The explosion of media outlets in recent years has created much confusion and, in some cases, depression for marketers and brands. Focusing on the key channels that resonate with audiences has become far more chaotic.
But for the consumer, there is more choice, more value, competitive customer service and honest reviews. When I recently bought a new laptop, I simply searched Google for reviews, looked at demos, compared prices and made an informed decision (after a final discussion on Twitter). For consumers, the world has opened up but become smaller. This means brands have to be clear, concise and integrated in their stories - it's too easy to confuse your consumer brand story if you have multiple propositions.
Having a clear, co-ordinated PR message is more important than ever for two reasons - the status of PR integration within the marketing mix, and today's economic environment. PR is ‘hot' at the moment - we are being invited to the grown-up table. Take, for instance, the fact that PR has been accepted into the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival - the Holy Grail of advertising.
Moving closer to the ad world results in pressure to align communications and share the creative process. As a PR person, the advertising creative process seemed a magical mystery - it is not. But it is fully resourced, concentrated, focused and, importantly, researched. It is widely agreed that the integration and convergence of communications is all-important, so it leads on that the importance of the aligned message across all disciplines is imperative.
Today's economic climate has created a new way for brands to communicate. The key to enhancing reputation is to become a brand that people trust and will advocate to others. We know that the most trusted form of communication is peer-to-peer advocacy, or word of mouth - this isn't new. But the economic climate is new and this has created a paradigm shift. We've moved from a NICE (non-inflationary, constant expansion) era to THUD (terror, horror, uncertainty, doubt).
This new paradigm has created a greater relevance and need for online conversations to support offline communications. Consumers economising on going out will be using more social entertainment online, giving them the time to research reviews, prices and product specs. More and more direct sales decisions are therefore happening and being influenced online, so, as with any sales journey, the message has to push your prospective customers in a linear direction.
For me, the most eye-opening statistic that cements the importance of message alignment is that, according to Jupiter Research, 67 per cent of online searches are motivated by offline communications, and 39 per cent of those searches result in a purchase.
There are a few simple rules to follow to start the alignment ball rolling. First is planning: only by understanding what's happening around a brand can you take all its messaging needs into consideration. Second, understand your target audience and how it interacts with its chosen media. Third, a onesize- fits-all message doesn't work: you have to think in terms of aligning the consumer outtake of your message rather than the language.
Our job as PR people is to build and manage brand reputations. Reputations are built around what you do, what you say and what people say about you. We can't control what people say when we are not in the room, although we can influence it. But we can ensure that the way we act and the stories we tell are clear, concise and aligned across all our consumers' touchpoints.
Views in brief
Which brand has best caught the public mood in its communications
during the past six months? I have to say T-Mobile - although it was an ad
campaign rather than a PR one. I think it has really caught a positive mood and
it has been executed really well.
Has your attitude to the use of celebrities in campaigns changed over
the past year? It hasn't changed as I've always preferred to avoid using them. I
think too many celebs are used as an easy way to get into the papers but have
no real resonance with a campaign and can cost a huge amount of money. The
ROIs are difficult to justify.