Why are we so obsessed with channel and mechanic?

As ever in a quiet moment on Sunday I found myself looking at Spun on Sunday, from PRWeek. I noticed that three articles were about the changing model of the PR agency.

It's time to stop obsessing about channels, argues Holly Ward
It's time to stop obsessing about channels, argues Holly Ward
There was lots of back-slapping and congratulatory talk, which is a good thing of course – our industry is getting the recognition it deserves at the top table.  

But what stood out for me was the lack of focus on what we fundamentally do; create ideas that deliver a behaviour change.

What really struck me was that no-one is talking about moving to ideas that create and champion Good Things; sustainability, inclusivity, kindness, tolerance, helping people.  

Why is this? 

I believe it is because this type of idea gets lumped straight in the CSR box. 

If it's got anything to do with a better future it's probably some hippy idea that won't drive commercial objectives and therefore gets dismissed.

But it shouldn't. Hasn't our obsession with the 'new PR agency' become a little stretched by now? 

I remember having that discussion 10 years ago when I joined Biss Lancaster (now Havas PR). We've forgotten what really drives our businesses, helps us stand out. 

In our rush to show how modern we are and how much we 'get it' we are riding roughshod over the very essence of what it is PR people and communicators do.

We create content that will motivate a reaction. 

Frankly the channel through which we sell this content is secondary to the strength of the story itself.  

Yes we should absolutely be integrated; yes of course we should be digitally savvy and we should naturally bake social and digital comms into our plans.  But it’s what we use them for that must be the most important thing. 

And that's not a traditionalist view; it's simply one I passionately believe will transform our industry. 

When brands take a stand they show guts, honesty and integrity. It's not really about making the world a better place either.  

That's too big an ask for anyone, let alone a brand. 

But why can't a breakfast brand help give kids a better start in life, for example, without it being partitioned into CSR? 

Why shouldn't that be mainstream across all channels? It’s the type of message that will engender trust and create emotional connection. 

I believe the time has come to stop obsessing with channels. They are a hygiene factor and knowing this stuff is entry level for any decent PR. 

Let's focus on the idea itself. How can we advise and help our clients to do things that have positive impact, not just get more Facebook likes.

Holly Ward is co-founder of The Forge

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