Sunday, February 1, 2009

Feb 09 - Get involved

My old friend Gerry McCusker is one of the most switched on PR guys I know. His PR Disasters blog is a must read for anyone interested in just how badly PR can be handled. He recently shared this passionate rant on his blog:

“I can’t keep it in any longer! Speaking at a conference, I was asked a question from the floor that near left me speechless.”

So what was it that got Gerry so riled?

“In a room full of PR professionals, someone basically challenged the validity of my assertion that Social Media is becoming increasingly influential in issues and crisis management campaigns.

The person asked is a blog different from a website and why would anyone in business or an organisation bother with one?”

Oh to have been a fly on the wall then that question was asked.

As Gerry himself said, “How can modern communications practitioners not know the whats, whys and hows of the blogosphere?”

Sadly I don’t think Gerry is alone in his frustrations. Many of the marketing people I come into contact with at events and conferences seem to operate like it’s still the nineties.

I wonder if it’s because they feel the need to control everything? Brand guidelines and the use of trademark and copyright marks are omnipresent in today’s marketing world.

Yet what use are these brand protection devices when people everywhere are free to not only do what they want with your brand, but also publish and share their opinion for all the world to see?

I can’t remember how many ‘brand onions’ and other brand communication devices I’ve been witness to during the course of my career. The thing is with an ‘onion’ the brand is always at the centre. I just don’t think consumers think this way.

Author of The Brand Gap, Marty Neumeier, defines a brand as a person’s gut reaction about a product, service or company. Which in essence means brands mean different things to different people.

Nowhere is this contemporary approach to brand thinking more important than in the area of social media. The old methods of broadcasting messages and pushing information are no longer valid here.

Marketers entering into social media need to completely rethink their approach. They need to let go of their compulsion to push and control information and let people discover and share information for themselves.

Neil Perkin, from IPC Media in the UK, had this to say about modern marketing on his blog, Only Dead Fish; “The principles on which the networked world are based are counterintuitive to those that govern the world of industrial era mass-marketing.

That means the opposite to what we're used to. Reinventing what we know. Which isn't easy.

And if the two worlds are co-existing right now, it doesn't mean that you can fit old established practices to a new environment based on fundamentally different logic and expect them to work.”

Marketing Strategist Hugh Macleod has a lot to say about new marketing on his widely read blog, Gaping Void. He offers the following advice;

“When you’re planning how to embrace the brave new world of Web 2.0, the first question you ask yourself should not be "What tools do I use?"

Blogs, RSS, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook- it doesn't matter. The first question you should really ask yourself is how do I want to change the way I talk to people?"

In Hugh Macleod’s eyes, if you talked to people the way that advertising generally spoke to people, you’d probably get a slap in the face. Harsh but probably quite fair, me thinks.

Hugh tipped me off to a recent paper by Mark Earls and Alex Bentley, which offers this piece of advice:

“Stop thinking about marketing as something you do to people and start thinking about what you can do to help the natural pull mechanism work better.”

Which segues, I think, nicely back to the start of my column, and that person who asked Gerry McCusker about why an organisation would need a blog.

Because it helps humanise a faceless enterprise. Which gives people something to talk about. And whether or not it is an important part of the marketer’s arsenal, it is part of social media - and so should every marketer be.


Gerry McCusker

Neil Perkin

Hugh Macleod

1 comment:

Gerry said...

Ta for the kind mention Stan...I'm similarly experiencing how SocMed is too much of a threat to corps who myopically want control and compliance rather than rich communication and a search for mutually beneficial outcomes. Your point about 'discover and share' may not align with many short-term exec/shareholder KPIs. Neil Perkin's on the money for me with his word 'govern'; anything that loosens that notional grip is gonna be fought, esp by Marcomm mgmt comfort-seekers who want no boats rocked.
Let's talk football soon too mate eh?