by MarkLives (@marklives) Bond, connect, engage, involve, join — welcome to The Interlocker! Every month we ask a handpicked selection of PR execs to each select ONE feature, news article or research report (accessible online) that they believe would benefit their peers to read and why. First up are Moliehi Molekoa, Donald Chauke, Sam Swaine, Reatile Tekateka, Palesa Madumo, Lebo Madiba and Raphala Mogase.
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Moliehi Molekoa’s pick
We live in a youthful continent alive with possibilities and hope. Brands are engaging with a younger, more-discerning audience that is powered by technology. If we are to have a substantive impact as communications specialists, we need to understand and equip ourselves to take advantages of what the continent has to offer.
The five trends analysed give an insightful overview of how to tap into the African magic. I love the fact they are not just telling airy-fairy stories but actually have case studies of how these trends are being implemented.These dispel the myth that there’s very little innovation on the continent; to the contrary, there are pockets of excellence all around us.
- African magic: Why in 2018, exceptional African brands and talent will be the best in class
- Citizen woke: Why global brands must strive to decolonise consumerism in 2018
- Green army: In 2018, the pendulum of sustainability will swing between the preventative and restorative
- Manifest empath: In Africa, the future of human brands is empathetic brands
- Smart market: Smart technology reaches its tipping point across the continent in 2018
The key takeout for me is that we need to respect the diversity of our audiences and begin to create culturally relevant engagements which are authentic and located in the actual experiences of our audiences ie the human truth not brand narrative. This is the role of the communications specialist.
Donald Chauke’s pick
Anne Rayner provides research-based insights into how brands may be effective and efficient in order to better connect with their target audience online, without being intrusive and ultimately alienating them.
As a key insight, earning people’s attention, rather than demanding it, makes perfect sense. Popups and spam are some of the many ways of demanding attention that result in a negative online brand experience.
To avoid rejection, brands should put more effort into listening to their audiences, especially online; in this way, brands will better understand when it is the right time to reach out and what content is worthwhile for their audience’s attention.
I certainly do feel like I am being constantly chased around the internet by constant popups and spam messaging, and mostly from the same brands. This reference article reveals stats about how people are responding to the online communication overload and how brands may stand out and communicate effectively, engaging with their audiences without the risk of alienating them.
— Donald Chauke is an account executive at Hitchcock Michalski.
Sam Swaine’s pick
The PR landscape needle has undergone a seismic shift following the proliferation of digital media. Newsrooms are trimming the fat and PR agencies are pushing harder than ever to own the lion’s share of earned media. This is not all bad news, as the tenets of PR remain unchanged: quality strategic content, transparency and building trust with your audience.
Consumers are more media-agnostic than ever before and have become increasingly skeptical, with poorly executed paid-online advertising models following them around the internet, both on websites and social media platforms; brand advocacy is now more important than ever. According to this 2018 PR trend report published by Business2Community, B2B companies are allocating more of their marketing budgets to earned spaces; this points to audience media consumption remaining the same since the dawn of time — earned media trumps all content currency.
Change is inevitable and, with today’s mercurial digital landscape constantly shape-shifting, executing a successful PR campaign can be daunting with multiple brands clambering for content space; it’s more critical than ever before to look at these challenges not as barriers to entry but as platforms for new opportunities.
— Sam Swaine (@samswaine) is an independent PR and digital strategist.
Reatile Tekateka’s pick
The integration between PR and marketing is highlighted as an important trend in the industry. I believe that PR professionals ignore this trend at their peril. It is the most-important trend in my view because how we respond to it will ultimately determine whether or not we remain relevant in an increasingly competitive operating environment. We have to future-proof our departments and agencies to adapt and respond within a context where we compete across disciplines for shrinking budgets, and the even-shorter attention spans of our audiences. We need to re-think and redefine our role as PR professionals in building brand reputations.
There is a call in the article for PR professionals to focus on value-driven content strategies and relational tactics. Interestingly, this speaks to the core of what we do as PR professionals: we build reputations through forming authentic relationships and our deep understanding of our audiences. We need to recognise that the fundamentals are not what need to change in order to future-proof ourselves but rather how we engage with our audience.
Rather than being a harbinger of doom for PR, integration presents us with an opportunity we cannot afford to ignore.
Palesa Madumo’s pick
I came across this interesting article and it got me thinking. South Africa’s media landscape is changing rapidly, and newsrooms are downsizing and driven by the demand for political news before any other, so getting a piece of the share of voice pie on behalf of our valued clients demands increased creativity. As more print publications are opting for online lives, and social media trends and trending becomes the new truth, as PR professionals may begin to think that the age-old press release should be ditched, I don’t.
I think social media with its often-shortened language and uber coolness doesn’t always support our clients’ objectives or apply to all brands and business. In my opinion, nothing beats a well-written, punchy and captivating press release (and, of course, our very busy journalists will always love us for it).
So, let’s not throw the press release out with the bath water. It’s still a strong communication tool that, yes, it can be turned into a tweet or a video but that means we still need a strong introduction, bouncy body and hooking conclusion — all elements of the good old press release.
— Palesa Madumo (@PalesaLove) is executive director of strategy of Vuma Reputation Management.
Lebo Madiba’s pick
The piece gives a good summary of a report published by Forrester late last year: Predictions 2018: The CMO Bar rises with more pressure for growth. It is more marketing-inclined than PR and communications, but this is precisely the reason that I would like to share it with fellow PR and communications practitioners.
I have found that, for a while, the PR profession has tried hard to distance itself from marketing but that as a strategy doesn’t work anymore as digital communications has blurred those lines.
As recently as 25 years ago, both marketing and communication had to try and reach customers by speaking over and around them, rather than to them. The advent of digital technology and, later, social networking, changed all that. It created a two-way stream between the brands and their customers, and also gave customers far greater power over brands. Not only that but the choice of whether to engage a brand or simply dismiss it became much easier too.
Now, as digital technology blurs the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres, it’s a different ballgame altogether. As a PR professional, pushing out a standard press release or email just isn’t going to cut it anymore. PR, just as much as marketing, now needs to be able to be able to use insights, emotions and connections to create a deeper focus on customer obsession that will inform PR campaigns and ensure that PR always has corporate suits on its side.
— Lebo Madiba (@Lebonator) is chief marketing and communications officer of Ansys Limited.
Raphala Mogase’s pick
The unfolding news stories around questionable corporate governance (think KPMG, Steinhoff, Eskom etc) and political scandals (think Guptas and alleged meetings with government officials at private residences, government and events that led to cabinet reshuffles where the Gupta name kept popping up) have kept public practitioners and communications spokespeople as busy as journalists have been recently
Taking centre stage is the reputation of spokespeople and PR practitioners, who are entrusted with the responsibility of managing clients’/organisations’ negative breaking stories and, as we have all learnt from Bell Pottinger’s saga, it is possible for the PR practitioners or their agencies to get entangled in the client’s negative narrative if the issue of ethics is not kept in check. Bell Pottinger subsequently paid a dear price for an ill-considered involvement with and strategy implemented for the Guptas.
Against this backdrop, and as stated in the article, the effect the Bell Pottinger saga has had, and will possibly continue to have, on the African PR industry cannot be overstated. Without doubt, the turn of events does put PR activities across Africa under a microscope like never before.
I am sure readers will agree that, going forward, agencies will need to extra careful in considering the clients and campaigns they would like to be associated with. The issue of ethics will become an intrinsic part of ongoing conversations between practitioners and clients. Equal attention will also need to be given to how PR will engage/interact with target audiences as per clients’ campaigns being rolled out in the era of digitalisation.
Updated at 14.53pm on 28 February 2018. We apologise for mixing up the responses of Reatile Tekateka and Palesa Madumo.
Launched in 2018, The Interlocker will be a monthly newsletter, available as a regular column on MarkLives, too, in which we ask a handpicked selection of PR execs to each select ONE feature, news article or research report (accessible online) that they believe would benefit their peers to read and why. Sign up here!