(Intro-Note: Zephyr 47 is proud and honored to post this guest blog from Joe Chernov who is Eloqua’s Director of Content. Joe is pioneering new methods to develop and deliver content in ways that connect businesses with customers. An example of his efforts is the brilliant Eloqua Content Grid infographic he developed with JESS3. We look forward to your comments and feedback on this post! -BH)
Evolve or Die: 5 Ways Communications Pros Must Adapt
By Joe Chernov, Director of Content, Eloqua
The publishing industry is like a keystone species: It has a disproportionate impact on its ecosystem. As magazines and newspapers find themselves on the endangered list, the survival of surrounding industries – most notably corporate communications – relies on their ability to adapt. Without newspapers and magazines through which to tell their employers’ stories, PR professionals have migrated to the social Web (thus the staggering numbers of self-described social media experts). But to focus solely on social media is to miss the larger impact that publishing’s decline is having on the marketing ecosystem. Following are five ways the communications industry must adapt if it’s to survive.
1. Aesthetics. Ironically, the demise of print publishing has given rise to more channels than ever before. In fact, every marketer has the potential become his own distribution outlet. This surge in channels has, predictably, created a white noise effect: the more people are talking, the less they are listening. Rather than “talking” louder (e.g., issuing more press releases), communications professionals should learn a new language: design. The way content looks correlates positively to its perceived value, which in turn, causes spread. PR pros should refashion themselves as “’aestheticizers’ of content” if they are going to be heard in the crowded auditorium.
2. Celebrity. Traditional advertising has corroded trust. Ads have lied to consumers for too long. The next era of communications gives companies a fresh opportunity to repair this relationship. But businesses can only do so by becoming more “human” themselves, and the most direct path is to catapult select staffers to celebrity status. Ford Motors has a market cap of nearly $40 billion, yet hundreds of thousands of people trust the company just a little more because of one guy: Scott Monty. The idea that an everyday employee could have a tangible impact on the trustworthiness of a brand was inconceivable just a couple years ago. Ford understands that people trust people much more than they trust logos.
3. Question. Traditionally, the role of the PR person was to answer questions, sometimes sensitive questions that were not in the best interest of senior executives to answer (thereby earning the nickname “flack”). But the next generation communicator must also be proficient at asking questions. Posing public questions to customers, influencers and even competitors is a trigger to get other people talking about the brand. It’s fire-starting in its most basic form.
4. Links. The “clip book” – a binder containing all of the articles secured on the PR person’s watch – has become so obsolete that the words alone look anachronistic. But that doesn’t mean communications leaders shouldn’t keep score. There is simply a new point system: links. One of the new and varied responsibilities of the PR pro is to create and inspire others to create inbound links, anchored off of a company’s most vital terms, throughout the Web. Think of it as the clip book 2.0.
5. Support. Customer support and corporate communications once represented opposite points on a string: the former consisted of a specific message delivered to an individual, whereas the latter employed a broad message broadcast to many. Social media has bent that string, bringing those points together. Because support now takes place in public, it has become its own form of marketing. Marketers need to align with support staff, because they are the same team. PR agencies should develop a service that caters specifically to their clients’ support departments.
Evolve or die. It’s not only the law of nature, but also the law of business. My question to marketing and communications professionals is this: As print publishing nears extinction, how are you planning to adapt?
Z47 Editor’s Note: Joe can be followed on Twitter @jchernov