You only have to read a few articles from an advertising trade journal to see that their corner of the communications industry is experiencing something of an existential crisis.
For decades the public’s limited choice of media channels meant that print, broadcast and ambient advertising could command incredible influence. And revenues to match.
Although we all knew that advertising fundamentally stands in the way of the magazine article we want to read, the television programme we want to watch or the view we’re seeking to take in – it worked. Partly because it was unavoidable and partly because, when raised to the standard of a storytelling art-form, it could enrich your day with shared meaning and creative ideas.
But then (and some time ago now I might add) social media and the internet happened.
We now have an almost an unimaginable choice of things to instantly read, hear, view and participate in. New platforms have brought new advertising techniques and this devalued the currency of the medium. As social media users we’ve also evolved how we consume information – becoming less patient with dull or inauthentic content. In response ad-blockers have been born and widely adopted.
So no more advertising right?
Well of course not. But the balance of influence has definitely changed. For marketers, ad-blocking technology presents an obstacle. For PR people, it creates a time-limited opening. We're good at earning engagement through storytelling, right?
But let's be careful; bad PR and clumsy influencing techniques are harder to ignore than a bad advert, and potentially a lot more damaging. PR blockers don’t need to be invented because the public have BS detectors pre-installed at birth.
People are wise to 'spin' and while they may forgive or at least understand a desire to present facts in the best possible light, their tolerance for it is limited. And outright deception? Unforgiveable.
So let's focus on good PR – sharing information and insight that helps communities do things like share, create, understand, amplify, and implement ideas – in ways they can’t do on their own.
Storytelling and appealing to an audience is a big part of good PR. But to really capitalise on the ad-blocker opportunity PR must also heed the lesson of advertising and help brands enrich people’s lives with shared meaning and creative ideas.
Article written by David Gallagher, CEO Europe of PR firm Ketchum
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