PR – it’s an ever-evolving beast. Always first into bed with the latest trend or first off the mark with the buzzword du jour. Never more than a teenie-weenie mustard beanie away from the next big thing. Post-pandemic, it’s changing faster than ever, but not always for the better. In this blog, Brandwave Founder, Daniel Macaulay considers where it’s all gone wrong of late and how we can now put it right…
In the digital age that we live in, PR in the sports industry has moved a million miles away from the air-kissing ‘luvvy darlings’ preconception of the nineties and noughties and become very serious stuff indeed. There is so much AI, big data, and newfandangle technical wizardry in PR these days, it’d make Elon Musk blush.
That said, as much as PR has continued to technically evolve as new digital channels have appeared and disappeared, what interests me is how the metrics of success haven’t evolved an inch. If anything, they’ve actually gone backwards with the continued pressure from the accounts department to show ‘measurable results’.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not part of the ‘marketing is an art, not a science’ brigade. I’m all for maximising return on investment… but I feel that ‘how’ you measure matters just as much as ‘what’ you measure and I’m pretty sure that’s where most people are going awry.
With this firmly in mind, here are what I see as the three key fallacies and how we can start to fix them.
1 . Vanity Metrics vs Meaningful Metrics
It’s all about the numbers… well, when campaigns are increasingly required to demonstrate an upward trend reminiscent of a Harrier jump jet on marketing ROI, it certainly is. Invariably, the new CFO now wants to demonstrate even more measurable results for every penny spent. “If those numbers keep going up, we can’t be wrong, right?” … Wrong.
Cue stage entrance of the quarterly vanity report with an executive summary on ROI indicating that your meagre investment has been nothing short of unappreciated genius on your part.
“Congratulations sir, your investment of £11.53 last week has garnered an equivalent press exposure value equal to Liberia’s deficit”.
I would genuinely love to meet the person who develops these manipulative little algorithms, while visiting whatever planet they live on.
The lesson here is to do with ‘meaningful metrics’ and quality over quantity. Correctly profiling your audience personas – their brand preconceptions, barriers and motivations to purchase and the respective messages that will resonate, are all integral parts of building the foundations of a solid sports PR strategy. Even big tech companies are becoming wary of digital vanity. Look at Airbnb for example, they’ve ditched performance marketing and focused on ‘brand’ – since, they’ve told of big gains (more on that here). As my grandfather always used to say, ‘reconnaissance is never wasted’.
Designing a PR campaign and channel strategy based on tested core-persona insights is PR for grownups.
2. Liking vs Being in Love
They say that comparison is the source of all unhappiness. A heroic quest to get more ‘likes’ than last week, or than your competitor is a fools game… Likin’ it ain’t buying it after all.
Forbes state that the average American is exposed to between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day. With that much mental clutter, it’s fair to say that most of us end up ‘doomscrolling’ through social media like the zombies that we are. Proper engagement and consideration aren’t even on the menu.
Likes on Instagram means that they like you, or they like your post, or possibly even both. Unfortunately, it does not mean that they want to buy your product.
If you need any further proof of this, consider the 2019 case of Instagram influencer, ‘Arii’ who with over 2 million followers, failed to sell more than 36 t-shirts when launching her own brand.
The lesson here is that ‘tellin ain’t sellin’. People are ever more sceptical of, and desensitised to, paid professional sellers on a kickback. As soon as we feel that we are being sold too, the walls go up. This is why aggregating micro-influencers is the thinking marketeer’s way to go.
Micro-influencers typically have a far more niche audience and loyal following, one they can easily converse with. As a result, they have the potential to generate higher engagement rates than macro or mega influencers. In short, they have our trust – the rarest and most valuable of things.
3. Emotional vs Rational
We think that as humans, we are largely rational animals making good decisions based on reason and logic. Most of the consumer decision-making and buying behaviour research these days begs to differ.
In fact, even when it comes to some of the most technical, high value purchasing decisions, such as buying a new car; we buy primarily for emotional reasons over rational ones.
As Simon Sinek says, ‘people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’. That is to say, we buy with our hearts before we buy with our heads. The car brands already know this, which is why they always sell emotional benefits over features.
If you need any further proof, Harvard professor, Gerald Zaltman, author of ‘How Customers Think: Essential Insights Into the Mind of the Market’, estimates that 95% of all purchasing decisions are subconscious.
The lesson here is about how we go about evaluating the success or failure of a PR campaign. In a quantitative world, let’s not forget about the qualitative.
Further to this point, Marketing expert Dr. Jeffrey Lant developed ‘the rule of seven’ aka: ‘drip fed marketing’ theory. To penetrate a market, he believes you need to consistently reach a prospect at least seven times. It’s all about multiple touchpoints making up a broader marketing eco-system… i.e. it’s not just about how many times a press release got reprinted.
Modern PR in our industry, like most things in modern life, is primarily focused on short-term gratification and easy wins. I believe the correct answer lies in a much longer and more emotional game of attrition.