As a result of the presidential election, the only thing we can be certain about is uncertainty. Politics will likely never be the same — and this spirit of disruption is also upon our industry.
Call it a new network topology.
With that new topology, a New Influence has arrived. Ads didn’t work, polls didn’t work, celebrities didn’t work, media endorsements didn’t work and ground games didn’t work. Here’s what did work: Behavioral influence. Fast content. Earned media. Public engagement. Emotions. Ministering to the people’s passions. All driven by “Make America Great Again!”
The Age of Networks
The Age of Networks and Interconnectivity radically changes the nature of how we see the world. Things are understood and defined by their connections. This Age of Networks is disrupting old power relationships, elections, consumer relationships, cultures and trust-systems.
The Out of Bottle Experience
It is clear that winning customers, even in a category like shampoo, is no longer about what is in the bottle. Winning is about everything happening outside of that bottle. In an environment of product parity, or at least a universal price value equation, the edge of the product pushes the product over the edge. See Trump, P&G, Dove, Red Bull, REI, AirBnB, AT&T, et. al.
“Purpose” is about being meaningful in people’s lives. Consumer participation taking place via social media is the critical unit of measurement.
New World – Old Tools
The leading advocate of our own business, Bob Liodice, foreshadowed it well over one year ago: “It is easier than ever for marketers to reach audiences and harder than ever to connect with them.” Avoidance is decimating brands’ consumer mind share.
These same brands, spending $500,000,000 a day, appropriately anxious for receptivity bid content marketing up from $200 million to $200 billion in 10 years. But content marketing can’t bear the whole burden. What’s next?
Teaching The Old Dog New Tricks
Trump reminds us that it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks. As Ed Bernays, the father of public relations and advocacy, stated in 1922: “Public relations expert is an applied social scientist educated to employ an understanding of sociology, psychology, social psychology and economics to influence direct public attitudes.”
This is a huge, relevant and surprisingly modern remit. However, in the subsequent 100 years, PR never became central, in part, because the practice lacked a universally acknowledged commercial measurement system to rationalize the investment.
For the last 50 years, public affairs, corporate communications and advocacy (PCA) reported directly to the CEO. As of 2015, these areas represented only 1.5% of marketing expenditure. However, conditions are conspiring to give PCA a major promotion.
No sector is better prepared to take advantage of the current necessity for a radical shift from push to pull – and to creatively make use of agile media purpose. Contemporary technology habits and modern media realities make PCA especially relevant.All Parts Included: Re-Assembly Required!
Public affairs and advocacy have demanded that companies own the zeitgeist of public consciousness and find meaning in data. In a world of mass-media largesse, major players knew when they were breaking through with Network TV, newspapers and magazines. It wasn’t as critical to understand what a mass marketer couldn’t see.
But now, as mass media has a shrinking mind share and is more challenged at engaging attention, the rest of the universe matters more — as does authentic insight into those audiences.
At the same time, decentralization and use of the Internet has both broadened and fragmented the contexts of communication. Enter situational relevance. New measurement systems will shift to take better account of implicit information as the core source — optimize message, media and meanings in real time.
The future of purpose looks like an agile advocacy engine rendering brands’ purpose(s) in different ways for different people at different times.
Agile Advocacy Arrives
All this will require a more interdisciplinary approach. Linguistics, sociology, psychology, math, physics, cultural studies — disciplines mentioned a century ago by Bernays can be utilized in a more profound way.
Technology provides a powerful mechanism to scale his original vision.
In a volatile interconnected world, communications practice looks more like systemic readiness, agility and optimization — and less like channel planning and weight.
The New Influence makes public affairs the steering wheel for other channels, such as community management, social, “experiential” events and media itself. Mechanisms of delivering viable content will learn from consumer response to map and meet expectations.
Purpose will now have variability across every touch point, delivering purpose articulations matched to consumer groups, managed from a central DMP.
Finally, professionals are coming to understand that all products are now cultural products containing meanings, values and ideas. The products are a form of communication. Research focuses on co-occurring behaviors and fusing fallow fields of data that are currently isolated.
Measurement will focus on Implicit Information – illuminating and mining the under-served and unlit universes of social data. A number of players are developing such solutions and no central standard exists. MediaPost is involved in such an effort.
Never Waste a Crisis
Advertising has become a miserable business for its participants — unproductive for marketers and an unwelcome annoyance to consumers. Unchecked, the system will continue as a negative pester, in which consumers and marketers drift apart from each other.
However, the Trump illustration is so stunning it forces marketers to adopt common sense as common practice. The New Influence may improve things by forcing marketing to an M.O. of visibly supporting good works. That’s more productive for the advertisers and better for the consumer network.
Properly built, the networks will bring unity of purpose, flexibility of execution, and adaptability to the operating environment. The ultimate tribute to Bernays will be to execute his vision more completely with new and better tools.
This is the framework to shape the new necessity. These are the new ways to break through to people.
(Click to enlarge the Purpose, Public Affairs and New Influence Landscape below.)