Lessons for Public Relations from the Festival of Marketing

Photo via @FestofMarketing: https://twitter.com/FestofMarketing/status/664759529486315520?lang=en-gb
Photo via @FestofMarketing: https://twitter.com/FestofMarketing/status/664759529486315520?lang=en-gb

It’s very rare that you get to spend a couple of days outside the office, yet on Wednesday and Thursday this week, I got the opportunity to think about the bigger picture at the Festival of Marketing.

Billed as an event to discover, shape, and celebrate the future of marketing, there were over 200 speakers sharing their presentations from creating compelling customer experiences to how the role of the marketer is being reimagined in this digital age.

In a world where relevance and efficiency is key, the event was of particular interest as marketing and public relations continue to converge and wear each others clothes. No longer is it the case that marketers owns the customer and PR manages all other stakeholders, the requirement is now to for us all to respond more quickly and strategically with “one voice”.

#1: You can’t build and keep an audience today without video content

At the Tech Trailblazers hub, I heard from Justin Mier, Partner and Marketing director for MyEye Technology Limited . I’d never heard of the live video streaming platform, but the British startup has been in stealth mode for over a year but it has still managed to raise £2 million in investment, with major help from the likes of David Beckham, amongst others.

One of the advantages of MyEye over competitors appears to be that clips will stay live for 72 hours. It should also be of interest that MyEye is predominately used by ABC1 females, more than any other category.

This wasn’t the first, or the last time live video streaming or social video was on the agenda at the Festival as many speakers shared the view that you can’t build and keep an audience today without video content.

With the likes of Periscope and Meerkat, alongside MyEye, already available there are plenty of opportunities out there to experiment what works for you.

Yet before jumping on the bandwagon and believing your brand must be your own broadcaster, ask yourself the purpose of using one of these new platforms versus the likes of YouTube, Vimeo, etc.? Whatever your approach, make sure that any video content you are preparing or producing is authentic for it to be watched and shared.

Final tip: don’t stream for streaming’s sake. I personally believe the value in live video streaming isn’t brand led, it’s empowering your audience to be your vehicle, providing them with the experiences, knowledge and the know-how of how they can produce or share your content for you.

Note: All the talk of live video streaming encouraged me to have my own first professional play on Periscope on Day Two, as I broadcast the first five minutes of a session on diversity in the workplace via my iPhone. My first attempt garnered 33 live views.

#2: Be aware – and maximise the impact – of external influences

Guy Hanson, Senior Director of Professional Services at Return Path was the first talk I attended on day one, as I sought to gain greater ‘Understanding the Impact of External Factors on Email Campaigns’. Whilst Guy’s talk focused on email as a platform, there were plenty of lessons to learn from the data available to you from email campaigns to takeaway to apply to other marketing and public relations channels.

Contextual marketing is all about creating helpful and timely experiences, leveraging truly relevant information to improve the customer experience, creating real-time value and interactions that customers will actually care about.

Guy revealed how his team did their own experiment to see if weather affected email engagement rates and found some interesting links through the data. They saw that user-marked spam increased significantly during warmer temperatures while engagement decreased, but during colder weather this trend was reversed. He discussed how brands from the world of FMGC and retail who utilised such data points to send relevant and contextual messages which as a result produced significant uplifts in engagement.

From the other side of the fence we saw how email engagement can be negatively impacted, sharing research from the Direct Marketing Association that suggests that many people will complain about a marketing email because they don’t like the brand, negative publicity, or because of a bad customer experience or lack of trust.

Aside from looking outside of your office window to prompt you to adjust and alter your messaging or approach to make sure your public relations is truly contextual, there’s a great opportunity here for some quick wins for savvy comms teams who want to use the power of technology to be dynamic. Really simply technologies allow you to serve content on your website, on your emails or on your social media feeds that consider what’s going on in the outside world. Check them out.

Guy’s mantra should also be a prompt to you to be encouraged to take advantage of all of the data points available to you from your colleagues in marketing. If you’re not already, make sure you’re copied in or have access to the latest email stats, web analytics and sales data across your organisation. There should be no issue of ownership here, it’s all incredibly useful insight and will enable you to take a truly integrated approach.

As a side, Guy also discussed ‘nudge theory’ in his presentation, a technique whereby you persuade somebody to do something without them realising they’re being influenced. If you haven’t yet picked up a copy of David Halpern’s ‘Inside the Nudge Unit‘, revealing all on how UK government uses behavioural economics to examine and influence human behaviour, add it to your Christmas list.

#3: Don’t listen to anyone telling (selling) you the worth of your brand

“Brand valuation is bullshit” said Mark Ritson, who writes a weekly column for Marketing Week and has been the PPA Business Columnist of the Year awards three times. This was a view shared by many delegates who I talked to before and after the panel that Mark appeared on towards the end of day one.

Mark and guests discussed if after more than a quarter century of brands on the balance sheet, what impact has brand valuation had on the world of marketing and finance. As we learned how and why intangible assets are now being recognised with increasing importance, it was revealed how the impact of this figure on your reputation can be decisive, especially in the field of mergers and acquisitions, investor relations, financial reporting and litigation.

After the event, I found Mark’s leader from April’s Marketing Week.

Sadly, most marketers reading this column won’t even understand what I am talking about. They will look at the league tables, accept the inane explanations for why one brand is bigger than another and take everything at face value.

Well fuck that. I would argue that if you can’t agree on the value of something within a $100bn of your peers and if your estimates are shown to be 250% inflated over reality, it’s time to declare the value of valuation to be nil.

Next week I’ll share some more lessons for public relations from this year’s Festival, including making the most of psychological and behavioural insight as ‘weapons’ for engagement, and where connected customers will go in 2016.

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