How is communications technology changing the PR landscape?
PR was once about reaching the public through traditional media. Influencing journalists brought access to printing presses, TV and radio towers. And from there, public attention.
Today’s landscape is different. Consumers are participants in a networked theater of billions of people commenting, sharing, aligning, uploading and organising. Depending on your audience, a placement with the BBC might have less impact than the right Reddit post, or a tweet from the right influencer.
Many of the core skills of PR are essential in the new landscape: managing complex processes, distilling stories, thoughtful planning. But they now happen in an integrated, networked media landscape. PR Professionals must cross the “digital divide” and operate in the new, expanded space.
How do you measure the effectiveness of investments in comms tech?
Many of our customers start with a fundamental framework of whether a technology saves time or money, or improves results.
To measure savings, focus on your colleagues using the technology! Are they happier and more efficient? For example the signal-to-noise filtering of NewsWhip saves some “monitoring” users 2 hours a day, and our Google Sheets integrations saves a whole day’s work for others.
Then there’s the upside a technology brings. Here, results are measured in pitches won, client relationships renewed, corporate reputations improved or protected, new areas of business grown.
What are the golden rules for assessing comms tech partners and building a tech stack?
There is no ideal PR tech stack - every firm has different needs and competences. To decide who should be in yours, consider what you need to be strong at and really invest in those core areas.
With monitoring, does speed matter, or are you happy to get a daily report? Does the wider social landscape matter, or just content from traditional publishers?
When evaluating vendors for your core competences, look for true partners. Once your team is trained, you might be married long term. Good indicators of a vendor you want to get into a relationship with: strong onboarding capabilities, a Customer Success team that gets into the trenches with you, and a product team that listens to your feedback, acts on it, and can provide APIs when needed.
Cite some specific use cases where your technology has really added value to the client?
NewsWhip is often used for monitoring sensitive topics and for crisis response - so we need to be careful mentioning brand names.
That said, we know that many agency clients use us to give their recommendations on how to act on a crisis. Marshall Manson at Brunswick says our predictive models are so strong, they’re happy to make corporate-level recommendations using them. Similarly, Aubrey Quinn at Clyde Group talks about using our prediction data to calm a client when a negative story is published - but then doesn’t resonate or pick up steam.
We’ve heard from a lot of the agencies we work with that our data helps them take a step back and see a bigger picture. It’s easy to fixate on what’s being said about your brand, but we help comms teams see that in the context of a whole media ecosystem, trends over time, and similar past issues.
What is the most effective way to partner with PR agencies?
We work with the top 10 PR agencies globally, so we have some experience here.
First, we like to understand what an agency needs. Some want to give their client or crisis teams our real-time, predictive platform. Others need deeper data for their core intelligence or insights teams. We try to tailor our demos, trials and process to those needs.
Second - when it comes to training and onboarding, we accept that agency people are extremely busy. We do hands-on 1:1 training, where we literally show users how to use our platform to solve the problems they are facing that very day.
Finally, this sounds cliche, but it’s a partnership. So we need to listen to product feedback, respond fast to any gaps or needs.
What will be the biggest trends in social media usage over the next 12 months?
We’re going to see less political content on Facebook, which is a stated goal of the platform now. This might leave space for other content to thrive there, particularly lifestyle and other verticals that have been big on Instagram.
It’s also an interesting time for emerging platforms. The launch of Clubhouse has caused a stir, and we’ve already seen some of the established players try to do similar things, with the launch of Twitter Spaces and the like. And though it’s not exactly emerging, Reddit has really captured people’s attention again, especially after the GameStop saga, and I think people will see the value of the niche communities that you can find there.
And all of that without even mentioning TikTok!
How do you best work directly with brands and clients?
Our best work is done when we’re helping people to understand trends in real time. We had Jaclyn Ruelle from the Martin Agency on a webinar recently, and she talked about using NewsWhip at the beginning of lockdown for some cultural trend spotting.
When Tiger King came out, they were able to use our data to quantify it as a phenomenon, see it was a growing trend, and predict it would keep growing long enough to do an activation with Old Navy. They posted on Instagram with some leopard print clothes and the caption “leopard queen > tiger king” at the height of people’s obsession, and that turned into one of Old Navy’s most successful Instagram posts ever.
We love helping brands and agencies to react to events in real time, whether that’s capturing cultural moments, understanding new information, or responding to crises.