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Food for thought

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.

Alternative Meat Co Product Range Featured on Social Media

Social Media Strategy & The Decline of Organic Reach

By Food for thought, Poem news, Uncategorised

Businesses on Facebook have a new challenge to overcome, the decline of organic reach. In 2016 alone, the organic reach for Facebook pages fell a massive 52 percent, meaning it is and will become even more of a challenge to utilise social media marketing to effectively reach a large online audience.

Before you freak out and abandon your social media strategy, there are some things to consider moving forward. Content creation, optimisation and the digital strategy involved will naturally have to evolve as businesses battle to reach a lot of the same consumers that are all within the one space. Basically, content needs to be unique, effective and relevant for it to gain traction online.

Take for example our 2016 launch of Alternative Meat Co. With an audience unaware of the product, we created a content led campaign that featured Dave Hughes sparking conversation around meat free substitutes in a playful and comedic way. In a room dominated by meat eaters, a vegetarian/flexitarian voice was heard.

A kebab shop stunt video that saw Dave Hughes dupe self confessed meat lovers into eating Alternative Meat Co’s plant based meat substitutes achieved a huge organic reach of 2.79 million, which massively outperformed our paid reach of 1.89 million. We then released a second video within an hour of the MLA’s annual Australia Day TVC which sought to give a voice to the vegetarian/vegan population of Australia. Again, the organic reach (2.59 million) heavily outperformed the accompanying paid strategy (911k). Apart from high social traction, the well timed Australia Day video was also covered by around 160 individual editorial publishers both on and offline.

The reasons for the success of the organic reach was due to strong granular targeting and retargeting based off audience ad recall, insight led content and the use of graphic supers and a hook to encourage engagement and discussion on the posts. This allowed for our paid strategy to complement the already existing strength of the organic reaction and meant we were able to communicate to an even broader and larger audience.

The social strategy and content optimisation meant the video was able to act as a conversation starter which snowballed the organic reach as viewers tagged their own audiences and shared their thoughts on the product and the campaign itself. The Alternative Meat Co campaign went on to win Mumbrella’s Comms-Con Launch Campaign of the Year.

The holy triumvirate and careers

By Food for thought

Careers are funny things. Careers are what develop when you’re trying to grow as a human being, to learn, be happy and be interested. My career is something I didn’t really give much thought to until I changed jobs recently, but I updated my socials and there it was: a product of my actions until this point and a compass into what could be my future.

I never wanted to get into PR. I was always going to be a psychologist (and before that, an astronaut/firefighter/etc), and studied the field in my BA, supporting myself by working a series of bartending jobs. Holy crap psych is interesting. I mean, how could the study of human behaviour not be interesting, learning what drives people, makes them tick.

I reached my final semester of Social Science (Psychology) before I had the sudden realisation I no longer wanted to be a psychologist. Funny that.

Time to pivot. But not straight away – I was onto a good thing with the bartending. It helped me learn how to chat and shoot the shit. How to manage my time and juggle a few different things: Coordinating five drinks in one order from three people, with 13 ingredients in total, washing glasses while keeping the bar clear, asking Terry what Barry wants before exclaiming to Sharon she’s gonna have to changes rosés again.

Fast forward a couple of years and I was not longer happy in the service industry. I’d learned what I could and it was time to move on. And move away. I wanted to move into a new “career” but I thought I’d better learn a spot more before pulling on my big boy pants. PR stood out. One year later I had my Masters in Comms and a starting position in the industry.

From there it was a matter of learning as much as I could, as quickly as I could. Early on in the piece I found that bartending, strangely, put me in good stead. The chat, the multitasking, the long hours and the quick wit all seemed to help. Not to mention, the knowledge of booze helped with the occasional alcohol client. I liked it. I was busy, I was learning, and I was happy: the three ingredients to a fulfilling life.

I realise now how important those three ingredients are. They’re crucial elements that by-and-large have always been something my employers to date have paid attention to. I’ve been lucky to experience this holy trinity at most workplaces, and I realise how short-lived the ones were that didn’t care to tick those three little boxes.

PR is great because it provides you with as much stimulation as you need. It’s a creative industry, first and foremost, and fosters the weird and wonderful thoughts we create sometimes. It’s also an industry of structure, requiring order and the ability to keep plates spinning. Finally, PR is an industry that requires constant learning: You need to stay abreast of so many facets of human life in order to remain effective.

I’m almost five years in to PR now, and I’ve noticed a bit of a career formed when I wasn’t looking. Praise Jebus it’s one I bloody love.

Are we storytelling – or just telling tall stories?

By Food for thought

I remember first hearing people talk about ‘storytelling’ a few years ago. I never quite understood it then and I still don’t fully understand the term now. In fact, like many others, I think it’s overused marketing jazz. A story to me, typically has a beginning, a middle and an end.  It’s structured. It depicts an event or series of linked events. I can think of a handful of campaigns that do that; AAMI’s Rhonda and Ketut, the New Zealand Transport Agency’s ‘Mistakes’ Car Crash ad and their ‘Tinnyvision’ Snapchat content series, but there’s not much of it and not many people do it effectively. I don’t know who first coined the term ‘storytelling’, and I’m sure it helped serve a purpose at the time in selling in a campaign, but why do the rest of us still insist on white washing our campaigns with it? I don’t think people have taken the time to question why storytelling might be effective on motivating consumers in the first place.

My belief is that some stories, if told well, can inspire emotions in their listeners. When bards travelled medieval England, telling stories, singing songs and reciting poetry, there was a similar intention, to pass on information and entertain people. People listened because what they said inspired excitement, fear, hope and wonder. All strong emotions. And in fact, it’s emotions, not stories, that influence people. This is what I believe we’ve failed to acknowledge.

Emotions have greater influence on consumers than rational fact.  Mary Agenou, an American poet and author, once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The same goes for brands. I choose Nike because the brand inspires me to lead a healthier life, not because it makes better sneakers. I choose Apple products because I feel its single-minded ethos reflects on my own work standards, however I’m sure Samsung phones do just the same thing. I believe that what people mean, when they talk about ‘storytelling’, is that their campaign will inspire some emotion in the consumer. However this doesn’t necessarily make it a story.

Psychologists have for many years acknowledged that it’s emotion, not rationale thought, that leads people to chose one brand over another. In 2013, Psychology Today published an article that said, “For consumers, perhaps the most important characteristic of emotions is that they push us towards action.” The thought goes as far back as the 17th century when the French mathematician and philosopher, Pascal said, “The heart has reasons, which reason doesn’t understand.” What we’re really trying to do as marketers, is move people. And this is why there’s been a trend recently towards cause related campaigns that show brands doing something good for society, such as Always’ ‘Like a girl’, or tear jerkers like Samsung’s ‘Hearing hands’. They’re emotional and from a cynical point of view, they’re designed to create emotional connections with the consumer and ultimately sell more product.

When Matt and I launched Poem, just a couple of months ago, we set out with the intention of offering a more human PR offering. To us that means having a human (and therefore more emotional) insight at the core of everything we do.  Whether that be social content, a stunt, launch event, influencer involvement, press office tactic or online video, everything we do has a cultural tension that’s relevant to the interests of the people we’re trying to engage. Brands can’t just make noise anymore. They need to start acting in a more human way in order to gain social currency. They need to be authentic and culturally relevant. Droga 5 ex CEO, Sudeep Gohil put it well at a Google Fire starters event, “Understanding humans is one of the future aspects of planning,” Gohil told the audience. “Being part of culture is more important than any strategy you can come up with because no one turns around and says I love that strategy or I love that ad, instead they talk about things they love which is generally not the stuff we create.”. 

From our previous integrated agency experience and the award winning campaigns we’ve both led, we came to believe that this emphasis on a more human approach is far more effective and cost efficient than shouting at people or telling tall stories about storytelling. It’s also just as relevant to all communications, whether that be paid, owned or earned media channels.

This opinion piece was first featured on Mumbrella. Read the full article and comments here.

Behind the eyes – the story of our logo

By Food for thought

Deciding on a name for an agency is like naming a baby. You create lists. You look at what else is popular because you want to be unique, check the initials don’t spell something funny and see what it rhymes with to try and prevent any playground bullying. As with all great businesses, the name was decided on a cliche by writing down our preferred choice on a napkin in a pub over a couple of beers. The napkin’s since disintegrated but the picture’s up on Insta.

Even our logo design has a story. The dots beneath the M represent eyes, as it’s what we see in people’s eyes that make them human. The font for the logo is the same as the one used on the London Underground logo and having both been brought up and started our careers in London, it felt right. We even use Royal Blue and Royal Red from the Union Jack in some iterations of the logo.

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