Three PResents: Insight from Wild Card MD Richard Medley

Whether you are worrying about bleak mid winters, excited by hallelujah moments or thinking afresh around monsters that might be under the bed, the glue that ties disparate Christmas attitudes together for everyone is clearly Love Actually. Maybe Elf. At a stretch, Home Alone…

In essence, messages wrapped up in storytelling which aim to make us think of what’s important in life, of reinvented attitudes and ‘I want to be part of that…’ ambitions.

So in the spirit of festive storytelling, here are three ‘stocking fillers’ from Wild Card that might make you think afresh on things for next year- especially if you imagine Hugh Grant or Will Ferrell bringing them to life.

First up is the Ghost of Christmas future. Also known as the Spirit of Listening

For while much of PR is typified by talking, the core ‘always on’ strategy increasingly has to be a listening one. Without it we risk ending up with ideas without context, conversations without momentum, and silence at the wrong time when an audience actually expects to hear from you. Listening is not the same as data and research. This is live intelligence, is why social media has to sit under the PR remit of working with immediacy and unpredictability, and why matching what brands want to say with what audiences want to hear is the crux of the craft of engagement and gaining trust. So, while annual planning still has a place, investing in quarterly creative agency-client huddles perhaps is more the model to follow for shaping real live stories of relevance to tell. Time to keep a precision pot aside for sharpest cut through?

This links to the second stocking filler, which is about heralds harking the modern age of editorial. Awareness doesn’t cut it as an outcome in challenging markets, and brand understanding has to be the minimum comms goal. To achieve that, we believe you need a slice of editorial style authenticity working through all your channels, with editorial not an attitude limited anymore to ‘press’. Ads that don’t feel like traditional ads. Email marketing that engages and sells more subtly. Sampling that isn’t just getting product coldly into hands. We are clearly in an age of societal disruption and anti-establishment culture. Of a shifted centre of influence. So, we need to break the marketing establishment a little too. It’s exciting to see a PR agency recently producing their first TV ad and mixing up how that TV slot was used.  Creative disruption should see more parallel briefing of agencies of all creeds with open creative challenges, increasing the potential for editorially believable campaigns to add freshness to both brand understanding and affinity levels. First step, recut the timing of briefings and park pre-programmed expectations?

Third up is the influencer sleigh ride, and the single most important factor in making this channel work: proper consideration of the value exchange in the relationship. The reality check is that many social influencers require payment to work with them. But this doesn’t mean they are a commodity that should be bought primarily on reach figures as you might a media buy. If you miss out on the relevance of the Influencer to the story you have, you are off target. If you miss out on resonance of the story in terms of their audience’s likely engagement, you are off target. And if you don’t build a personal relationship on creativity and gaining their enthusiasm, you miss out on the real depth of value they can bring. It’s a two-way relationship where input is what we are paying for but if you haven’t got the people managing the relationship, story build and exchange who get the ‘relations’ bit, then you risk ticking boxes rather than driving conversation. We’ve significantly grown our social talent in recent months, and have been lucky enough for several clients to switch their social briefs into our remit –  but at the same time we make sure the joined-up approach keeps our brand teams working hand in hand with our delivery experts. This is expanded outreach, not siloed campaigning.

Which brings us back to the beginning and stories we all want to be part of. Whether it be the end audience, the storytellers to help us get there, or just the topical vehicle to adopt, integration is not just about channels working together or messages, but about style and alignment with what is happening in the world. It’s relevance and resonance for the disrupted era..

And if we get that mentality collectively right in this difficult age to fathom, then we might end up Walking in the Air. As opposed to falling foul of too much traditional stuffing. And it’s what for example helped us land 50 national media features in one recent month for a range of clients

We’d love to talk more with you about how these themes and others are defining how PR can be the sharpest tool in your box. Mince pies on us. Or detox smoothies if we are staying relevant and the chat is in January

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