Of, about and around – brand stories

In a kind of celestial collision of heavyweights, the different disciplines that currently operate in the digital space regularly collide with each other when it comes about the best way for brands to operate in the digital space. Many people will tell you that there is one way to get it right and it’s usually the discipline that they work in. I firmly believe that this just isn’t the case, anyone that tells you there’s only one way to do things either doesn’t have the big picture, or doesn’t want you to see the big picture.

There is a difference between the way that the disciplines operate in this space and it’s usually in the way the story is told and that’s not to say that one tells it better than the other, i.e. advertising gets better cut through, PR is more believible. I remember working closely with some advertising cousins on a combined brief and the lead creative was somewhat struggling to come to grips with the social media space and said “I’ve always been taught that if you make something so f**king beautiful, so f**king interesting, funny or whatever…not only with they watch it and enjoy it, they’ll thank for your it”. I think that’s absolutely right and it actually applies to us all when working in the digital space.

The point of difference is the way we tell our stories, but fundamentally, shouldn’t what we all be doing  “something so f**king beautiful, so f**king interesting, funny or whatever…not only with they watch it and enjoy it, they’ll thank for your it”? The answer is yes and the true tick of marketing that uses all disciplines in harmony is that you end up with conversations that are: “Of” the brand, for example owned presences such as websites and so on, “about” the brand, which is where I feel truly great advertising and PR should operate, then finally “around” the brand which is where PR and WOM drive further user-generated conversation around a brand. The point is, if just one works in isolation, how can they possibly be effective?

SEO Vs PR: is there really a battle for Social Media?

I am fully prepared for a whole heap of disagreements on what I am about the write, but after sharing a link on Twitter about the so-called “battle for social media”, I thought I’d actually get my thoughts down. The article in question was by Andrew Girdwood and can be found here.

As I said the first time I read the article, I think that it’s an interesting take on the situation and I agree with it for the most. One part that I do disagree with is that “online PR” and “social media PR” are separate entities – they aren’t, they are part of the whole PR mix. Yes, there’s a different level of understanding required, yes there are different approaches, but it’s still PR.

Throughout my career, a few things have always stuck with me and one was an old MD of mine who used to say “the best skills for the job”. As such, she never looked at her agency as the consumer team, the technology team or the online team – she actually used to think in terms of “who’s my best radio person”, or “who gets killer pieces in the tabloids” and so on. I think that it’s the same for any client today – the best skills for the job.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that clients require a whole host of skills to get the job done. For instance, the launch of a new product might involve messaging developed by corporate PR, seeding by digital/social media PR and execution by consumer PR all backed up by a solid SEO programe. It’s not just one thing. Which kind of leads me on to the bit where I agree with Andrew – It’s about working together within the wider marketing mix. Solid marketing programmes need “the best skills” and that means PR, advertising, SEO, experiencial and so on….whatever the client’s needs are.

Where I see the difference from a PR point of view is the actual conversation. We’re not SEO specialists, sure, I understand SEO and I integrate it into the work I do where I can. Ultimately, I’d love to work more closely with SEO peeps to get my content and conversations working harder. But that’s what we’re about, the conversation…. that’s out Kung Fu if you will. And that’s where I might upset people, I don’t SEO fulfilling that role,  I see that as purely PR.

My closing thoughts – I just go back to what my old MD said – “the best skills for the job”