In a world where reputation is never stronger than the weakest web-link and every action of a corporation can be potentially brand-shaping, public relations must be able to adapt quickly to conversation flows, leverage between consumer and corporate branding and better capitalize on the opportunities of a borderless media world.
Unfortunately, old-school corporate hierarchies are standing in the way for a much of this. In this piece, three proposals for how to overcome this problem without having to demolish the silos are shared. The idea; just imagine the hierarchic world of silos as being flat.
Public relations people are generally good at conceiving and executing ideas regionally. When (social) media does not recognize country borders, PR practitioners have everything to gain by applying an international perspective to their work.
We are seeing a rise of companies and a fall of brands. The conduct of the whole company and its representatives has become far more brand building than branding campaigns and brand logos. Something that became all too clear following the events in the Mexican Gulf, years of brand building was shredded within hours. So for the sake of cohesiveness and communication-ROI, the communication efforts of the different company functions must play, if not the same note, at least as if they belonged to the same orchestra.
The new realities facing PR and branding put new requirements on communicators. Edison said that most people miss opportunity because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work. A sentiment all too common in corporate silos.
So the question is, how do you overcome the inborn inertia of silo-hierarchies and create communication that fit the new requirements without knocking the silos down? The theory; pretend that the world is flat!
Flat in the sense of fast decision-making and ability to respond to conversations as they happen. Flat in the sense of engaging more parts of the company. Flat, because the media never sleeps – you must be ready to act in real time.
Below are three actionable opportunity areas drawn from my own experience, all with a documented flattening effect:
Flattening Opportunity 1: Go for the Bigger, BIGGER Picture
The advertising industry built its success on understanding human truths. PR could do the same by contexts. The PR industry has evolved by being better at getting the bigger picture. In a time where publics expect corporations to have an opinion and play a role in society, PR can capitalize on this heritage. In the new media reality, campaigns and projects that include several company functions such as R&D, Corporate, Marketing and Sales, become automatically more relevant to the world, and valuable for the organization.
These kind of projects require co-operation and that people see beyond their own ego or silo identity. By giving people something greater than their own to rally around, you are more likely to get internal support and energy. Here’s how: 1)Find a context outside the company in which the company has a true stake and therefore can be relevant in. 2) Identify the content that adds value to the context. 3) Add these together and you have an integrated concept that can be attractive to all silos. Compare this method to how governments rally people to war – it’s always about that greater reason and bigger bigger picture.
Flattening Opportunity 2: Make the Best Case Your Next Strategy
Slideshows full of strategy bullets and models are perfectly fine and even necessary in corporate life. However, people are rarely seen rallying around them.
Inspiring people to adopt new ways of working is rather done by showing that others actually have pulled something inspiring off. So,, my advice would be to start small scale. Create a project of little internal controversy that can go under the radar. Document it and build a strong case. Also with ever shorter horizons for planning ahead, the litmus test of any strategy should be its ability to render great activities. That too is a great reason for using the case as input in strategy.
Flattening Opportunity 3: Import and export
The relatively low number of entries sent by agencies to the categories for international campaigns in communication award show, points to an underutilization of international media relations. There is great potential here, since the top-down order of leaders and followers in the media are often not constrained to national borders.
For example, in the technology and environment community, US-based niche media and blogs such as Core77 and Treehugger lead the way for global news regarding their segments – design respectively the environment.. Simply put, if you want to launch a design story in Germany, it might make more sense giving exclusivity to someone in San Francisco than in Berlin.
Yet quite understandably, the incentive for the regional division to roll out projects without bearing in their market is understandably low, but if you give them something to rally about they will probably let you in on their turf. A fast way of introducing the international perspective would be to scan for interesting projects that are already carried out by the company. Giving them scale by communicating them also in other markets can give a positive reputation kick-back.
Jonas Bodin is an earned media specialist who works as creative director for a number of blue-chip clients at the Stockholm-based Primegroup-agency.