Back in the days when consumers only had access to a limited number of media outlets, content was king. Now, the evolution of digital and the proliferation of new channels and platforms has empowered consumers to become masters of that with which they engage.
I recently read on an industry blog: 'People don't read ads; they read the things they like.' Common sense? Yes, but never has this been more true.
With so much out there, there is no need for consumers to engage with content that doesn't resonate with them. Why would they bother? In today's evolving landscape, consumers are king and content is the court jester, vying for our attention with all manner of tricks and tumbles.
Like all great performers, the best content can work on any stage; and the need for campaigns to have greater flexibility and cohesion is very real. There are so many channels available that you cannot fully engage with consumers on just one platform.
This is why the idea behind the content is so important. It needs to work everywhere.
We can talk all day about social media, semantic web, conversations and cross-platform creative, but if the idea is not there at the beginning, nothing else is going to work. It needs to be strong enough and simple enough to sit in the middle of everything, take centre stage and speak for itself.
When it succeeds, it is applauded and the talk of the town. When it fails, it is 'off with its head', these days at a very public execution.
Brands rightly approach these open and honest communications with trepidation. There have been quite a few high-profile scalps over the past 12 months where brands have got it spectacularly wrong, especially in the social media environment. However, this only serves to highlight the need for robust planning and insight to arrive at a solid central idea that will drive the campaign. If you get this right, then the engagement opportunities will present themselves. At Mischief, when we brainstorm creative and investigate feasibility, PR is just one aspect of how we deliver campaign messages digitally, socially, in broadcast and in print.
As strategists, creatives, PROs, publicists and media people, digital or otherwise, we need to work together to deliver these truly integrated programmes. That means getting together at the beginning of the planning process and not working in our usual silos.
We need to think about all possible permutations in the mix and that means (especially in the case of understanding and maximising the use of technological innovations) more input from specialists early in the planning and creative processes to arrive at the all-important idea.
If we are to create the kind of content that delivers a meaningful and measurable business effect, across multiple platforms, we need to be able to react quickly to the changing winds of sentiment and technology. We need to be on our toes, with our ears to the ground, embracing the new with lessons from the old to deliver content that means something to the target market and hangs out at the places they do.
If you get that right, people will eulogise about your content. They will talk about it at the pub, on the touchline at their child's football match, in a cab on the way home from a club, maybe even on a social network. Good content becomes a piece of culture, a branded conversation; or, if you like, a public relationship between brand and consumer.
- Will Scougal is head of digital at Mischief.