CommsCon 2016

CommsCon this year delivered shining examples of PR to inspire and bring the industry the common purpose of telling high-quality stories that reach the eyes and hearts of an audience. Kicking off with a keynote by Clarence Mitchell who was thrown into the eye of a perfect media storm when he stepped up to handle the PR around Madeleine McCann’s disappearance, other gold nuggets slowly emerged throughout the day amidst ‘where is it all going?’ sentiments.

Big data, already the biggest thing in the content marketing circles, appeared to be at the forefront of the minds of the PR agency presenters and panelists. But it was influencers like Sam Jockel (Blogger, School mum) with an obsession of analytics, who blew the lid wide open on why influencers need to have KPIs around the campaigns brands pay them for. She mentioned that working with The Remarkables where she was benchmarked against a standard with the onus to deliver impact was a real turning point for her and her blog. The measuring of influencer impact is beneficial for both the brands and the influencers as it opens a feedback loop to allow both sides to get access to measurement of the value of their collaborated campaigns.

In many ways, what PR brings to the table and to their clients is open to discussion. The panel on “Public Relations: The 2016 Creative Agency” reiterated that creativity is one of the key things that any PR agency has to deliver. The agency culture is evolving to encompass SEO and search professionals and sometimes the temptation is to bolt these services on instead of baking them into the brand strategies. Michelle Hutton, Global Consumer Marketing Chair at Edelman, reiterated that it’s simple and it’s all about putting the audience in the center of PR strategy. The quick thinking know-how in the face of situations that must be addressed immediately is a level of expertise that PR agencies offer to their clients and it is one that’s measurable in today’s digital media landscape.

Brands like helloworld who provide retail travel and Schwarzkopf shampoo use influencers to bring their campaigns to life. They shared their case studies and the resulting numbers from these influencer campaigns. Instagram was a platform of choice for helloworld who wanted striking photos from some of their most popular destinations from around the world. The reach was phenomenal with 8.1 million Australians reached through Instagram influencers. Liz Carlson, Travel Blogger and Young Adventuress who usually posts one high-quality photo per day agreed to post twelve photos within twelve hours for the helloworld campaign. She communicated with her audience beforehand to prepare them for the campaign to anticipate the photos that would come out.

One of the key messages from the panels with Influencers was that the Influencers considered themselves business people, if not one person agencies. Perhaps because of their ambitious nature and need for wider acceptance for delivering successful retail PR campaigns, they are very open to working with KPIs.

However, as KPI-focused as influencers might be, brands realise that it’s not only about the numbers. Brands, such as helloworld, who appreciate highly appealing images understand the value of building a User-Generated Content (UGC) archive, which becomes an asset to the brand.

It’s clear that a revolution is underway. Andy Warhol would be proud that we are now all able to get our fifteen minutes of fame, except these influencers are building sustainable business models around what they’re passionate about.

In the brave new world of social media connectivity, people with a willingness to work in a disciplined way to deliver value to brands are getting a portion of the marketing budgets. Given the ambition and passion of the influencers, this will not be a passing PR trend. As mentioned by Matt Kendall, Digital Planning Director at One Green Bean freshly back from SXSW with a glimpse of the future of creativity, institutions and agencies no longer have a monopoly on creativity. Every human being, with publishing tools and technology much cheaper than they used to be, can snap a photo, create a piece of content and use it to connect with others.

These influencers have an incredible awareness that their personal brand and the trust they’ve built with their audience, is a gold mine and they will not let money erode that. If they feel that their audience will not connect with a particular campaign they will simply say ‘no’. They are not acting out of desperation but out of wisdom. Saying ‘no’ will ensure that they can say ‘yes’ to the campaigns that will strengthen and refresh their personal brands. It will be exciting to see what’s ahead for that time old classic, authenticity, as the influencer campaign landscape continues to evolve with the enthusiasm, professionalism and the respect of these new age PR helpers.

To bring a wider perspective to using average, normal everyday people in campaigns, Claire Salvetti from One Green Bean stressed that it’s key to never push people into doing what they’re not comfortable doing. Also, when using people for campaigns, talk to them about where the campaign might go, give them an overview of the best case scenario and a worst case scenario. Always involve them in the editing process. As human-centric PR professionals, we must find the game. Find out what the audience responds to, and then do more of it. Targeting, amplification, and technology are our allies in achieving this.

All of the day’s learnings were wrapped up with a sharp ribbon of a lock note by Chris Savage who touched on all the key threats to the industry with a story on how focus will show us that the conditions are perfect. He showed Edelman and Weber Shandwick as shining beacons of agencies getting it right by bringing new and differentiated talent. In the local scene, he admires One Green Bean for their boldness. “They push themselves forward and claim a seat at the big table”, Savage says. “If you’re green, you grow, if you’re ripe, you rot” is Chris’s key message so one must get comfortable with change. Things are changing rapidly and the speed of change won’t slow down. Smaller agencies that can’t add depth to what they provide will fall by the wayside.

How to ensure you’ll thrive?
1. Get obsessed with planning
2. Positioning, what is your X factor? What makes you stand out? Claim something. 
3. People. Get the best people. Always be hiring.
4. Innovation. Taking small steps consistently.
5. Leadership. People don’t leave companies. They leave leaders.
6. Work on Brand You.
7. Keep re-educating yourself. Virtual reality, Facebook, mobile, mobile, mobile.

As always with Mumbrella events, the key takeaways will nourish us and the industry until the next CommsCon.