling facts, figures and other knowledge-enhancing information.
 
Furthermore, today’s sophisticated online content monitoring systems capture and decipher in seconds real time chatter across Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. Brands analyse this chatter to deduce conclusions pertaining to perceptions people around the world have of them and their products or services. Technology has transformed chatter into something that can have potentially incalculable value; consumer Insights which come directly from consumers’ mouths or, to be more precise, straight from their social media accounts. Uncensored and un-vetted, impulsive and emotional ‘Likes’ and ‘Dislikes’ of the very people marketers vie to attract. Pure gold! 
 
Possession of such insightful information is manna from heaven for the marketing community, giving its privileged members a power that knows no boundaries, has no restrictions or limits as to the type of information, messaging and content they can put directly in front of their target audiences. 
 
Integrated campaigns 
 
Companies the world over have jumped on the social media bandwagon to develop integrated campaigns that appeal to the billions of social media users. Brands have become more globally relevant than ever before as they can now talk directly and in real time to almost everyone on this planet who’d lend an eager ear to listen, or rather anyone with an Internet connection and the right hash tag. 
 
PR, digital and other communication specialists have also become a lot more social media savvy and should now work together and in unison more than ever before to provide clients with holistic integrated communications solutions to satisfy the yearn for social.
 
This is not only important as an enabler to produce results-driven campaigns that are strategically solid and effective, but it is a matter of survival in the fast-changing communications industry. Social media sits right at the middle but instead of dividing opinions as to who is its rightful owner it can serve as a catalyst for authentic integration between the disparate marketing disciplines to the benefit of agencies, clients and consumers.  
 
In the pre-social media world, there was only so much one could do as a marketer, an advertiser and a PR man to bring a product to the attention of the masses. It would either be through a TVC, an outdoor or print advertisement, a press release, a promotional campaign at high footfall areas, an invitation-only event, a celebrity brand ambassador or at the shelf of the supermarket or store the product was on sale at. Consumer feedback was non-existent, at least in real time. There was no real conversation between products and consumers, just a one-way monologue.
 
Social media has changed all that for good and for the better. It has unlocked the full potential of communications, leaving it up to the industry itself to develop a disciplined path to actual integration.
 
The missing component
 
So we have to step up our game. Looking at my roster of team members I realise that a key component is missing and we can no longer aspire to compete at that level in the absence of a new type of player. A game changer! But does he exist? And if so, who is he and where could I find him? Should I perhaps write a Job Description to express what I am looking for, send it to the headhunters and see whether he exists? That could take too long. So I made him up instead! But I had to find a good name for him that would be descriptive of his skills and aptitudes.
 
Words mean things. Each word evokes a certain reaction or emotion because it is the most descriptive and direct form of human expression. Be it verbal or written, Greek or Chinese, words are highly effective communication tools. Without words, the human race and our civilization would not have evolved through the centuries. There are more words today than ever before in history and there will be more words tomorrow than there are today. 
 
PRANDING: He is my new star player. His name is derived from three different words: Public Relations, Branding and Advertising.
 
Pranding does exactly what the three disciplines do, only better, by reversing the traditional sequence of campaign origination; by having the end in mind it works backwards to achieve the specifically planned output. 
 
In the age of Pranding, PR takes the lead by plotting the desirable happy ending to the story, then unravels Ariadne’s thread towards the drawing board for the planning stages of the campaign. 
 
If an attempt at reinventing the marketing communications wheel doesn’t warrant the creation of a new word, then I don’t know what does. 
The PR industry needs to ponder about its own future and take initiatives that will help it evolve. We have already embarked on a one-way journey to a world where Digital dominates.
 
As we try to balance on the very thin thread some would describe as the threshold between remaining competitive or simply becoming redundant, it is time to take our fate into our own hands by first defining and then shaping our future.
 
Service adaptation
 
PR firms and practitioners need to proactively and urgently address the new emerging information consumption trends by adapting their services to the new media landscape and consumers’ surfacing needs whilst adopting new techniques and practices that would help them maintain their relevance and competitiveness in the constantly changing world of the information overload age.
 
One thing is certain,q the advent of new technology has so quickly changed the way media treat, and people consume, information that it has taken most communications specialists aback – finding them unprepared to deal with the real challenges posed by the revolution brought about by the propagation of smart mobile devices. It took communicators some time to figure out how to provide reasonable strategies and tactics to simply be able to participate in the online conversations about the brands they represent. Still, they have dismally failed to convince their clients of the value and expertise they can add into the overall mix by engaging with the online world. 
 
But at least they, WE, can say that this is work in progress and blame it on the guy who dared ask the still unanswered question: "who owns digital?"  Oh, I know that! "It’s no one, yet, stupid!"
 
Time to seize the moment
 
This time it is our chance to be ahead of the game. We must innovate and proactively seize the moment to position our industry at the forefront of the marketing mix as the communicators who truly understand where the world is heading and that we can reach there before anyone else does. 
 
It’s not just about arriving to a completely new and unknown destination but rather preparing ourselves for a journey having a clearly defined mission and carrying with us the tools we will need to accomplish our objectives.   
 
The name of this exotic, new destination is Digital. Digital is a world where the Internet is the dominant information-sharing conduit. There are no landlines, no TV sets, no desktop computers. Instead, every person in Destination Digital owns a smart, pocket-sized mobile device which can be used as a portable laptop, a phone to make voice or video calls, a HD screen to watch favourite TV programmes and other video or live footage, listen to popular songs and singers or simply be informed about the latest news, sport and weather. 
 
This is a world where broadband width and speeds have grown exponentially together with the staggering demand for Internet services, a world where 4G networks seamlessly converge with mobile devices to provide online users with highly reliable and cost effective access to the World Wide Web in lightning speeds. 
 
It is also a brave new world where e-commerce has virtually, pun intended, replaced conventional shopping experiences – the proliferation and eventual dominance of e-commerce will at one point stagnate due to the propagation of cybercrime and this will eventually lead to an era when products will actually do the talking directly to consumers, in a similar fashion to the interaction previously facilitated through online channels. This is the beginning of the end, the point where the penny drops; figuratively, not in the vending machine. But, the evolution of PR must continue until that penny drops. 
 
 
Author’s Details
Georgios Kotsolios, Head of PR & Social Media at Al-Futtaim group, Dubai, UAE. This IPRA Thought Leadership essay us is an edited extract from his book Back to the Future of Marketing – PRovolve or Perish. For further information about the book, click here.

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The Author

Georgios Kotsolios

Georgios Kotsolios, Head of PR & Social Media at Al-Futtaim group, Dubai, UAE.

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