The New Rules of Modern Communications: From Owned Media to Agile Engagement

The opening of the PRSA 2012 International Conference took place Sunday  in San Francisco (#PRSAICON if you want to follow along at home via Twitter) with Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, opening with his keynote.  In his talk to the attendees and delegates he made the following statement (that was then tweeted around the world):

While it wasn’t planned, this was the perfect lead-in for my talk at the conference on the topic of agile wngagement and the new rules that need to be applied.    I started my discussion talking about the role of content today and how the media landscape is shifting faster than I can type out this blog post and upload my presentation to Slideshare.


New Rule: Content Needs To Be Unified

One of the challenges that organizations face today is the unification of their content.   Companies and Organizations are trying to keep up with the pace of conversation and content online today, however we are often moving so fast, that we don’t coordinate all the moving parts.   If you think about all the different groups in your organization today that are creating content – blog posts to tweets to white papers – from different groups such as marketing, PR, advertising, investor relations, sales, human resources, etc…..that’s a lot of content coming out of departments that often don’t talk with each other very much – and that’s just in a small to medium enterprise, what about a multinational organization?

In order for content unification to really be achieved process can sometimes be a very good thing.  Open discussions across the organization for campaigns can help push that message further and deeper into your intended audiences.

New Rule: Content Must Have Context

It’s often said that, “Content Is King” but as I often say,  “If Content Is King then Context Is The Almighty”.

Content today needs to be created with context – especially with the idea of the context that our audience might be coming across our content with.  For instance, today there is a great shift happening with how we view our content.  The screens that we view our content on shift throughout the day, mobile devices, laptops, tablets, televisions, etc…  However, as marketing communications professionals, we don’t often thing about creating our content with the context of devices and location of the person.

As search plays a deeper role in our lives, we search using multiple devices, and now location factors into those results.  This adds another layer of added context to our content.

However, on the simplest level the multimedia that we use such as photos and video only have context by the words that are surrounding them.  Too often we post photos and videos with no real titles or descriptions hurting our ability to make that content easily searchable by our audiences.

New Rule: Make Your Content Easy

We need to strive to make our content easy for our audiences to access, easy for them to view, and easy for them to use.

As we get better at creating content with context, our audiences should be able to easily pass along this information or directly go to where we are asking them to go to next.   This also means that we need to be more direct and proactive with that content.  For instance, there is very little reason to send our audiences to our homepages when we should be sending them to the specific page that allows them to take that action which we really want them to take.   The more proactive we are with our messaging and directive we are, the easier it will be for our audiences to take those actions which include downloading content, purchasing our product, or to just simply pass along and share that content with their audiences.

New Rule: Search & Social Work Together

In July 2012, there were over 17.9 Billion searches performed in the US according to Comscore.  For the last 3-5 years, Google has owned 65%-68% of all these searches.   While social media continues to expand its’ reach, people still turn to the search engine to get the answers to their questions – today, more than ever before.

Over the last couple of years, Google has made too many changes to their algorithms to detail right here, but at the end of the day it still comes down to creating content that reads well to humans – not search bots – and the social interactions that we have with that content is now effecting the future searchability of that content.  The social signals that are sent when we share, retweet, +1, content gives a validation of that content to future searchers.   Today we must think about creating content that won’t just speak to our intended audiences, but hopefully encourage them to give their stamp of approval by sharing that content or simply passing along their approval.

New Rule: Visibility + Engagement = Multimedia Content

We all want the best visibility and engagement with our content as possible.  If that is the case, ask yourself if you are really using multimedia to help tell your story.   The sad truth is that while we are reading more than ever, we still prefer to watch whenever possible.

At PR Newswire, we have just completed our second study that will be released next month, that re-affirms our study from last year that when you use multimedia content with your messaging, you get more views.    Multimedia content doesn’t just get more views, but also encourages deeper engagement with content.

New Rule: Know Your ROI

ROI in the PR & Marketing world can sometimes be a very fickle thing.  While we all want numbers and dollars that we can point too, sometimes that’s not going to be the metric that we can easily point too.  Share of voice, links built, actions taken, are some of the other kinds of metrics that we also need to look for.

In my presentation at PRSA 2012, I use a video of Burberry CEO Andrea Ahrendts speaking about the Burberry Art of The Trench campaign in which she talks about the fact that she is less concerned with the purchasing of the product than the mindshare that they are trying to create.

The ROI discussion is one that is too long for this post, but in a simple way, it boils down to having a goal in mind with each piece of content.  Ask yourself the simple question, “What do I want someone to do next after they’ve finished reading this.”

Michael Pranikoff is PR Newswire’s director of emerging media.