In PR, don’t forget to serve the main course

In PR, don’t forget to serve the main course


by Andre Fourie

In all the hype of new social media platforms launching seemingly every other week, it’s easy to forget the basics. The dull, boring old basics.

The pervasiveness of technology-enabled, personalised social media platforms in current brand and PR campaigns cannot be overstated. Pundits have been calling this the “revolution” as long ago as 2007, when Facebook and its younger cousin Twitter first started making real headway into a new generation of me-first consumers.

And rightly so.

Social platforms are being accessed through smart devices that are carried wherever individual consumers go, giving each potential customers unprecedented control over how they interact with brands. Not happy with service? Send out a tweet mentioning the brand, and you’re likely to quickly get a helpful response from a brand owner trying to lessen the impact of very public, very transparent discontent.

Even in South Africa, where companies are not exactly famous for its customer service, you can expect a fairly quick reply from a concerned customer service or PR rep who is hoping against hope that they can turn a negative mention into a positive.

There’s more to PR than social media

But as powerful as social media is, positive brand equity on Facebook or Twitter should not be seen as the high water mark of reputational achievement. Too often, brands neglect the basics of reputation management - at great cost.

A recent conversation with a talented young PR pro illustrates the point. The young PR in question had produced an inarguably terrific campaign that would cover all the most effective and trendy social platforms - video diaries on YouTube, snapshot videos on Vine, beautiful image banks on Instagram, constant Twitter updates and hashtag content, Facebook engagement - he had seemingly covered it all. But when I enquired over how he intends to use all this beautiful, engaging content to reach people who don’t necessarily frequent social platforms, I was met with a blank stare.

You see, social media is great to encourage on-going dialogue with consumers. It’s great for bringing virtual elements into campaigns, and for generating PR content. But it is, by its very nature, snackable content. It’s the popcorn, chips and Coca-Cola of PR content. Everything works as long as you consume, but what of those customers that want something more? What of the smartest segment of your audience?

I can almost guarantee you that they are looking for more than hors d’oeuvres; at some point they will want the main meal, and for that you need the good ol’ basics.

Smart wins trendy every time

I have always believed that the company with the smartest customers will win. And to reach smart customers, you need more than 140-character updates, six-second videos and endless hashtags. You need to satisfy their need for a compelling story and, while Millennials prefer the brevity of social media, the older, more influential and affluent section of your audience needs the richness in narrative that proper old-fashioned traditional PR offers.

We’re seeing more and more agencies and clients opt for simple messages communicated over an array of new media platforms in bite-sized, easy-to-digest chunks. The value of this is not in question.

But don’t abandon the other part of your audience by forgetting to serve the meat-and-potatoes of the campaign. If you do, you might soon find that someone else has eaten your dessert.

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