I used to think that social media would radically transform the public relations discipline. In a way it will. Getting great at using social media to deliver business value via marketing and communications forces one to re-appraise established models of measurement and analytics and managing content.
Measurement & Analytics
Advertising Value Equivalency (AVE) is laughable. Even considering that as a workable metric ignores the challenge digital and social media arethrowing down at the whole marcom measurement world. We know have access to people's opinions and preferences like never before. What's missing? A few good studies on how that leads to sales for a particular brand and ultimately a data connection between online and offline sentiment and conversion (sales). Why shouldn't PR take up that challenge?
Paul Holmes wrote a post about the concept of a Chief Analytics Officer. His conclusion:
"...Two or three years from now, every public relations firm that wants to be taken seriously in the C-suite and/or a lead marketing role with have someone like Marshall (Marshall Sponder) in its senior leadership ranks, a chief analytics officer responsible for ensuring that account leaders think more deeply about analytics and that the firm works with the best available outside suppliers to integrate analytics appropriately."
PR has long suffered the reputation at delivering soft metrics which is a euphemism for KPIs that don't really matter or are not business-disciplined. If I were making investments in the comms function, I would heavy-up on a world class analytics team. That's my only distinction to Paul's recommendation. I would put a team together who could incubate disciplined measurement across the entire PR function inside an organization. A single officer may not be enough.
Content Management (i.e. Content Activation)
I had a recent experience on a big multi-agency corporate brand project. This was all the disciplines at the table to solve a client brand/reputation problem. The strategy called for a results-driven use of content to establish a clear thought leadership position. The best thinking from search intent modeling to creativity to social distribution came out. But when it came time to own the process of not just creating content but ensuring it moved people to action, no one in the discipline mix had a process to do that. Clearly, the traditional creatives were equipped to create beautiful content. The Search folks could ensure it would meet consumers' stated needs (what they "asked for" via Google). The PR folks were ready to create thoughful POVs and content in a variety of formats. But approaching content in such a piecemeal way doesn't completely leverage what is possible today with content.
Arun Sudhaman from Holmes Report published a post on how 'content creation' was becoming disputed territory for the marcom disciplines. He was citing a recent report. Looking only at content creation is a mistake.
We call it 'Content Activation' and the process includes:
- Content Strategy
- Content Creation & Curation
This model is designed around delivering executable strategy that drives behavior. It does not stop short of creating a remarkable video. Nor does it simply state that we ought to be publishing on YouTube vs. our Web site. It starts with business goals and follows the use of video all the way to measurement and the routine optimization of content to meet the objective.
Who's going to take the lead in this new discipline? The Web team? We are talking about all sorts fo content distributed online and offline, through paid, owned and earned channels. The Web team is designed to fuel the Website. The advertising folks? They are great storytellers but this process must be driven by impact not simply the wonder of terrific content elements.
We all hear the speeches that brands need to be more like publishers. I believe the public relations function could well step into the drivers seat of this next, most important chapter. They have a special appreciation for the requirements of earning people's attention and the voracious needs of content platforms. (check out Arun's post on the opportuntiy for PR in content)