Focus on audience and goals, not digital tactics

An agency needs to understand how to employ digital as part of a great PR strategy and truly grasp how it fits in.

An agency needs to understand how to employ digital as part of a great PR strategy and truly grasp how it fits in – whether it's the one executing the activities or the client has an agency partner doing so. Allison+Partners gets that, which was one of the things that attracted me to joining the firm a few years ago. In fact, there's a saying that we tend to use in our business presentations – and is definitely true – “Twitter is a tactic.”

That's not to call out Twitter for doing anything, as it's certainly a favorite tool of mine to move the needle for organizations of all shapes and sizes, but it's the truth.

This isn't a new thought process on this issue. It's just a bit of frustration over the constant pandering that some in the social media space make towards the latest shiny object. This week, it's Pinterest. If you're not familiar with Pinterest, it's pretty simple – an online pinboard for things you like (or dislike, perhaps). It's visual, fairly simple to use, and connects well with your primary social platforms, Facebook and Twitter.

This past month, we've been inundated with “What's your brand's Pinterest strategy?” blog posts, columns, e-books, and so forth. While much of those actually have some really smart content, most of them, in my opinion, miss the point of actually asking whether Pinterest is going to play a part in what your audience is doing or if it meets a business goal.

Is it cool to be “first” or successful on a social platform? Sure. Does it pay off in the PR world? Absolutely. Does it mean you should push other activities out of the way in order to reprioritize a platform into your “core” activities? Not unless you can prove it is worthwhile to do so – and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Case in point: Google+. After months and months of “You better get your brand ready for Google+” and the subsequent webinars and comments that have sprung up about how it would change things, I'm certainly finding that more of my clients – including those initially excited about it and having asked us for a point of view for them – have put it on the backburner upon realizing it wasn't doing one thing… reaching their audience.

This isn't to say that integrating Pinterest – or any of the fun, interesting, and sometimes downright productive platforms – into our marketing activities mix is not a consideration. Of course it is. But if we don't start “testing” them out to see how and where they fit, then we're simply borrowing from one pocket to fill another and not necessarily moving the needle. It's our job to continually evaluate the latest and greatest tools and platforms – Pinterest has been around since 2010, for those keeping score on how long things take to reach the masses – for our agencies, clients, and teams, and we should always continue to do so. But part of that research is providing honest counsel about what to do next, not simply to suggest doing something next because everyone else is.

A number of wise colleagues at a formative employer of mine, American Express, used to say that we weren't doing our marketing programs to simply shift share (from one card to another), but to shift share and grow our business, or at least grow mindshare and make our cards “top of wallet” for our customers. Let's make sure we're not simply shifting share from one social platform to another. Let's actually move the needle.

Tom Biro is VP at the Seattle office of Allison+ Partners. His column focuses on how digital media affects and shifts PR. He can be reached at tom@allisonpr.com or on Twitter @tombiro.

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