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July 2017

I moved from advertising to PR for one reason: social media

By | Food for thought, Opinion Piece, Poem news

Siona Singletary never thought she’d work in PR, but then something massive happened: Facebook became the biggest news site in the world.

For the past 16 months, I’ve been working in PR. There’s a sentence I honestly never thought I would type. I cut my teeth in advertising and never looked for anything outside of it. Back then, PR was something I simply did not understand, or admittedly care that much about. My main experience of PR came from working on integrated campaigns and “integration” was a buzzword used for show.

But then, something big happened. The king of social platforms, Facebook, made the shift from a photo-sharing platform to a news source. In fact, it became the largest referrer to news sites in the world (overtaking Google in 2015). Suddenly the platform became a source of information, a place to tell and share stories. This shift made conventional social advertorial content stick out like a sore thumb. People no longer wanted to a see a photo of a product, they wanted to read a story about it.

Fast-forward to today, and people are more ad savvy than ever. 96% of the people that discuss brands online do not follow those brands’ owned profiles. Dark social – the sharing of content in places marketers can’t track, like WhatsApp and email – accounts for 75% of all online content sharing, with no sign of change. So even if people are reading your product story, it’s now difficult to fully track who is sharing it.

What’s the challenge we are facing?

This brings about a question: What’s the ultimate goal with social content for brands? In an ideal world, I’d love to say sales, but unless e-commerce is fully integrated into social platforms there will always be barriers to conversion. Furthermore, can a social platform be an e-commerce platform at the same time, or must one eventually give way to the other?

Let’s rephrase the question: What are the ultimate and achievable goals? I believe they are engagement and conversation. Social media is our post-postmodern-day word of mouth and we all know that’s the best recommendation you can get, it’s genuine and it shows intent. A RadiumOne study recently told us that those who share brand content are nearly 10 times more likely to convert. If that share was a dark share, it’s also believed to be more impactful with the recipients, as it’s more personal. So, if we kick those goals of engagement and conversation, consumers will be driven in-store and online to purchase by their friends and family. Which is much more meaningful.

If we take this onboard when planning a campaign, the first problem we have is how we track all this dark activity? The second is how do we make content that people want to talk about and share? Those billboard-style brand and product ads that used to clog up chronological newsfeeds have long been redundant as a stand-alone approach to retaining humans’ attention on social. Humans won’t share ads, for many, many reasons:

1. It’s an ad.
2. It’s most likely not very interesting.
3. It’s not adding any value to the user – it doesn’t give them any social currency (make them seem funnier/more interesting/smarter).
4. It doesn’t connect with them, they cannot see themselves in it.
5. It’s an ad.

PR ideas on social media

So, what does engage humans? The ever-elusive viral social campaign (that we can’t really track properly) relies on one thing now more than ever. A good story. A good story, with the right human insight can connect a consumer with a brand and instigate action. And here’s the kicker, good stories like these have been created by PR professionals to generate scores of editorial articles for decades.

Editorial articles are objective and hold authority, they can affect the way consumers think about a brand, even more so than a brand campaign perhaps. PR, by nature, is designed to make a lot of noise and traditionally this noise was enough of a KPI. However, social has opened the possibility for this noise to be measured, analysed, optimised and retargeted. Now we can control who we share the story with and understand how engaging a story was.

We already know that a newsworthy story makes for good social content and now we have access to the means to prove it and fine-tune it. A newsworthy story based on a solid human insight is what makes a piece of content sharable. Fundamentally, PR and social are highly compatible and highly effective when it comes to moving people.

What am I suggesting? Let’s put an end to the traditional process of advertising as the default lead. This isn’t the answer in 2017, especially if we always fail to integrate. How about leading a campaign with a PR idea? A shift in the perspective of many marketers is still long overdue.


Siona Singletary is Digital Strategy Director at Poem Group.


Is the PR degree going way of the dinosaurs?

Should PR degrees go the way of dinosaurs?

By | Food for thought

Is the PR degree going way of the dinosaurs?

Is the PR degree going extinct? When I embarked on my university journey in 2016, I chose to study public relations because I thought it sounded cool. Apart from the information collected by skimming through university brochures, I wasn’t exactly sure about the content of a PR degree and its worth to the market. 

This choice was especially challenging considering some of the latest publications on the industry. Companies such as IBM have challenged assumptions that college degrees are necessary assets for successful careers.

From a personal perspective, I have encountered many people asking me why I was studying PR at all. During an interview for an internship position in a Public Relations company, the director questioned the worth of having a PR degree and told me that he got into PR ‘by accident’, working his way through. I discovered later that he had a degree in archeology.

So what is the relevance of a public relations degree today? For me, it comes down to three things; competitive edge for job seekers, market respect and attracting a certain kind of person.

The PR industry is growing at an average of seven per cent annually, and its ranks have swollen to nearly five professionals to every single journalist, a ratio that has more than doubled over the past decade. While journalism is facing difficult times – Fairfax Media management’s recent announcement to cut a quarter of all editorial jobs comes to mind. As the industry is growing, the job market is becoming increasingly competitive with more professionals on the look-out for qualified students.

One of the arguments made after the recent 457 visa changes suppressing ‘PR Manager’ title from the skilled visa list was the surplus of qualified Australian students. In the future, it will therefore be nearly impossible to climb to the top of the PR professional ladder without the appropriate qualifications.

From a market perspective, hiring PR students is a testament to the value of the profession. Regardless of the growing relevance of Public Relations as a profession, the industry is not always labelled as fully mature because no consensus has been reached on how best to evaluate a PR campaign’s contribution to results. Hiring PR professionals who don’t have a degree could potentially contribute to the wider market questioning the profession’s value and legitimacy.

Finally, students that study PR are worth much more than their qualification. Most people drawn to PR possess skills beyond writing and research such as creative thinking, strategic development, the ability to communicate, open-mindedness and curiosity making them attractive on the job market. Gina Ramson-Williams, group talent director, Europe, at Weber Shandwick explained that she looks above all for inquisitive minds and drive when she hires PR graduates.

I was struck by the importance of creativity in the profession. A career in PR offers countless opportunities to be creative, not only in terms of writing but also in coming up with new ways to promote businesses and approaching new clients. PR is a profession which constantly calls for fresh ideas and lateral thinking so having those skills can be crucial to bring career success.

Having studied PR and had on the job training, my one concern is that educators work closely with PR operators on a regular basis to ensure the skillsets taught in PR degrees are always updated and kept relevant. PR continues to change so quickly, that a rounded practical education across social, digital, creative and strategy is essential.

Although some doubts prevail upon the future direction of PR in a fast-changing media environment, one thing is certain; PR degrees will not meet the same fate as the T-rex. Just like the PR market itself, the degree will adapt, evolve and flourish – rather than die out.

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