‘Post Truth Authenticity’ and other 2017 PR challenges…

Adrienne Robins

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Adrienne

 

A couple of years ago, I remember writing about the importance of transparency in the social media age. In summary, the narrative went something like this:

  • Social media gives everyone a voice
  • If you talk the talk but don’t walk the walk, you’ll be called out – publicly
  • Be prepared – recognise and prepare for your skeletons; understand your shortfalls; build up your bank of goodness; do more to engage

 

And then 2016 happened.

 

This time last year we didn’t really have a clue what was coming. Or maybe we did have a clue – but we couldn’t acknowledge it or put it into words. At least collectively.

 

From a B2B PR perspective, I’ve seen so many organisations that got the whole ‘transparency’ thing. Trouble is, politically we either couldn’t or wouldn’t make that leap.

 

With the benefit of hindsight, if politicians had listened and responded a bit more maybe we’d be in a different place right now.
Instead we’re in a world where ‘post truth’ has happened. And 80s ‘dinkys’* (remember them) have disappointingly turned into ‘jams’**. If you’re of a certain age then it is possible that you could have started out a dinky, turned nimby and ended up in a bit of a jam. Really.
Thing is, post truth blatantly stamps all over transparency. So, do we throw our hands up and forget about it and resolve to change the story to fit the situation as required?
I think not.
So, just how should we be preparing our PR and comms strategies for the year ahead? Here are five areas that you should be concentrating on.

 

  1. Ensure you’re interesting: just because the world around you feels a little bit odd, that’s no excuse to revert to boring messages. Publishers are crying out for content, but unless it’s thought provoking, new and maybe a little bit controversial it’ll head straight into the bin.
  2. Be authentic: authenticity is the new transparency. Live your messaging and follow it through. Of course, you can surprise people – but do it in a good way. Remember those mission statements and values – go back to them and see if you’re really living the dream.
  3. Unleash your caring side: pick up the CSR baton, but try and make it a bit more human and spontaneous. If you or your team do something good – don’t strategise the comms into the ground. Just get out there and talk about it, in a natural, warm voice.
  4. Connect and collaborate: now, more than ever, it’s apparent that people want to meet ‘real’ people and work together to effect change and new opportunities. Get out from behind your content and listen. Add to the debate. Be brave (see point 1). Shape the outcome.
  5. Look for clarity of outcomes: when it comes to PR, measurement has long been a dirty word. Fact is, for most clients it’s about impact on real business objectives. When putting in place new PR campaigns, focus on deliverables and overarching objectives, not column inches. Get KPIs in place and everyone knows the required direction of travel.

 

Wishing you all a Happy 2017!

 

* DINKY: double income no kids yet, an acronym from the have-it-all, shoulder-padded, excessive 80s

 

** JAM: for those that have spent the last month on the moon, Teresa May’s shorthand for those that are Just About Managing and clearly can’t afford a new pair of leather trousers (although they may be wiser to make a different fashion choice)

The dying days of old media?

Paul yellowBy Paul.

 

The other week I read an article that didn’t surprise me.

 

Print advertising in newspapers was down 30% over the past six months, but ad revenues are down on newspaper websites too. (More here)

 

On the one hand, people are buying less newspapers – I can’t remember the last time I bought a physical newspaper, but on the other, people are also consuming news digitally. Yet, this consumption of digital isn’t leading to higher revenues.

 

For the old media, represented most by the national newspapers, I think the problem is that they have become mouthpieces of either vested interests or are staffed by people who have no conception of a world outside of London’s Islington, Kensington, Clapham and Shoreditch.

 

I lived in London for 15 years and I still think it is a great city, but there are loads of brilliant things going on elsewhere.

 

When I moved back to my home city of Liverpool a year ago, I was struck by how much energy and vibrancy there is here and how people are giving a collective FU to the London-based national media and just getting on with being great.

 

There are loads of fantastic businesses here, being creative, being bold, being strategic and taking risks. But too often, the national media sneer at them or just ignore them.

 

Take Nisha Katona, the founder of the superb Mowgli on Bold Street (and now in Manchester too). This former barrister has created an Indian street food restaurant that is loved in Liverpool and I’m sure will be in Manchester too.

Mowgli

 

Check out Mowgli’s Facebook page. Nisha has just written a book, Pimp my Rice, and has had a two-page spread in the Independent newspaper on how to cook rice. She is justifiably proud of this.

 

But as she wrote on FB: “I will tell you why this 2 page spread on Pimp, in the Independent, is a big deal. It’s an encouraging moment not just for me. For a national broadsheet to even countenance publishing an article on a Liverpool local author with no pedigree, no big PR machine, no major TV profile, gives hope to anyone thinking of taking a risk and writing a book. My experience thus far has seen national broadsheet Crackens awake usually, to sneer and slate our northern, outside of Shoreditch attempts, by way of ‘critique’ or caustic one liner.”

 

While people are still reading national newspapers in print and digital form, possibly the advertisers are starting to realise that their brands are being negatively tainted by this sneering attitude to their customers and where they live. I think brands increasingly want positive associations, and the national press are uniformly negative.

 

In fact, it is now better to organise your own event for face-to-face comms, set up a digital communications strategy, and maybe then consider traditional PR as the least important bit.

 

With other communication methods out there that don’t involve them (the sort that we are experts in!), will the national press be able to change?