On PR 2.0 and killing version numbers

May 26, 2008 at 1:26 pm 2 comments

In our network, we also have a global PR agency. Recently,we have been working more closely with them, and it’s been a great experience that has given me insights about a totally different way to work on brands. In this collaboration, I’ve come to notice the changes that are going on in the PR world too. Obviously, the fact that everything has changed for traditional marketing communication because people have been empowered by digital technologies has also arrived in the PR world. In fact, the say they knew it before the old traditional agencies even started thinking about changing their ways.

And some of that is true. If we look at Al Ries’ book “The fall of advertising, the rise of PR” which was authored around 2000, we can see that the trend was there for many to see. And it is true, that in the type of brand work PR agencies do, they have always focused on the more immediate human opinion and context in which they can positively influence brand opinion. But the thing is: it’s not that PR agencies were rising by because their work got better, or their approach drastically different. Isn’t it more likely that traditional agencies, which were the main mass media opinion shapers for brands started sucking? Or to be fair: ad agencies were conveniently repressing the fact that mass media started bleeding its effectiveness to digital channels and 1:1 and social media interactions.

What will be interesting for me to observe is: will PR agencies make some of the mistakes that ad agencies made? Like: “Hey, here’s an idea, we’ll just start an interactive agency that can adapt our stuff online,” or will they be less prone to the “channel-adaptation” mistake? I think they might. Why? Well, since the PR guy’s job is to influence opinion of people in a way that is different to regular mass media communication (the staple of the ad agency), it has always been about word-of-mouth, even before the web. Think about it: if, on one side, you have an expert of influencer opinion and how to use it to influence others, and, on the other side, an expert on creating single-minded propositions for mass media: who has an advantage in a landscape where single-minded messages are being fragmented, spoofed, barely measureable, and generally ineffective and where everyone can have an opinion, influence product design, brands and author about everything on a free blog? Yes, it’s definitely the PR guy, not the ad guy. So this is where they have the leg up, but I think they’ve had this advantage rather unconsciously. Now that the web is mainstream, even traditional PR (even if it was more modern than the traditional ad business by design), has to think about PR 2.0 just like advertising has to think about advertising 2.0. And they do, and they might want to break some of the negative PR stereotypes as they go along.

Okay, you say, but digital agencies obviously knew before. Yes they did, and if we again look at Al Ries’ book, you will notice it doesn’t even go into any detail of the potential of how digital channels are changing peoples’ behavior. And here is my point: while some PR agencies had started working closer to the context of the people in order to influence human behavior than traditional ad agencies, most of them still did it in a traditional channel mindset. The reevaluation of what a traditional ad agency has to do, or if in fact, it is still advertising it needs to create, is also taking place consciously in the PR world now. In fact, the question is: if the word “advertising agency” is passé, is “public relations” also a bit yesteryear?

The funny thing is, as the process of redefining the ad agency and the PR agency is underway, look at the schools of thought out there on this topic:

  • Markets are conversations, not messages
  • it’s about listening not talking
  • Engage people on their level, not as abstract consumers, insulting their intelligence
  • and so on and so on…

Doesn’t that sound all too familiar? Isn’t everyone saying the same thing?

Yeah, again, nothing new to anyone who worked in a digital agency, in, say 1995. The only difference is: now everyone is talking about it and it’s mainstream, oh, and bandwidth is better. This is good, mind you, but it also let’s me beg EVERYONE who works in this industry, whether they are in ad agencies, PR agencies, media agencies, digital agencies and even marketing people: don’t we all say the same thing, no matter who said it first, or who put out the best “integrated” campaign? Can’t we just decide that communication is a people business, not a brand business and that therefore everything we do should start with people, not brands, or products or categories or marketing toolkits?

And for chrissakes, can’t we stop putting version numbers on our respective displines (advertising 2.0, web2.0, PR2.0 and media 2.0) just because we want to tell everyone that we finally got the fact that people are in control?

Acts, not ads!

PS: I will be off on a vacation, so there will be no posts for a while.. Cheers.

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Entry filed under: advertising, agencies, business, companies, context, duh 2.0, effectiveness, madness, marketers, Marketing, media, opinion, people, PR, social, web2.0. Tags: , , , , , .

Breaking up Web2.0-style Neuroscience in Retail

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Urs  |  May 31, 2008 at 11:24 am

    The art of “2.0” anything is just another example of branding, typically mass media attempting to round up a set of behaviours into a trend. As you say, the key is to ignore the labels, and just find a way to reach people. Whether that be by a TV commercial, or blog postings; it all depends on the person you want to talk to and what you want to say.

    Enjoy your vacation 2.0!

    Reply
  • 2. Linas Simonis, PositioningStrategy  |  June 2, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    The biggest problem is inertia.

    Often old companies deniy new technologies, new waves untill it is too late.

    Then they tend to apply the old rules to the new technologies. When the rules do not work, the old companies “are sure” that this is the hype ant it does not work.

    That’s why in blogging traditional PR agencies are a little bit passe, and specialized web2.0 agencies are better prepared for this era.

    Reply

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