Looking ahead… to when we will look back…and twelve things to avoid in comms in 2020

Whilst some stories feel like they will be with us forever, literally stumbling on down ever fractured yet depressingly similar routes, there are others that as communications and storytelling specialists are actually in our power to change and adapt, without having to rely on gift receipts to return the thinking later in the year.

There are pitfalls you can and should be able to waltz around like a ‘Strictly’ finalist if they are firmly on your must avoid list. So from a food and drink PR specialist stance, we offer up here our suggestions of a seasonally suitable ‘twelve’ strategies and approaches to avoid in the coming months. Best digested of course with mulled wine and pigs in blankets. A bit like a Christmas party game, but without apologies needed afterwards.

And while 2020 lists of what to ‘do’ still might depend partly on which route the big picture finally takes, it doesn’t detract from the fact that regardless of external elements, the ‘don’t do’s’ are pretty fixed.

So on the first day of a PR led Christmas…

Discover a purpose, but don’t just find it. CSR, causes, from the heart missions. All important. All on consumer wish lists to see from brands doing the right thing. As long as the right thing isn’t a badge or a bandwagon buy in. This is seriously strategic in finding a real purpose, and seriously risky if you miss that part that makes what you do (a) genuine and (b) focused on a solution. This is cultural, editorial, evolvable, about your own people as well as the end audience, and is about seeing 2020 as the decade of delivery. Less talk more action.

Slow down on pushing and do more pulling: editorial still has a rich canvas to work with, albeit increasingly digital and sometimes super niche but with high impact potential. But if the focus isn’t on finding context for a brand story, or explaining  ‘why’ things are being done rather than leading with the ‘what’ is being done, the mission required to find a brand and media sweet spot can be lost. And with it the heart of the story we need people to takeaway and act upon. So be less brand blinded and more cognisant of story brokerage as the PR model.

Don’t ignore the partnership. Influencers aren’t going anywhere soon. But the gap between value added relationships and ‘noise’ will get broader. This is not a media buy. It’s a collaboration. It’s a new form of creative editorial that can drive great levels of engagement and action, but only if you broker a proper value exchange with the influencer as creative partner working hard for the brand with a view on long term organic benefits in the relationship. And in a multichannel way, which is still an area of significant untapped potential.

Don’t miss the missing scrolls of Byron Sharp .  Many people’s ‘go to’ marketing guru champions how mental availability is vitally important for brands. But it is not all about familiarity and frequency: and more focus is needed cross channel on the memorability part of his equation. Pretty critical and not something an ad alone can deliver in a self-selecting media world, when emotional connections are the holy grail. It’s not just about being integrated, it’s about being immersed in a multi-channel story that feels (over used word of the year alert) ‘authentic’. Which can require a different mindset in the mix to the ad world lead.

Don’t dismiss print: yes circulations are falling in favour of digital and the opportunity for multimedia packages to bring a story fully to life. But what other channel has the ability to capture uninterrupted focus when time is spent with it? It’s still a go to media for ‘top down attention’ time when talking trusted titles and rounded features.

Don’t think in pictures, think in film: obviously this is no surprise for Insta or Facebook content, but a LinkedIn film strategy should be close on their heels, as live video / brand storytelling can be an increasingly effective way of sharing stories, missions and journeys for brands in ways that avoid the corporate veneer and over-produced content of old. Think co-creation, think open ended conversation flow, think listening and responding rather than perfection. Time here for the second use of the ‘authentic’ bomb…but it is unavoidably relevant and resonant to go there!

Don’t get stuck on millennials: as with Spartacus, ‘I am millennial’ is the new shout out. Because it’s less an age group or defining demographic as it is now a full-on mindset. We all value experience, we all multi device juggle, we are all bored with repeat messages that don’t feel personal, we all ad block. The rules for that group are now the rules for the mass. 

Don’t just sample without an experience attached. Impersonal does not equal success and brand understanding. Nothing here is shareable or talkable without it.

Don’t get over caught up in brand love. Is what we are doing ‘useful’ or ‘generous’? Or are we missing the heart of a story? Are we entertaining and educating? Or are we just telling people stuff that makes the brand feel good?

Don’t measure just in the masses. Yes broad reach is good. But no broad reach isn’t everything. Make this year the one to appreciate your fans. These people will spread the word if you let them and you spoil them a little as part of a social strategy with good things to share. Inner circles influence outer circles. It’s the ripple effect. And a sales effect if driven of course by peer based sharing.

Don’t put off the crisis and issues planning, Do something everyday that scares you as the saying goes. And if you don’t prep up on what might be around the corner (and in social channel land perception is reality, regardless of the facts) you will be behind the curve ‘when’ something goes wrong. And no one should be prepared to be in that place on the brand grid…

Don’t put PR in the box you might think it is in. It’s strategic, it’s business driving, it’s in the round. And if that bit doesn’t ring true, please go back to the first of our pitfalls and have another read…

So hopefully the mulled wine has flowed, lists are being made and resolutions are set, to go full out front foot for a year that is nothing like 2019! This is less about trends, and more about best practices, shifting sands, audience evolution and finding time to think about alternative paths to take to reach your objectives. As such they are of course topics that live best in conversation…which is what we are here to help feed….

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