Trick or treats in the digital world

A recent article in Forbes about the current state of the client-agency relationship is a good reminder of just how disruptive digital media is for those of us working in the communications profession. And while there will be tricks to adapting, long-term, the treats will be worth it.

According to Avidan Strategies, digital is not only blurring the lines between advertising and PR. It’s forcing advertising and PR agencies to rethink themselves, in terms of who does what. And perhaps more importantly, it’s pushing agencies to take a good look at how they deliver — and what they deliver — to their clients.

The shift is seismic and it will continue. As it does, here are three related shifts that we see coming fast:

-Shift from information to news. Storytelling is an over-used word that’s been co-opted lately by everyone from presentation coaches to brand strategists. However, used it in the way professional journalists use it, a ‘story’ really comes down to an idea that has inherent newsworthiness.

Going forward, we believe it will be less about which agency does what, and more about working with practitioners who know how to research, find the nugget, shape a narrative and tell a story. Each step is important. And while today, there is a lot of emphasis on the ‘telling’ of the story, we see an increased need for people who can expertly sift through the data, analyze it, do the background checks, follow the money, understand the context and figure out the difference between a reliable source and public opinion.

In the digital world, we are all shaping content for each other, constantly. And so people who know how to unfold a story, inject it with purpose and curate it so it packs a punch will be highly sought-after, for both our news and our entertainment.

- Shift from generic to authentic. A new study out yesterday points to an upward trend in consumers’ desire for authenticity.

For some consumers, authenticity is about the alignment they see between a brand’s promise and the reputation of the company that produces and markets that brand. So if the stories that are circulating about a product contradict the brand promise — or the CEO’s conduct doesn’t jibe with the stated values of her company — an authenticity gap opens up, with the online world just waiting to fill the vacuum and undermine reputations. Chief Marketing Officers, Chief Reputation Officers, their in-house teams and their agencies will assume increasing accountability for authenticity and reputation/risk management going forward.

- Shift to greater efficiency. The silos between advertising and PR, and between marketing, corporate communications and public affairs are eroding. And hallelujah!

Digital is driving the change, and what’s coming is less of an emphasis on who does what, and more of a shift towards who does it efficiently.

Assuming the underlying goal is to communicate strategically with consumers, stakeholders, employees and investors, does it really matter if the great idea comes from the in-house team, from the advertising agency or the PR consultant, or a combination of the above? It shouldn’t. What’s more, if a strong strategic idea can be integrated across different platforms by fewer people, doesn’t that make work more efficient and life easier, in the end, for our clients?

This leveling of the playing field between big and small practitioners — and between practitioners themselves — will continue. In the end, it may not mean less money spent, but it will certainly result in a more efficient, rational and streamlined use of resources from strategic development, through approval, and all the way to final delivery.

These are just a few of the treats that await. We don’t see it as a scary time. Quite the opposite: It’s a thrilling time to be on the front lines of change.




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