Foreword: Digital alarm call

Michael Barnett, supplements editor

In an era of round-the-clock news and social media controversies, marketers and PR professionals are being forced to raise their game. Now, more than ever, choosing the correct communications strategy is crucial.

Michael Barnett

When former UK prime minister Tony Blair went before the Leveson Inquiry last year to answer questions on the culture of the media, his evidence encapsulated perhaps the biggest dilemma ever to confront the communications industry.

An astute media operator he may have been, but even Blair had to admit that whereas the public response to stories in the press once resembled “a building wave of opinion, which if you intervened in the right way would maybe ebb again, it now reaches tsunami force in hours”.

He was talking about politics, but the same is undoubtedly true of brands and corporations. Now that news is a 24-hour-a-day phenomenon, now that information spreads like wildfire thanks to social media and now that consumers can add to the clamour from almost any location using their mobile devices, marketers and PR professionals can’t control the message like they used to.

That’s the problem, now what’s the solution? The immediate response would be to say: dive headfirst into social media, read every tweet and react instantly to sway the narrative in your favour. For some companies, that may indeed be a fruitful course of action – for a while at least. But as this issue of PR Strategy explores, for every brand there are nuances in the relationship with their customers that will affect the ultimate answer.

What’s most striking about the six essays you’re about to read is just how different the approach of each of our featured suppliers is. It’s a recognition that there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy governing how brands should communicate in the digital age.

BWP Primal lays out the case for integrating PR with the rest of your marketing mix, while Cision highlights the importance of content and Clarion Communications wants to help you turn your brand into a celebrity. If you’re keen on using data to understand what people are saying about you, Ebiquity’s essay is required reading. To understand why good crisis management and relationships with influential media voices are indispensable, Focus PR and Talk PR’s pieces are also essential.

The reasons for picking a particular PR strategy are many and varied. The determining factors can be both internal and external to your company; they can be about both impact and accountability.

Some brands need to have the oxygen of publicity kept on constant supply to maintain a mass-market positioning that relies on high awareness and consideration. Others prefer to stay above the fray, but will still want to keep an ear to the ground so they know what customers think of them.

In PR Strategy, you’ll get six pitches in one place, all without leaving your chair. It’s up to you to decide which way you go.

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