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Time to tell the truth: what will replace hype, fake news and clickbait: a PR director’s opinion

The abundance of online channels and information chaos have made companies and brands wonder, what promotion model will prove effective. Many do not understand, how to manage customer behaviour: the conventional views on marketing and PR are no longer viable.

The Russian version of the article was published on the website probusiness.io

How have the approaches to promotion changed, and what is to be expected in future? Andrey Ezerin, PR Director of EZERIN COMMUNICATION Agency shares his views to the benefit of business owners, PR agencies and corporate PR staff.

— Based on the use of a limited range of media channels, the classic marketing and promotion model has long been considered a driver of brand growth. With a limited number of channels and a clear understanding of the values and strengths of each of them, a brand used to easily control its communication: TV, radio and outdoor advertising used to ‘construct’ the knowledge and convey the brand message. Media relations used to form the image building upon trust to these information sources, while trade outlets used to be the places of ultimate decisions on the purchase.

Key transformations began to take place, when media and information dissemination methods became hard to control. The new way of information consumption eliminated the brand monopoly on media product creation. The model is still evolving.

From the consumer’s perspective, today’s information chaos looks like ultimate freedom. It poses a real test for a grown-up brand!

Things have become much more complex (more channels, more responses and, accordingly, more work). On the other hand, things have become much easier for inquisitive professionals and perfectionists: there are more data, more segments and more messages. Take a look, for instance, how Opel gets out of this situation by relaying a message oriented at a multitude of segments:
“The consumer perception” became a new paradigm in planning brand promotion. Today, business needs a fast, cheap, super innovative, super-efficient way to obtain the results. Ideally, for free. And, ideally, it should have happened yesterday.

These changes have entailed an entire range of new communication challenges.

Fake news. A recent example: “On October 2, 2018, three activists released a description of a massive academic scam launched by them against several liberal printed media.
Helen Pluckrose with two her colleagues sent 20 intentionally absurd articles to miscellaneous journals, and several were accepted for publication”.

Photos from areomagazine.com

More and more often, we face a situation, when contradictory reports are posted on virtually the same news feed.

Just as alarming are:

• Clickbait (such as sensational headlines, provocative images intended to raise the number of clicks on a publication)

• Super-emotional communication

• Growth of emotional overload, the amount of media pressure on the consumer is on the rise, too

• Total super-promises by renowned persons and brands.

And, on top of all that, there is hype, which is perceived by many people as the key criterion of a communication company’s success. However, hype management turns out rather faltering in a critical situation.

So many times we have witnessed how PR persons, having driven the clients to the hype top, left them there to ‘freeze’, unable to change anything in the wake of a hurricane.

There is an opposite situation. Having reached the hype top, client are unable to use of its results properly.

Conclusion: in pursuit of some tactical results, brands more and more often lose the key source of added value: credibility. No matter how paradoxical it may seem, it is the PR that serves as the main information filter of a company these days.

The time, when the PR people’s area of responsibility was limited to inviting journalists, writing and disseminating press releases and media monitoring, is gone. Today, the PR objective is to create a credible communication, present true facts, gain real interest among the audience.

Rare things are the ones that are appreciated. Truth is a rarity today.

PR professionals are now responsible for a key appraisal including identification, definition and dissemination of valuable and true facts and information. Below I shall share my observations concerning the approaches to marking and PR that will be in demand and will prove effective in 2018-2019.

1. Collaboratoin of PR and digital tools

Today, it is more difficult for a brand than ever to make a choice in favour of a certain media mix from various communication channels.
Instead of a full picture of the market and promotion tools, companies regularly come across a new super effective way of selling anything in the world “without registration and SMS”. Such an approach to communication planning prompts some tactical solutions. However, this deprives the brand of almost all control over such communication.

You must have heard this year that “someone has already made something in Snapchat, and we also need to learn it”.

The first remarkable example of struggle against this market situation was the transformation of the major French media company Publicis Groupe. The company put an end to competition among agencies in the holding by merging their competence within 4 large hubs. Now, a customer coming to the holding will receive the exact knowledge and services they need, rather than those offered by one of the holding agencies.

It will be advantageous, say, for Russian and Belarusian markets, to study the feasibility and need in cross-platform PR collaboration with other digital promotion tools. That model will multiply the brand information effects and provide the brand with the most efficient state-of-the-art tools.

Such collaboration may be exemplified by the NIKE activities with self-lacing shoes that were announced for the anniversary of the Back to Future film. The product idea and link to the promo page were posted on the brand’s Twitter page.

Digital analysis tools then provide for monitoring the message dissemination in various digital media and outside of America, getting coverage in various places around the globe.

Today, we possess incredible methods of information creation, assessment and distribution. The client obtains a real advantage by making use of efficient collaboration between advertising agencies.

2. Message format keeps evolving

Press releases are not the PR person’s key competence, as it has been considered traditionally.
However, the message format changes with the growth of the number of communication channels. The objective of PR persons is to clearly distribute information among channels, realize, at what moment the specific channel will be efficient, provide necessary assistance and manage message appearance in various channels online. To enhance the synergetic effect, in other words.
A good example of such effective cooperation provides KFC that has elaborated a crisis situation with chicken delivery to its restaurants.

3. Marketing and communication in real time mode

Many people think of annual PR activities as the staff or an outsourced PR agency’s preparedness to conduct a certain number of events and distribute a certain amount of press releases by holding the brand mentioning in the press on a certain level. This state of affairs has a baneful effect: the new information paradigm clearly hints that today brands may control only a minor volume of information about themselves. We have discussed this issue above. Moreover, this information may change the emotional colouring depending on the entire media space.

Effective response to changes: regular monitoring of the media space, forecasting the audience response and proposing relevant messages for brands, controlling information exploitation and dissemination.

A brand’s funny joke in a social network – messages based on such real-time marketing, are so far well received both in Russia and Belarus. However, that approach must help create full-fledged, well-planned, implemented and posted information campaigns. That operating algorithm will allow a brand to achieve major savings on media and direct advertising, as well as to maintain its significance and relevance throughout the year. One will wish to do business with such a brand. And, what matters most, the consumer will see that the brand has a clear position and a message one will want to join. A good example of real-time communication may be the case of the Ukrainian agency “Saatchi&Saatchi Ukraine” developed on the cusp of the UEFA Cup finals in Kyiv.

Speaking about the ways of building observation and foreseeing the information trend, we might recall the example of activity of a German retail chain.

We may underline once again that PR does not end, when the last journalist leaves the press conference. Today, the understanding that PR never ends generally is essential. This way, it is much more cost-effective and efficient.

4. Lay yourselves out

We need to rid ourselves of the belated view about the product value in the current media space. A minimum of changes, new packaging and a new taste do not induce a stormy response or a wave of publications. Such a PR campaign may quite reasonably receive articles without any mentioning of the brand at all.

The paradigm “everyone takes an interest in my product” will work, only if you have invented a medicine for cancer, a light sword, or if you are inviting to a flight to Mars.

Partnership programs with mass media, paid information posting and crossing-out a brand from media when the posting is not paid for – is not tasteless. It is a reality, when mass media are the same as other paid media. In order to maintain newness and audience attention, it is critical for a brand to keep following the key rules of high-class communication and do what people need. Thank God, this demand has not changed much lately.

In the end, I would like to reiterate the following:

• Message value and credibility is the only cure for information noise

• PR collaboration with other tools increases effect on the audience

• Lay yourselves out. Minimal improvements are ineffective.

• 24/7 consistency and regularity are essential for PR.

And the last thing. PR persons have always stood apart from admen; they differ even in clothing with a greater conservatism and strictness. No sweaters, but classic suits – same as the clients’. It underlines the status and high-class level. However, that time has passed. PR people, it is high time to take suit jackets off and join the grass roots!