Share This Live – How Social Media Is Changing Business and Communications

Last year, the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) published a book with short essays from some of the UK’s leading communicators and digital strategists. Entitled Share This the aim of the first book was to establish social and digital as a core skill in 21st Century Public Relations. This year we are publishing it’s follow-up, Share This Too.

The books, the first of which the first of which was published to great acclaim, see contributors outline their vision on how social media, digital media and technology are changing not just how perceptions are built and protected, but how businesses are established and managed.

Share This Too aims to expand on these initial essays, to inspire and lead a way to better engage with audiences for better businesses, services and engagement.

On Thursday 11 July the CIPR hosts at Microsoft in London it’s second social media conference where influencers from PR, journalism and the business world, will share insight on how these channels have helped them improve engagement.

Speakers include Digital Editor for The Economist and Editor-in-Chief of Economist.com Tom Standage, Head of Mobile at LBi, ex-Global Head of Mobile at Thompson Reuters Ilicco Elia and Digital Development Editor at The Guardian Joanna Geary.

I’ll be charing a session on how social media can facilitate business change and using social across international borders. This is the subject of my chapter in Share This Too, which is an area that is often ignored by certain communication ‘professionals’. The assumption is wrongly made that because the majority of social networking channels originated in the US, the language of choice must therefore be English. But language is only a small part of issues that have to be considered. Cultural differences comes into play as well, which when considered can help drive up engagement. We will be debating this and so much more on the day.

Speaking on my panel will be the Political Minister and Embassy of Japan to the UK, Noriyuki Shikata and Chicago Mercantile Exchange’s Executive Director of Corporate Communications Allan Schoenberg. This is a not to be missed session with leaders PR leaders from the financial and diplomatic worlds.

A limited number of tickets for the Share This Too Live Conference are still available here.

I hope to see some of you at the conference!!

Ipsos Mori Hong Kong - Reporting Live From The Future
Ipsos Mori Hong Kong – Reporting Live From The Future.

PR, communications and advertising professionals have a battle on their hands as audiences become increasingly connected, more demanding and informed, according to research by Ipsos Mori Hong Kong.

In a report released last week, the global research firm sees innovation and creativity as essential skills to bring increasingly disloyal customers onside.

The report, which has a focus on the Asia-Pacific markets, identifies a number of key points that will affect in business in Europe, North and South America, Middle-East and Africa.  These include:

  • Convergence of disciplines – public relations, marketing and advertising
  • Rise of creativity for improved audience building and engagement
  • Increase usage of digital data in campaign development.

Convergence of Disciplines:

Audiences do not care about how brands are presented to them.  Far too often, the planning processes bring together siloed professionals that think of the integrated outreach from a singular point – advertising, marketing, public relations.

As I have argued many times, these disciplines are blending into one with the lead in campaign development being taken by communications professionals that understand the behaviour of audiences and individuals.  This in turn will force organisations to break down the internal barriers to ensure that their propositions are developed to ensure that digital maximises traditional channels.

Importance of Creativity:

Creativity, even in B2B, is becoming a must for brands and companies.  In the report, Ipsos Hong Kong found that , ‘Creative quality accounts for 75% of variance in campaign success‘ and that ‘strong creative can achieve higher recall in-market with less support that weak creative with a higher level of media support.’

Improving the creativity will help position messaging at the front of the audiences decision-making process.

Digital Data:

Social networks and media have gathered together data that empowers not just the audience, but marketeers and communicators.

At numerous conferences and speaking engagements I have stated that today’s PRs have to think in a forensic manner, understanding the audience and planning the delivery of messaging to create a response that will generate engagement.  Everything must be planned and accounted for.  From the concept, to the launch, to the touch points.  It is a journey that needs to be planned by PR, brining together disciplines to ensure that the audience engagement and journey is seamless.

Today though, PRs have data at their disposal.  Data that gives the business decision-makers better insight into audience behaviour.  Data that should rid us of that useless Advertising Value Equivalent.

Audiences are more disloyal than ever before, especially if they perceive that they are treated like the individual next to them.  Social networks makes people into individuals, empowering them to be unique and more demanding.  And it all starts with the listening and learning.

The BBC announced this week it’s plans for coverage of the London 2012 Olympics. Thanks to a dedicated Olympics Player, users will be able to access every single event online and by the press of a button.

Four years after the impressive Beijing Olympics the BBC has capitalised on the growth of technology and the rise in smartphone ownership to ensure that audiences never miss a moment.

Broadcasters have been living in fear of the fragmentation of the television market place, but because the BBC is tax-payer funded it has been able to take a leap and use technology that will put the audience truly in control.

For advertisers the segmentation of viewership has signalled confusion, forcing many to relearn how to reach and promote their brands to potential customers. Television, let’s not forget, is still the most dominant media when wanting to engage with an audience. But this is changing. Today, corralling people together is more difficult as more channels allows people to watch what they want to watch.

The BBC is using these Olympics to test out social features that will enable viewers to learn, comment and share about the event and athlete they watch.

By focusing on a platform agnostic belief, the BBC is putting the Olympics in the hands of the user, weather they are at home, work or travelling.

And if you are outside the UK overseas and want to see how it works then now is the time to get that VPN network up and running.

The Olympics, in your hand. Wherever you are.

Senior media and communications executives met in London this week for the 2010 FT Digital Media and Broadcast conference (#ftmedia10).  At the heart of the debate were the questions of how the sectors were emerging from the global recession and the impact of online and social media on the creative industry and its revenues.

WPP Group Chief Executive Sir Martin Sorrell launched the opening salvo by questioning companies that, from an advertising perspective, were being over-optimistic about social media.  Sir Martin described social media as a phenomenon that was “personal” and therefore “not suited to being invaded by adverts.”  He was right.  This phenomenon is personal and it works because it’s based on conversational marketing that’s more suited to public relations than advertising.

Answering a question that I put to him about if he agreed with Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comment that privacy was no longer a ‘social norm,’ Sir Martin said that “privacy was still the norm” and that this was one point with which he disagreed with Mark on.  “People are still concerned by it and the invasion of it,” Sir Martin added.  We should remember that privacy is individuality.

This opening day coincided with one of the speakers’ key policy announcements.  Mark Thompson, the BBC’s Director General, had been forced to bring forward by a week the results of the much-anticipated strategic review into the corporation.  Thompson outlined to the conference the plans that he was putting forward for consultation.

I was thankful that while we were in a panel discussion on ‘The Future Of News,’ before Thompson arrived, friends at the BBC tweeted me to let me know that Mark was first on Five Live and then on the BBC News Channel.  I also received a link to the following blog by Pete Ashton, which in my view nailed it with regards to what Thompson is aiming for.

While Strategic Review is aiming to slim down the BBC, detractors will keep giving it flak to avoid commentators questioning why their own companies are not performing as well as they should be.  A contact at the BBC tweeted me a private message that stated the obvious, “Part of the fun is that the BBC will always get flak for whatever it does from someone.” Pete Ashton’s blog post said it well by highlighting how the “BBC spent a decade or more figuring it out and, surprise, they’ve kinda successful at this digital / internet game.”  And that is why I applaud the BBC.

So the Auntie is going on a self-imposed diet and will be focusing on: 1) best journalism in the world, 2) Inspiring content that brings knowledge, music and culture to life, 3) Ambitious UK drama and comedy, 4) Outstanding children’s content, and 5) Events that bring communities and the nation together.  These sound like the corporation’s key strengths, but will the cutbacks satisfy its critics?  Will it hell.  But here is the problem, apart from the reaction to the BBC’s own 6 Music DAB station – which is wrong (#saveBBC6music), a slimmed down Auntie will emerge stronger, tougher and more focused on delivering great content.

In fact, in his speech, Thompson stated without any ambiguity, “one day, the web may be the principle platform for all the BBC’s services.”  Ten years ago the BBC went online.  Today, commercial news outlets are still trying to see how to make online work for an audience that is reluctant to pay.

Before Mark Thompson’s arrival New York Times Chairman and Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr, Financial Times CEO John Ridding and Google’s MD Matt Brittin had been discussing the future of news.  All the talk in the lead up to the conference had been about paywalls, would they or wouldn’t they work?

Ridding confirmed that readers were willing to pay for content by stating that the FT had “40 per cent year on year growth” with regards to subscriptions, while Brittin said that “British content [journalism] had a reputation for quality.”  But of course Brittin represented the outcast of the industry after Rupert Murdoch threatened to pull News International content out of Google’s News and it’s search.  Of course Brittin was well armed and highlighted that the search mammoth “send over 4 billion hits a month to publishers websites,” a fact that news publishers cannot ignore.

The Apple iPad was also talked about with comments from the panel about it’s potential for generating revenue.  The FT’s Ridding noted a word of caution by highlighting the risks of subscription fatigue amongst readers.

At this point you start to see what I’d noted for some time, how the media landscape was changing and how the various communications sectors were battling for survival.  Convergence is the word that sprang to mind.

For production companies it is about maximising revenues that can be reinvested elsewhere.  Yes, broadcasters are shop window from which historically they have made money, but with this stream’s drying up forcing many producers to become creative and look to use social media and other networking tools to make money.

Producers such as Endemol know that in today’s multi-platform world the audience is no longer just on television, and they are not just a viewer.  Thanks to user-generated-content and the various online tools people today are producers, promoters and marketers.  A point that is also relevant to the audiences that PRs and journalists are working to engage and influence.

The conference set out a world that is very different to that of a few back.  Consumers are more demanding and want content on the go.  They also want to be able to communicate and share, both opinion and content.  Social media is having a profound effect on how companies interact with consumers, how newspapers and media outlets get stories and how the customer is served.

Today, we live in a world where the audience wants ‘quality’ content that is either “free or cheap” and, as VivaKi’s Rishad Tobaccowala said, “the half life of data is minutes” as everything becomes “real-time”.

So there, go figure how to crack this one and bring the audience onside.  What I do know is that as a PR we need to learn quickly how to navigate this changing media landscape.

A lot of rumours are floating around at the moment about how publishing companies are developing digital platforms for the print offerings.

Condé Nast recently showed off a concept video of Wired’s supposed iTablet application at Wired’s New York store.  The video shows Wired magazine as an interactive title that’s updated with not just print but video content.  Techcruch meanwhile have seen a demo of Sports Illustrated’s concept for tablet computers (above).  The Wonder Factory have worked with Sports Illustrated’s publisher Time Inc to create a video that like Wired’s concept shows how Sports Illustrated would work (below).

These are interesting times for the news and publishing industries I said some time ago that Apple could come into the market with a tablet based device that would aggregate your favourite titles on an iTablet.  Such system would use iTunes to work and manage your subscriptions.  The Sydney Morning Herald ran a story at the end of October claiming that Apple had in fact ‘sent specifications of the device to Australian media companies in an effort to sound out whether they would be interested in delivering their content to the tablet.’  None would go on the record though.

And Rupert Murdoch is very much considering putting up a paywall in front of his titles while taking these off Google.  This could well help the news industry bring in much needed subscription income.

The fact is that news and print as we know will have to evolve and provide more that just words and pictures if people are to subscribe.  The evidence though is pointing to the fact that media companies are redesigning their business and their offerings.