Disruption encompasses enduring principles and new influencers

Two different takes on the art of disruption

Instagram celebrity Biggie Griffon
Instagram celebrity Biggie Griffon
Two events on different sides of the country this week centered on disruption and how diverse and fast-moving marketing and communications has become, while also reinforcing the value of certain enduring principles.

On Monday PRWeek’s sister brand The Hub held its inaugural Hub Convene conference in San Francisco, followed by The Hubbies awards. The Hub is all about marketing, data, innovation, and social, and content during the day covered topics including marketing clouds, big data, new channels of influence, and digital transformation.

New influencers are always fascinating to explore and, continuing the canine theme from last week, I was stunned to discover they include dogs such as Biggie Griffon, who has 69,000 followers on Instagram and an agent to negotiate his commercial deals. Other new influencers with extraordinary reach into audiences who brands are using to highlight and distribute their content include Amy Murray, Jacob Santiago, Jessi Smiles, and Brittany Furlan – they all have agents too.

This trend was revealed in a panel discussion entitled ‘New Channels of Influence: Studies for a New Marketing Era’ about how important paid media is in making content viral. Austin Craig, the actor behind the popular Orabrush YouTube videos, told delegates: "Counting on virality will not work. It’s like buying a lottery ticket. Paid media plays a big part in the process."

Darren Lachtman, co-founder of Niche, a community of influential social media creators on platforms such as Vine, Instagram, and Tumblr, reiterated that paid distribution works. And short-form video artist Meagan Cignoli, a Hubbie winner on the night, warned brands against saying "we want a viral video please" – that’s not the way it works.

Cignoli has produced videos for 80 brands and now has a staff of seven. She uses good old-fashioned day-part media planning to post videos at times most suitable for her target audiences. Vine is typically a young crowd, so it’s not good to publish during school hours, whereas Instagram has a more artistic and creative audience who typically access content before and after work.

Then she spends some money on Twitter to promote content and hires some of the aforementioned new influencers to re-Vine content. Once this has all been done the hope is that the Holy Grail of a viral video can be achieved.

For example, with a recent six-second science series for GE, Cignoli worked with 10 influencers to bring the brand into the Vine community. Four posts in one day produced 35,000 new followers and 69,000 likes.

Is this PR? Don’t know. Does it matter? Not really. It is disrupting the established rules of marketing and using smart new communications tactics to add to a corporation’s arsenal of tools to engage audiences, build brands, and create buzz.

The other event I attended was the Arthur W. Page Society’s spring seminar in New York City. This also focused on disruption, with the theme ‘Be a Disruptor: Use the New Model to Become a Transformational Leader.’

Speakers such as TBWA\Worldwide chairman Jean-Marie Dru (a pioneer of the concept through his 1996 book Disruption: Overturning Conventions and Shaking up the Marketplace), Warby Parker's co-CEO and co-founder Dave Gilboa, Mastercard's SVP of market insights Sarah Quinlan, and The Vatican's senior media advisor Greg Burke illustrated different case studies of the way disruption is changing the world for in-house PR pros.

Of course, disruption in a Page context is always underpinned by the society’s seven founding principles: tell the truth, prove it with action, listen to the customer, manage for tomorrow, conduct PR as if the whole company depends on it, realize a company’s true character is expressed by its people, and, finally, remain calm, patient, and good-humored.

Events this week involving companies such as GM, Mozilla, and Samsung showed the enduring value of the Page principles for all communicators if they are to avoid such snafus. And these values relate just as much to the new influencers and new techniques on display at Hub Convene.

As closing speaker Brian Solis told me in a Q&A, his latest research shows communicators are now interacting with around 13 different departments in their daily work. That's a prospect that is both incredibly exciting and a touch frightening - but one that requires disruptive thinking from all involved if the organization of the future is going to truly prosper.

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