By Pascal Beucler, SVP & Chief Strategy Officer, MSLGROUP
Our PR industry is confronted by its most serious disruption ever, as digitalization and disintermediation profoundly change the rules of the game.
Big data, smart ideas: it’s a data-driven world
Our clients ask us for only ideas driven by data and backed with rich insights and foresights, because this is the only way to engage successfully with people and communities. We need to develop a culture of mining and applying insights, to be able to deliver on these criteria.
Relevance has a deadline: it’s now, or never
In computing sciences, the concept of real-time relates to a system in which input data is processed within milliseconds, so that it is available virtually immediately as feedback (like an airline booking system, for instance).
We’re not up to milliseconds yet, in the world of PR, although it might come sooner than we think! But clearly, the more it goes, the more our time unit is minutes, not hours, and surely not days.
And, just like for computing sciences, it all starts with data, big data.
Yes, time is of the essence, real-time PR is the new norm
People are always-on. Brands are always-on. How can PR agencies not be always-on?
The new name of what we do – or should do in PR – is Real-Time Engagement: the classical campaign format, nurtured by insights that three people came up with, is gone, not to mention the good old press release.
PR today can be everything – like crowdsourced content, a smartphone app, a viral video, an experiential point of sale, a crowdfunding initiative or a social gaming component. If you can combine experiential and social, you’re hitting the sweet spot: the power of a live experience + its social amplification.
Context-driven Conversations are the way to go
The insights today come from the conversations that thousands or millions of people have now, which we need to take advantage of within minutes. It could be called Contextual Conversation.
These are major shifts, risks or opportunities, which we need to address if we wish to survive in a very tough, highly competitive environment.
It should therefore be no surprise for us, that the demands to be creative have never been higher. Brands and organizations are under enormous pressure from audiences to be authentic, meaningful and quick in their engagement. Clients in turn demand the same from us.
Gone are the days when ‘creativity’ meant a singular, linear campaign – a series of posters, a short film, a stand-alone press release. Audiences want to be more involved as co-creators of the message and want to engage with brands they are proud to be associated with.
As the playing field becomes more crowded with more brands fighting for the limited space on people’s timelines, creativity is crucial to cut through the clutter.
Fundamentally, this is not too far from what our industry does best: engaging stakeholders in conversation on their preferred channels. But as an industry, we are not currently recognized as being creative. It’s not just the lack of awards at the Cannes creative festival which pushes us to reflect on our creative performance. It’s what clients are saying too, as the The Holmes Creativity in PR study 2014 reveals: only 18% of clients are consistently happy with their PR agency’s creativity.
Creativity re-defined for the Conversation Economy
Before we march to become more creative, let’s re-define what it means to be creative in the Conversation Economy.
Empathy: the ability to understand people’s feelings, beliefs and needs.
Again, the traditional advocacy system is gone. In today’s peer-to-peer culture, people are far more important than brands. Like a young Millennial put it up recently: “If I speak of your brand to my friends, it’s not because I like your brand, it’s because I like my friends.”
From a creative standpoint, our task is much more complex than it used to be, as we must deal with several ‘levels’: longer-term narrative, short-term centres of interest, real-world context, and deep knowledge of the key conversation drivers in real-time.
Relevance: its power is boundless.
If you’re not on people’s timeline, all through the key moments of their day, if you don’t know what’s in their life and mind, how can you help your clients be part of their conversation?
But if you’re there, it’s magic. The power of relevance is boundless, and it’s opening very fruitful collaboration and co-creation with your client’s audience.
We also need to realize that people are changing too. Economic, geopolitical, technological and social factors are no doubt influencing people’s values and behaviours. We must be well versed in these differences: what stereotypes and rituals have changed? What are the new norms and expectations of the different generations?
Fluidity: it has to be a fully seamless process.
The way you contact people, how you actually connect with them, and the nature of the content you share with them: that’s what gives you a voice in the conversation.
For this to happen, we need to have an intimate understanding of how people access information, how they make up their mind, how they ultimately make their decisions and how they go about their purchases.
We must understand that the whole traditional, vertical, pyramidal, top-down system with its gate-keepers and little circle of key influencers is upside down. And that this is true on the Corporate side of the business as well as on the Consumer side. There is no difference.
In a nutshell, the next gen PR agency needs to cross all traditional boundaries, from strategy to activation, from marketing to communications, from developing apps to telling stories that matter.
Creativity in the world of People Relations (PR)
Publicis Groupe’s mantra of IQ, EQ, TQ and BQ applies to PR as well. In addition to the necessary intelligence and emotional quotients, and the now crucial technology quotient, we must be bloody quick!
What does it mean for us?
We need to accelerate our Digital Re-Invention, and do it from a 100% people-centric perspective: brands belong to people.
- We must be more aware, of the impact of technology on everything from culture to society and business.
- We must be smarter, and back our ideas with strong insights and data points.
- We must be quicker in delivering meaningful, relevant Ideas, stories, content, campaigns and experiences.
- We must be more responsive, to all stakeholders, involving them in the brand’s initiatives and shaping the initiative in response to their feedback – whether they share it with us or not.
We see this as a challenging, but exciting game to play.
Let’s win it, by Making Our Clients’ Voice Matter. This is our Purpose at MSLGROUP: this is the way we define what we stand for as a global organization, why we exist, what our raison d’être is and why it creates a tangible value for our clients and for all our stakeholders. And by the way, let’s never forget that “Purpose” and “Propose” have the same etymology: a relevant Purpose needs to translate into a consistent value proposition for all, internally and externally.
What “We Make our Clients’ Voice Matter” actually means is two things:
- VOICE: it means we help our clients have a voice in the always-on conversation, raise it when needed, be heard and listened to. For this to happen, we help them generate the appropriate content and spread it to creatively engage with the people and communities that matter to them. And creatively is not “just” an adverb here: it’s a commitment.
- MATTER: if it matters, it has to be of importance, it is influential. And it therefore needs to have significance, sense and meaning for the audience. This so important today, in a world where the quest for meaning is a pressing reality, particularly for the numerous and crucial Millennials’ Generation.
What we stand for at MSLGROUP is to create value for our clients by linking the power to make oneself heard (through engagement) with the power to convince (through relevance).
This post is a part of our People’s Insights report The Future of Creativity, in which experts from MSLGROUP and some from Publicis Groupe identify 15 drivers for engaging creatively in 2015.