I write about digital strategies and communications — and their intersection with culture, politics, journalism and social activism.


"Marketers Ruin Everything"

(Image courtesy of Ryan McGuire @ http://gratisography.com/)

The headline is typical Gary Vaynerchuk hyperbole. In his 2013 video called Stop Storytelling Like it's 2007, Mr. Vaynerchuk put it more categorically:

The one thing I know more than the sun is coming up tomorrow is that marketers ruin everything. As a proud marketer, it's what we do.

A successful marketer, entrepreneur and author (Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, #ASKGARYVEE), Vaynerchuk will find nothing to disagree with in a recent social insights study from Sprout Social that tracks how far most companies are from satisfylng consumers with their social media campaigns and strategies. According to the study, "brand behaviours don't even come close to syncing up with people's expectations on social."


Because marketers can't seem to get their minds around the idea that consumers want less and less to be pushed product, shouted at or marketed to. They don't crave more promotional content.

Instead they want to hear from the company when they ask a question or identify a problem

Yet according to this insights study only 11% of consumers receive a reply when they get in touch with a company through social media — the preferred route by the way — about an issue, problem or question.

Recently, I posted a simple question to American Standard Canada on Facebook about the availability of one of their products. A few days later I received this response (admittedly a better response time than for many brands).

I did . . . they didn't. I bought a different product.

The study evidences what I think of as a social strategy investment disconnect. Money is splashed into creative online marketing campaigns, when a few more dollars could profitably be channeled into active social media customer service and social network community management. What such an approach lacks in glitter, will be made up for in affinity between people and brands.

And maybe while they're at it why not swell that reinvestment a little by shifing dollars from the hard sell and promotion to telling stories that startle with emotion, empathy, and delight . . .

And, yes, reply when asked.

As Sprout Social says:

While brands view Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as broadcast outlets for pumping out promotional content, consumers recognize these social channels for what they truly are: powerful portals for two-way dialogue.


PR in the 21st Century

Anyone who has known me professionally or as a university and college sessional instructor will not be taken aback when I say I find one of the data points in the chart below not in the least surprising.

Another is a bit perplexing though.

The USC Annenberg Center for Public Relations released its Global Communications Study last month on the opinions of 460 global in-house and agency public relations executives about the future of the PR industry. (Curiously only a third of the respondents who began the online survey finished it! What's that about?)

The chart (mine) below summarizes their views on one important matter—the specific services that will drive future growth in the PR industry. 

The study reports:

When asked about specific services that will drive future growth, agency and client-side respondents were focused on increased demand for content creation (81%) and social media (75%), as well as more traditional activities such as brand reputation (70%), followed by measurement and evaluation (60%).

Traditional media relations still ranks relatively high for both corporate and agency leaders (55%). However, advertising/paid media (18%) ranked last of 18 possible growth drivers. 

From my frame of reference having transitioned 10 years ago from 20-odd years as a PR counselor to a digital strategist, I have often—too often?—argued that with a few agency and in-house exceptions PR lagged only public affairs in having had an obtuse disregard for the shift from media relations to digital that began, yes, about 10 years ago. 

After rejecting for years that media relations could be anything but core to PR, practitioners now appear willing to rank it where it belongs — not especially consequential as a growth driver.

But is the PR industry again blind to the next turn?

To rank advertising/paid media last out of 18 possible growth drivers is to misunderstand where social influence and relationships, content programs, reputation strategies, and social network architecture are heading.

Communication strategies today start with objectives like uncovering and nurturing influencers, fitting together networks and relationships, and conceiving content that rocks and changes behaviour. Often that depends on integrated social interaction and paid approaches, and certainly art and design skills now still found predominantly in creative agencies.

PR teams and PR agencies wanting to engineer relationships with audiences and influencers will have to come to terms with the fact that when you are talking about sculpting communities on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat and Pinterest . . . visualize earned and paid.