Last week I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by Mickey G. Nall, the managing director of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide.
Nall spoke about how the future of public relations is “tradigital,” a combination between traditional and digital influences. He argued that social media is the future and that PR professionals will have to adapt their strategies to incorporate these changes.
Role of PR
Nall began by describing the role of a public relations professional: “to create masterful stories that raise awareness, shape or change opinions, and influence all parties, build and connect communities that will help propel our clients’ businesses.” I think that hits the nail on the head – as PR people, one of our primary goals should be to tell truthful, relevant stories about our clients.
But it’s not enough to just create news. According to Nall, “We need to make the truth fascinating.”
Break through the noise
However, the PR professional must remember that the brand is integral to the story. With so much information produced every day, getting a message to your audience can be difficult. Nall offered several tips to break through the noise:
- Your “big idea” must anchor the product or service in a larger issue, such as healthy eating or a national trend
- Employ compelling, credible third-party spokespeople, such as authors or chefs in your message
- Use real life stories of people to add interest
- Refer to causes that consumers and media care about, such as human right issues
- Publicize your client in places with heavy media attention, such as the Super Bowl
Above all, the PR practitioner must not lose sight of the brand. Find a way to tell a story that embodies not only the product or service but also the brand image.
How to reach consumers
Interestingly, what has been known as the “age of deference” has become the “age of reference.” Previously, consumers trusted authority figures and leaders above all others, but now consumers have the most confidence in messages from peers, friends and family. (See this MarketingWeek article for more information about the shift.)
This is an interesting development because it requires us to rethink the best way to spread messages about our brand. Nall said that word of mouth drives purchase more than any other influence. We must create talkability about the brand. This may be accomplished effectively through social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook. If a consumer’s friend tweets about how wonderful a new movie is, that consumer will trust the friend’s opinion more than a message from the CEO of Warner Bros Entertainment.
Today, in an age of rapid spread of information, we must combine traditional and social media to make our messages effectively reach the audience. This often involves using social media. Nall says that from a public relations practitioner standpoint, “social media is PR – it’s just a different form of what we do.”
Nall concluded with this statement: “We all need to adopt the tradigital landscape, but we’ll get to shape it” in the future. This is an exciting time to be involved in PR. We will truly have the chance to affect policies. I agree with Mickey Nall’s assertion that we need to combine traditional and current media to effectively tell stories in a tradigital world.