Time to shoot the one-trick PR pony

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I can remember the time when PR companies would be dismissive of the need for advertising and advertising agencies would do vice versa in order to protect their own patch. Direct marketing agencies would dismiss both. What the clients ended up with was disconnected marketing conducted by agencies that would only reluctantly work together under duress and with suspicion.

Thankfully the silos have been broken down a little, largely due to the emergence of online as a powerful channel for marketing, and with it has come the whole new area of content marketing. Indeed, such is the clamour for good content across online platforms, Forbes recently reported that the top new marketing job recruited and hired in 2014 will be a Director of Content. 

At the higher end this may well be the case. But for many, particularly those in the SME sector – and that’s the vast majority of businesses in the UK – content needs to be a fundamental part of their marketing strategy moving forward. The conventional wisdom that PR builds relationships and content marketing tells stories may be true but to remain relevant, PR has to undertake and deliver on both.

If your PR or marketing agency is working with you to conceive, develop and implement your marketing communications strategy and your content marketing, presumably, has similar objectives to your marcomms, then the two have to work in harness with each other to be most effective.

Content marketing and PR are two sides of the same coin. The days when SMEs could afford to take on a PR agency to work purely on raising brand awareness or delivering on reputation management are long gone. Thankfully. Today PR and content have to deliver together on brand awareness and reputation management but, crucially, also on business development. A PR agency that purely focuses on conventional media relations is fast becoming anachronistic. A PR agency that delivers content for media as well as across social and digital platforms, including podcasting and blogging, is one that is best placed to help your company engage with customers and potential customers across multiple touch points.

This approach represents an intelligent use of external marketing support, should deliver better value for money, contribute to more likely achievement of your commercial objectives and demonstrate the worth of your agency far better than any spurious calculation about equivalent advertising value or readership reach possibly can. 

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Bland brand – are you the equivalent of magnolia wallpaper?

I know I shouldn’t have been surprised. As somebody who walks around with his iPhone so close to him that it would need to be surgically removed, the findings of a new study into Britain’s online habits still produced some startling statistics.

The Internet Advertising Bureau’s Digital Adspend report found that consumers now average 43 hours a month online, equivalent to one in every 12 waking minutes of their lives – fuelling a record six months’ spend of £3.04bn by advertisers. Almost a quarter of this time is spent on entertainment whilst social networks and blogging take up 12 per cent of the total.

With smartphone penetration having reached two-thirds of the population, engaging with consumers in the virtual world is perhaps even more important than engaging with them in the real world.

This is both an opportunity and a challenge for marketers and brands. I am currently reading an excellent book “Predatory Thinking – A Masterclass in Out-thinking The Competition” by the veteran ad man Dave Trott (http://amzn.to/1bDznWS)

In it Trott tells a series of stories each of which provides a marketing lesson. At the end of one particular story, he provides a series of salutary statistics that we should all be aware of. Although the stats relate to advertising, the message is relevant to all marketers and all businesses seeking to achieve cut-through in their marketing to reach stakeholders and other target audiences.

Trott writes that £18.3 billion a year is spent in the UK on all forms of advertising; 4% is remembered positively, 7% is remembered negatively and 89% is not remembered at all. That 89% means that £16.3 billion is being wasted and the marketing activity it is funding is not being noticed at all.

Too many companies want to play it safe; too many are content for their marketing activity to be like wallpaper: present, nice but unremarkable. Now it’s time to not only think about who you want to target and what you want to say to them, but also how you are going to engage with them. The challenge to businesses and marketers targeting the smartphone generation (and that’s pretty much all of us) is to be bolder, be noticed and be talked about. This is the approach we are endeavouring to take for ourselves and for our clients – we’ll show you soon the fruits of our labour.