‘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 people on Grand Designs who ignore their architect

Paul Sanderson Hanicke Robins SandersonBy Paul


I’ve been doing some volunteering work, local to where I live. I won’t say what it is, as that wouldn’t be fair.


However, there was a huge debate a little while ago within this organisation about how we communicate to the wider public about what we are trying to do.


There was recognition that I have the communications experience, and so I put together a strategy.


This strategy outlined a face-to-face approach explaining to the public what we do, a digital approach that used a website and social media to enhance that communication, and finally (and with least priority) an approach of using leaflets and the press.


But some of the more conservative members of the group put all their thoughts and focus onto producing a leaflet as that is what they have always done.


A leaflet is fine in the right circumstances, but in these circumstances, it came at great cost to the organisation (printing etc), and its benefit wasn’t necessarily clear.


The problem is that the majority of the group I am working with are set in their ways. They are used to sending out leaflets, and even if it isn’t working, they still feel they should do it.


Although there are members of the group who recognised my communications expertise was valuable, those conservative ones were holding back the overall aims of the organisation by not adapting to the reality of now.


Adrienne and I have written about the 1980s and the 1990s in our blogs, and we shouldn’t return to those days in terms of communications. We have to build on those days, but also adapt to the realities of 2015.

Kevin McCloud Grand Designs

Working with the volunteering group reminded me a bit of those people you see on Grand Designs who have a vision for their dream house, they employ an architect who draws up the plans and they love the house they are going to get.


But as the build progresses, they keep interfering and changing things, even though the architect looks on aghast or even walks away. Mistakes and misfits start to get introduced, and you can tell the building won’t be as good as was originally planned. Windows are slightly misaligned, or awkwardly shaped walls are introduced.


By the end, Kevin McCloud will usually say something along the lines of “it is a good house, but architects design great houses”.


With communications, if you employ that expertise, you have to know your objective, develop the strategy for communicating it, then implement that strategy keeping in mind the objective.


If you want great communications support, you also have to know why you want it and then trust it.


Eventually, I developed a strategy to communicate to these conservative volunteers. At the meeting, I reiterated the strategy, explained why we shouldn’t focus too much on the leaflet, but should look at our overall objective…and I eventually got my way.


Our communications campaign is already delivering results.


How old is too old?

Adrienne yellowBy Adrienne


My heart says I’ll never be too old. My head says it may happen one day – but not yet.


Let me add some context before you read any further. I’m 48 and I’m loving this decade. I’ve got shed loads of experience that people value. There’s still lots to learn and new avenues that need exploring. Suffice to say, I have high hopes of my 50s too.


The thing is, when it comes to age you need to ask “what for?” And in this instance I’m thinking specifically about social media.


The thing about social media is that it can make you feel old. Even when you’re still in your twenties! The constant change, updates and ongoing affirmation are not for the faint hearted.


Today I had coffee with a couple of ex colleagues, one a marketing strategist and the other an SEO expert. Between us we span three different generations. And to be honest, because we’re marketing bods, we’re good at social media. It’s (part of) the world we work in. The one we’ve embraced, even if none of it existed when we created our first campaign or filed our first copy.



So, while the three of us will happily post, pin, share and comment, we’re probably not representative of our peers. For us social media is about creativity – not age. But for some social media is very age specific.


I say this because one of the comments I hear over and over from my B2B clients is “But I don’t get social media”. Swiftly followed by “I can’t waste my time on Twitter” and “Why should I bother with LinkedIn?”


As for Instagram and Google +, for many medium sized B2B clients, these are still uncharted territories. What’s changed recently, though, is that these same people are now telling me they know they “need to do something” – they just don’t know what. Or who should do it.


Here’s the thing: effective B2B social media needs time. To get time it needs to deliver results. To deliver results it needs to be backed by a solid strategy and messaging.


To achieve this your strategic team needs to combine brand and strategy expertise (likely to be director level) and social media understanding and enthusiasm (likely to be executive level).


Delivery needs to be clearly directed, efficient and responsive. It’s not enough to simply hand your social media over to your newest, youngest, most enthusiastic recruit and watch from the sidelines. But you can manage the process as a team.


My advice for those struggling with social media is this:


1. Understand why and how

Know how they work, who they talk to, and what they can achieve. Relate them back to your marketing goals.


2. Be honest

If you need to do more, are you really the right person to deliver it? It might be more cost effective to enlist the help and creativity of a social media expert or to upskill and manage a member of the marketing team.


3. Find shortcuts

Investing in a tailored training session can be a quick win. DIY social media means you’ll have to find your own shortcuts. Insist that your trainer leaves you with a list of social media hacks.


Back to my initial question: how old is too old for social media?


The answer is never – you just need a strategy and team which plays to your strengths (and interests).