Edelman Presentation: “When All Media is Social”

The late Richard Edelman(CEO of Edelman Worldwide) recently produced a presentation on how communication is changing, titled “When All Media is Social: Navigating the Future of Communication” (Available here: http://www.slideshare.net/EdelmanInsights/richard-edelman-academic-summit-keynote-address2#). The presentation hit on a few key points about how things have changed, even just in recent years, and how communications professionals can move forward.

Edelman mentions that now is a better time than ever to be in public relations. The public has a growing distrust for institutions (i.e. governments and businesses), but–according to Edelman–PR teams can counter that by creating communities and thought leaders. Edelman lists five media trends (or, “disruptions”) to watch including:

  1. New Social Giants Are Emerging: New social media sites, including recent social sharing sites have exploded in popularity, like Pinterest and Instagram. These sites quickly have outpaced other popular social media sites in a short amount of time, going viral. And as a result, they’re sites to focus on as potential revenue sources.
  2. Paid Media Now Amplifies Social: More and more sites are incorporating advertising intermixed with posts. Have you started to see advertisements in your news feed? Are Fan Page “likes” appearing more frequently? That’s because companies are sorting through how to balance organic content with paid content.
  3. Search is Morphing with Social: Social media sites and profiles are being given high search rankings. Facebook profiles are now able to be searched in a Google search, and Google has indexed it’s own Google plus user base.
  4. Amplification Now Trumps Circulation: News stories being shared via social media means are now more read than from traditional forms. Whereas before a newspaper could tout a circulation of several thousand, subscribers are shrinking while social shares can make readership higher than ever before.
  5. Visual Storytelling is in Renaissance: With so many devices available to view media, it’s the best time to reach consumers via visual means. People view videos on their phone, tablets, and computers (via mobile devices) in addition to television.

Additionally, it’s not just Apple anymore that is dominating the mobile sphere–Microsoft and others are competing with their own tablets. Obviously the social sphere and technology is changing, and at a faster pace than ever.

It’s interesting that Edelman insists that public relations is necessary now more than ever. It seems that the PR/Marketing function of a company is always overlooked and the first to see budget cuts. In this economy, more and more companies seem to be skimping on their public relations upkeep, and as media and motives become more and more transparent those same companies are seeing growing distrust and backlash. This, argues Edelman, is where public relations becomes an even more necessary function in communication for a company or corporation.

What Edelman seems to be suggesting is using “old school” tactics in a new environment. Communication practitioners, much like journalists, have always been storytellers. Often telling the corporate story is the selling factor to a consumer–and that piece of the puzzle hasn’t changed. Public relations professionals will always have to excel in storytelling. However, the way the story is told has. Edelman lists three strategies, or “ways forward” for PR:

  1. Show and Tell: Use both visual and written media to tell a story.
  2. Be Rational and Emotional: Give the facts of a story, but also appeal to the viewer’s emotional side to make an impact.
  3. Dig the Data: Analyze data from online sites in order to determine what’s successful and what’s not, and to share with consumers.

Public relations professionals used to deal primarily with words for storytelling, but now they must intermingle video and numbers. Additionally, consumers need to see data and benefits in order to trust in a product or a company, while also maintaining an emotional connection. Videos, companies, and ideas that go viral often have a connection with emotion–whether that be humor, sadness, or encouragement.

A popular campaign to cite as an example is Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty and their “Evolution of Beauty” video (http://www.trendhunter.com/trends/real-beauty-dove-video-shows-evolution-from-real-woman-to-billboard-model). When the campaign first began in 2004, it was a novel idea: Storytelling to share a corporate commitment to honesty.  In videos, real women shared real stories about beauty and self-esteem. The “Evolution of Beauty” video shared what a real woman looked like underneath the makeup and beyond the glitz and glam of a billboard photography shoot. It was refreshing enough to spark new interest in the company, and was a successful campaign. Why? Because it was new, it appealed to emotions, provided a service, and was honest.

In summary, during the presentation Edelman shares four communication “Musts,” including:

  1. Social Engagement
  2. Understanding Data
  3. Emotional Intelligence
  4. Visual Storytelling

Considering the way that communication is moving, public relations professionals will have to engage directly with the consumer now more than ever. We’ll also need to not only know how to gather online data, but be willing and able to interpret that data to benefit the company and consumer. Additionally, there should be more of a focus on visual storytelling, so that companies can reach consumers that use mobile devices.

So, the storytelling is only one aspect of the story now. The story is shared via multiple channels, and you get feedback via social engagement continuously regarding that story. And, who better to handle that than a PR professional?

I thought the slideshow was very forward-thinking, and a great piece to leave as a legacy to the Edelman company. Edelman not only hit on where we are at with communication, but how we should react moving forward and the link between public relations and the future of communications.  I’d recommend a peek!

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