Bianca Lee-Chang, Publicasity: A question of engagement

PR is now about creating an interactive experience and having a two-way dialogue with consumers

Bianca Lee-Change, Publicasity
Bianca Lee-Change, Publicasity

Public relations is now operating in a different world to the days where a two-sheet press release and list of sell-in contacts was the minimum required for an effective campaign. With a much more diverse media landscape, the influence of a thriving digital community and a more cynical consumer, PR is having to evolve in leaps by moving from interruption to engagement. Throwing out one-way messages and hoping they stick will only achieve so much, whereas engaging, interactive, experience-rich campaigns will ensure brand messages resonate with consumers long after today's newspaper becomes chip wrap.

Engagement PR is all about encouraging involvement and participation - a two-way dialogue. Naturally one would think the answer to this is pure digital, but while this plays a role, the answer is less linear than that. After all, our lives are not only lived on or offline; we now live in a ‘blended reality', in which many other disciplines play a role. These are summarised in four core principles: talkability, experience, interactivity and integration.

With engagement tactics, PR now has an unrivalled opportunity to create the kind of talkability that has only been possible before through highprofile national or broadcast coverage. Now, dedicated strands of our proposals focus on developing buzz-marketing campaigns, brand ambassador programmes and word-of-mouth tracking models to monitor live discussions.

Creating real experiences is a key part of engagement. For PR this is about experiential platforms that create direct exposure to brands, products and services, along with strong PR-able elements to generate press coverage. From street-level brand amplification, to innovative sampling and highimpact stunts, ‘live' brand experiences are key to cutting through the clutter.

When it comes to digital, the way the medium is sliced and diced now - the fact that everyone's a journalist and there's a more open and social approach to communication - means a completely fresh approach is required. But this needs to go beyond ‘bolt-on' tactics. Instead, digital should be woven into overall communication strategies.

We must accept that, essentially, the PR job description has changed. At Publicasity
everyone shares in the journey of creating campaigns that transcend what is noted in the rule books, while taking key performance indicators beyond traditional measures. No longer is it acceptable for campaign evaluations to be based solely on AVEs or dubious reach figures that outnumber the total UK population. Consumer PR agencies are in a perfect position to look at the bigger picture of how campaigns can deliver through direct-to-consumer engagement that brings consumers closer to click and ultimately closer to purchase - the perfect result for clients more obsessed than ever with tangible ROIs and campaign deliverables.

It is also important to note the way the pitch process has changed. Now consumer agencies are not only pitching against other consumer agencies. We're winning direct-to-consumer, digital and experiential work from pitches where we've gone up against specialist agencies and pure advertising shops. Having been on both sides of the client/agency fence, I know there is nothing better than seeing an agency respond to a pure PR brief with an approach that shows a solid understanding of the multiple touchpoints of the target consumer.

PR agencies are in a brilliant position to capitalise on this ever-changing landscape. Being prepared to embrace disciplines outside of the traditional PR mix and rolling them into the core offering is the only way to truly move from interruption to engagement.

Views in brief

If your agency was a food or drink brand, which would it be? Campari.
Refreshing, sophisticated and a perfect mix, just like our team of ‘brand alchemists'
creating the perfect mix of PR, experiential, digital and brand activation.

Which brand has best caught the public mood over the past six months?
T-Mobile has truly captured the nation, embracing the shift from interruption
to engagement with a fully integrated campaign that has multiple touchpoints.
In terms of timing, the campaign has also worked well to boost spirits at a
difficult time, while not coming across as being too financially exuberant
when consumers are pulling tighter at the purse strings.

Bianca Lee-Chang is head of consumer tech and lifestyle at Publicasity

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