Mad Men is a huge success partly because of what it’s selling us: nostalgia. Watching episodes of Mad Men offers us a glimpse into bustling Madison Avenue of the 1960’s and gives us a hankering for the easier marketing days of yore. The surprising thing is many agencies are still operating as if they were stuck in 1962. Oh sure, the tools have changed with the arrival of social media and digital but old ideas, ways of doing things and corporate systems die hard.
More and more as agencies continue to serve as “yes men” to the brands they work for. Or is it “work with”? Either way, it’s way past the time for an agency to make a bold move and tell a client “We can’t execute the campaign this way because it will make no sense to our audience. Let’s try it this way because research and experience shows this is how we need to connect with those influencers and drive this call to action.” Public relations agencies continue to fumble when it comes to social media and PR. There is no excuse for this to be the case. One reason why this keeps happening is because the paradigm has shifted and the agencies have not (or refused) to keep up with how to effectively leverage new and social media in their campaigns. A winning tool Don Draper didn’t have in his arsenal is the modern day town crier—the blogger.
Bloggers are continually bombarded by promotions and goods by well-meaning PR agents and agencies. The agents and agencies in many cases might be sending the same products to the same bloggers with results month after month. When searching for the right blogger to sell products or services, agencies are confusing popularity with influence. Agencies are notorious for looking at shallow factors such as Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, or Klout scores. While these factors may help to provide some background into the blogger, these factors alone do not mean the blogger is in indeed influential or can persuade his/her audience to execute on the call to action.
Therefore, what can help increase the brand/blogger connection? Research into social media and blogging has told us time and again coupons and giveaways can be successful in the short-term but these gimmicks do not necessarily translate into new customer acquisition or long-term loyalty. Brands could extend the shelf-life of their offerings by connecting with the right bloggers who nurture their ties to the target markets the brand is trying to tap into. This may sound overly simplistic at first glance but it really means being choosy and having standards in regards to first, which agency is awarded AOR (agency of record); and second, which bloggers and social media influencers the Brand invests in. For instance, number of Twitter followers shouldn’t mean everything. Anyone can buy followers these days. More importantly what’s the blogger’s track record of engagement and authenticity? How does the blogger handle disclosure? How does the blogger write negative reviews or stories? Are they sensational or factual? Does the blogger nurture conversations around the brands which s/he advocates? These answers matter depending on the type of results you are looking to accomplish. But the answers will help agencies and brands seek out the right type of blogger to help persuade the audience.
Brands need to be wary of agencies that are faking it till they make it. Even some of the Big Agencies are notoriously fumbling their way through the social media landscape. These Agencies have slapped up a shingle promoting their social media skillset but these agencies still deserve an ‘F’. Agencies are saying “Yes!” for fear of losing business instead of saying “Our recommendation would be to approach it this way…” Now more than ever, Brands must be vigilantly protecting their brand reputation and research and development.
Brands would be wise to push to for more experiential events and learning activities to educate bloggers on their particular unique selling propositions. These PR outreach programs may be a larger investment but it is also incumbent on Brands to hold Agencies accountable for how their billable hours are being spent. Investing in long-term relationships with bloggers who become Brand Advocates will prove to be less expensive in the long-run. The Bloggers turned Brand Advocates will tell your story with passion and real-life examples of how your product or service made their lives better or easier. Agencies pushing traditional marketing and PR boundaries into innovative and proven territories can drive integrated success stories that build an educated and vocal brand advocate basecamp. This is the modern PR dream that can be a reality for business and brands.