Three ways to avoid campaign disasters

11 September 2015, Blog

My London colleagues have blogged about the challenges posed to organisations and campaigns that fail to listen or respond honestly to what is happening around them.

Andrew Deegan highlights the pitfalls experienced by developers who don’t properly engage groups with strong views about plans to regenerate their areas.

These are unrelated scenarios, involving different groups, facing various external pressures.

But they both vividly highlight the reality of modern communications and engagement campaigns, and illustrate how easy it is to come unstuck if key principles are ignored.

PR has had a reputation for spinning and sticking to lines to take in the face of public pressure or outcry.

But the game has changed: people are wising up to spin and will call organisations and people out quickly (and sometimes unfairly) if they think they aren’t being told the truth.

The social web and its ability to give a voice to people who were more easily overlooked before is forcing campaigners to adapt or face the consequences.

This is a fast moving area of practice, and the pace is quickening. But there are some old principles around transparency, honesty and openness that are becoming more important, and that’s a good thing.

Here are three aspects organisations should think about which may help:

#1. Listen, don’t just talk: Organisations who respond to their audiences in a genuine way must excel at listening. There are social listening tools that provide organisations with the capability to collect online conversations about a specific phrase, word, or brand. These conversations can be drilled down to a local level, giving organisations the ability to get a sense of what people are talking about in relation to a certain issue or brand.

#2. Be human: Is authenticity destined to be the new spin? If it’s overdone perhaps, but then it won’t be authentic if that’s the case. Trust in our traditional leaders is in decline. Speaking clearly, passionately and with purpose is back in vogue, and quite right too. Transparency and responding quickly to mistakes are an important part of being human and trusted.

#3. Understand your communities: Networks are emerging that give rise to a new breed of ‘influencer’, who are not involved in the groups who have traditionally been seen as thought-leaders on a topic or issue. These influencers could be anyone with a network: bloggers, tweeters, petitioners or people with YouTube accounts. Understanding who these influencers are and taking steps to build relationships with them is a key part of campaigning activity, and will remain so.

The era of spin is in decline and it’s an exciting and rewarding time to be working in the PR industry as a result. Are organisations ready to make the change? If they aren’t, they’ll out of the loop, and that’s never a good place to be.

 

By Ben Lowndes, Senior Account Director at JBP

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