From Storytelling to Truthtelling

They say truth is the first casualty of war and similar accusations have been levelled at PR in an age of spin and spam. Selective presentation, murky off-the-record briefings and non-recollection are favourite spin doctor tactics. Meanwhile, the trouble with storytelling is that ‘stories’ can sound like they’ve been made up – fiction.

People have fallen on the sword of truth before but we‎ now know truth sells. Studies show authentic brands and businesses are enjoying greater levels of recommendation and ultimately sales. Even political party leaders have been holding their hands up to the truth in recent election debates.

We’re entering a new era of ‘truthtelling’‎, which is why the PR industry is its strongest ever position. We’ve always been experts in finding compelling and creative ways to make true stories contagious — truths that will earn their place in the cultural psyche. The truth is on our side.

Based on comments I made to PR Moment

Bite sized, easily digestible and very filling

This video from Gap is the latest I’ve seen to compress its story cleverly for the internet era. First, Vine launched with its 6 second format; then Instagram rolled out 15 second videos. Meanwhile, YouTube gives you 5 seconds to decide whether to skip its pre-rolled ‘TrueView’ ads. Short-form videos are fast becoming the trend of the moment – bite sized pieces of content that are quick and easy to consume as you scroll through a social feed. It’s a format that’s benefiting from the auto-play feature now incorporated into the likes of Facebook where videos trigger themsleves as you whizz down your timeline.

Short-form video is something of a cultural phenomenon, driven by our increasing lack of time and attention. We’re consuming more and more content, often on relatively small phone or tablet screens, taking a bite here and a bite there. There’s a place for long-form, and there’s massive opportunity for premium content, but short-form is taking off fast.

We’ve seen huge levels of engagement around short-form video; we’ve also seen impressive organic reach when it’s uploaded directly into Facebook. Shorter videos can also be cheaper and quicker to produce – but you still need a great idea. If there’s one content innovation to try in the next few months then make it short-form. 15 seconds could work out much more valuable for you than the traditional 30 or 60.

Cross-posted from my blog at Good Relations

Everyone needs a bubble machine

Some serious self-built creative tech going on in the office this afternooon

Cyber Monday (and How Online Retail Could Open Hearts in 2015)

[cross-posted from my blog at Good Relations]

Are you planning to bag a bargain online today? If you believe the hype then it sounds like just about everyone in the UK will be searching out some online retail therapy before the clock strikes midnight. Experts predict £650m will be spent online over the course of 24 hours – hitting over £450,000 a minute.

Some consumers like shopping online, others prefer finding their discounts in a physical store (even if it involves wrestling in the supermarket over a 65 inch telly). But it’s always interesting to imagine “what’s next” for retail. I think the emerging tech to watch for in retail in 2015 is Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) proximity sensing – Apple’s version of which is known as iBeacon. It basically enables a physical location or installation (for example, a shop) to track the exact position of your phone within a contained area. The retailer can then “push” to your phone very specific content, like offers or product information, when you’re standing in front of that product on the shelf.

BLE is something that’s been around for a while but hasn’t really enjoyed mainstream adoption yet, for a variety of reasons. The video above shows one way it can work. I think next year we may well see the online and offline worlds merge thanks to this type of technology. This coming together of the physical and virtual is something that brands will need to embrace as consumer habits evolve.

Anyway, Cyber Monday is just the warm up– already looking forward to “Manic Monday” 8th December, which is expected to be even busier…

Looking for Love? Why you need to open your wallet before you can open a heart.

[Cross-posted from my Good Relations blog]

Credit is due:

Credit is due: Used under creative commons.

You might be blessed with good looks, witty conversation and irresistible charm but there comes a point when you’re going to have to reach for your wallet if you want a relationship. Whether it’s the first date or a golden wedding anniversary, at some stage love is going to cost you money.

In the world of online communications it’s the same deal. Flirting with your audience will only get you so far – it’s inevitable that you will need social advertising to extend the reach of your activity. It may seem counter intuitive that a PR agency tells you to buy advertising but that reflect the changing nature of both online communications and our agency. Let me explain…

More and more brands are producing more and more content in a world with increasing noise and endless distractions. 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute; 6 billion hours are watched every month. Over on Facebook the average user apparently faces 1500 stories in their feed every time they log in – which is one of the reasons sites like Facebook have sophisticated computer processes (aka algorithms) which organise who sees what content, ‘optimising’ what’s presented to a mere 300 stories per user. The likes of Facebook and Google invest huge amounts of time and money trying to present their users with what they believe will be the most relevant content. Details of this optimisation are closely guarded commercial secrets but a whole industry tries to second guess them; there are nearly 16 million web entries covering the topic of algorithm changes.

Most brands have steadily been seeing the reach of their content decline. There’s so much content online now it simply doesn’t travel as far as it used to — and there’s only so much you can do to help people find your stuff. Earning views, likes or shares just doesn’t give you enough reach on its own. The way to ignite a campaign and boost content requires an integrated approach. Carefully targeted social media ads help grease the pole for editorial/earned, boosting reach and igniting a campaign by rapidly putting your content in front of the right people. New engagement ad formats are contextually relevant and much more compelling than traditional ‘push’ advertising.

So why not just give up on earned altogether and focus on the paid stuff? We know that people trust editorial, or something they’ve been told by a friend, far more than ads. Advocacy remains incredibly powerful. It’s just that paid media carefully integrated with an editorial programme hugely improves the chances that a consumer will see your content and that you’ll be able to recruit them. Putting your hand into your pocket to paying for love is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s just where necessity blurs the line between PR and advertising.

We’re running global social advertising campaigns now as part of our integrated approach to brand communications. This includes innovation formats like TrueView on YouTube and working with content creators on YouTube, as well as campaigns on Facebook and LinkedIn. Contact me to find out more.