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Don’t let storytelling become a fantasy

Article by Petra Sammer, Chief Creative Officer at Ketchum Germany

Over the last few years, storytelling has become one of the most frequently used buzzwords in PR.  The accepted wisdom now seems to be that, the future of communications lies in storytelling – and PR owns that expertise.

PR claims it is home to exceptionally good storytellers for good reason.  Our industry is used to analysing complex situations and identifying the top line story – we know that every good story needs a reason to be told.  Our industry is used to assembling stories in ways that encourage sharing – we know that every good story has viral potential.  Our industry is used to recounting stories in ways that will grab attention – we know that every good story needs a universal connection with the reader.

But in saying this we easily forget both weaknesses of PR and the strengths of our advertising rivals – who also claim the storytelling mantle.  Advertising firms have long been trusted partners in developing the client’s “big idea.”  Their entire business workflow is geared to deliver film and imagery – just when the world is obsessed with YouTube and Instagram.  Advertisers know how to work with a palette of emotions.  They are immersed in audience data and culture.  They understand how edutainment makes messages sticky.

PR on the other hand is still earning its right to handle the client’s “big idea” in a channel agnostic world.  Our business workflow is often geared to understand, unpick and create content using words and narratives.  We also use a very specific vocabulary from the world of rational hard news and train ourselves to describe our stories in certain restrictive formats.  In some cases we have almost become consultants like McKinsey, working to set methodologies that strip out subjectivity as if it were an evil.  Our industry is still learning to handle value and behaviour based audiences.  And most fundamentally we understand storytelling though the concept ofnews-storytelling – which is not the same as creative-storytelling.

So for me, if we are to truly to seize upon the potential to own a wider notion of storytelling, and transform our industry accordingly, we need to spend a little more time understanding what that really means.  PR must learn how to make people laugh and cry, every day.  PR must get comfortable with a balance of facts and emotion.  PR must focus its stories around heroes and encourage our clients to recognise the need for conflict in our work.  We must give equal thought to words and visual communication.

If we can do this, and some of the work of our industry proves we very much can, there are some truly wonderful and incredibly rewarding opportunities to be had.

For example, my firm, Ketchum was responsible for the origination and production of these films for Samsung and Häagen-Dazs.  We have been busy hiring producers, artists and camera operators.  We are beginning projects with visual turns and images instead of relying only on the written word.  We are helping CEOs and managers to tell their personal stories in the colourful language of day to day life.  We are connecting brands with creators like documentary filmmaker, Morgan Spurlock and Academy Award Winner, Morgan Neville.

PR cannot just claim creative storytelling as its natural right, we need to reengineer the way our organisations solve problems if we are to broaden our horizons.

 

ICCO launches international think tank

ICCO is pleased to announce that it has launched an international think tank to address the future of global PR and communications consultancies.

The new initiative, chaired by Stephen Waddington, Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum, will identify the issues of most concern and interest identified by ICCO’s members. ICCO’s membership covers 48 countries and over 2,500 agencies, making this think tank truly worldwide.

The think tank will now lie at the heart of ICCO’s work and will produce thought-leadership articles as well as best practice guides. The content will be produced by a range of associations and by ICCO’s direct agency members. All articles and pieces of guidance will be available in a free-to-view online format, thus benefiting practitioners at all levels and in every country.

Stephen Waddington, Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum, and Visiting Professor, Newcastle University, said: “The geopolitical situation and fractured public discourse in many areas of the world underlines how the strategic role of public relations is more critical than ever to government and organisations. Our business is changing and growing at an unprecedented rate thanks to new forms of public engagement. This truly international initiative will use modern public relations techniques to engage ICCO members and signpost the future of the public relations business, and the excellence that it delivers.”

Francis Ingham, Chief Executive, ICCO, Director General, PRCA, said: “Ensuring that all PR and communications practitioners have access to clear guidance and innovative thought-leadership articles lies as the core of ICCO’s existence. The new think tank will draw upon knowledge from some of the most influential professionals around the globe, all for the benefit our industry.”

About ICCO
The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) is the voice of public relations consultancies around the world. The ICCO membership comprises national trade associations in 48 countries across the globe in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East. the Americas and Australia. Collectively, these associations represent some 2,500 PR firms.
www.iccopr.com

Crystal Balling the Cannes Festival of Creativity by Karen Strauss

Article by Karen Strauss, Partner, Chief Creative & Strategy Officer at Ketchum. 

 

When the wise people at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity put together 8 days of inspiring content for the international creative elite, they are curating workshops and sessions to hit the big issues keeping creative leaders up at night.

This year’s line-up looks provocative, marked by a whiff of alarm around how truly difficult it’s become to cut through all the content pollution.  After poring over hundreds and hundreds of seminar titles and descriptions, here’s what I expect will be the buzz on the Riviera.

STANDING OUT HAS NEVER BEEN HARDER – The boldface speakers in Cannes will be cajoling marketing communicators to invent new ways of telling stories.  Innovator Anna Wintour will urge the industry to steal a page from “Hamilton,” which literally invented a new genre of musical theatre storytelling; Academy Award-winning director Alejandro Inarritu will advocate the kind of mould-breaking that produced “The Revenant” and “Birdman,” and Barton F. Graf founder Gerry Graf will rail against groupthink and insist that finding one original-thinking creative partner is the only path to elusive breakthroughs.

A great rallying cry for novelty.

IS VIRTUAL REALITY AND 360 VIDEO THE ANSWER? – Nobody will leave Cannes without Virtual Reality and 360 experiences, yet given the ubiquity of these technologies, one has to wonder if they’ll be stand-out strategies or instantly too commonplace.  Google is promising immersive experiences that enhance storytelling; Samsung’s VR and 360 showcase will demonstrate how to “engage culture and experience compassion”; and MOFILM will share “View From Above,” (http://viewfromabove.emirates.com/3d), its incredible aerial film project that used drones to film 18 destinations where Emirates flies, allowing travellers to experience each city with remarkable perspective.

Trailblazing immersive experiences.

IS SEX THE ANSWER? – Better connections with consumers may be as primal as plumbing their sexual desires, and this year in Cannes, sex is on stage.  My friends at Flamingo believe a generation’s sexuality is a key indicator of its drivers and values and that each generation’s approach to sex is different.  They’ll argue that recognizing sexual attitudes are a path to connecting with broader hopes and dreams.  Another panel with sex therapist Esther Perel will draw connections between online dating and brand promiscuity today, providing tips for cultivating desire in all kinds of relationships.

Sex plays to our primitive instincts.

IS HUMOUR THE ANSWER? – In winning over audiences, comedy has long been king – and thankfully in Cannes, “queen.” The female SNL trio of Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant and Vanessa Bayer will make the case for women’s humour; Rashida Jones, a comedy writer and star of “Parks & Recreation” will reveal how humour can shine a light on important issues; and Mike McAvoy, the CEO of The Onion, will caution that “if you’re not having any fun with your brand, you’re doing it wrong.”

Laughter IS the shortest distance between two people.

DURATION & EPHEMERA MATTER – Beyond the topics, tone and technology, the length of content – and whether it’s ephemeral or not – takes on added importance in Cannes.  The Ephemeral Web is how people consume content every day, so how can brands create lasting messages when they self-destruct?  Embracing ephemerality to ignite creativity will be a hot topic.  In one session, we’ll consider whether long-form branded video content is the answer to shorter attention spans, based on new research around social media viewing habits.

Size matters, just what size is the question.

HAS CONTENT KILLED ADVERTISING? – And the mother lode – can advertising be saved?  One CCO wishes it weren’t such a dirty word, and urges her industry to not let words like content and storytelling replace “traditional” advertising in constructing brand purpose.  Conversely, a pair of advertising strategy officers will start a movement to stop advertising to save the industry. At the heart of the debate is ad blocking, and whether creativity and technology can come together to deliver digital experiences that consumers love rather than block.   Seems advertising is fighting for its life in Cannes.

Will it survive the week?

Karen is leading a panel this year titled “Content for the Ages, All of Them” that will examine age-agnostic marketing.  It is scheduled for Wednesday, June 22 at 14:30 in The Forum.

For full schedule see ICCO Guide to Cannes Lions: http://www.iccopr.com/icco-guide-to-cannes-lions/

 

Connecting PR Women Around The World #agencypublisher

Written by: David Gallagher

dgPrint@TBoneGallagher

GLOBAL WOMEN IN PR To Launch At ICCO Summit In Milan

I have learned a few things about the PR business over the years: it’s global, it’s highly interconnected and it’s powered by women.

The global part has happened recently, with PR consultancy now thriving around the world and contributing significantly to business, government and civil society in economies just about everywhere.

The connectivity goes without saying; every industry event is a homecoming and a reminder of how small the PR world is.  We all owe our careers to a surprisingly small number of people, and as anyone who has ever attended a PR conference or awards dinner, it’s hard to be heard over the buzz (roar?) of memories shared and friendships re-established.

And the powered by women bit – that’s a sign of our collective strength and a reflection of work yet to do.  It’s no surprise that a service industry built on empathy, insight and, well, communicating, would be one in which women thrive.  But while many PR agencies are largely populated by females, the numbers in senior management positions remains disproportionately underrepresented.

The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) has enjoyed considerable success in recent years in all three areas – nurturing international expansion of the consultancy business, creating opportunities to network and collaborate and, now, playing a small role in helping PR women meet, mentor and shape the future of the industry.

A new organization – Global Women In PR (GWPR) – committed to furthering the industry by helping women meet, share, mentor and shape our future.  GWPR will launch at the ICCO Global PR Summit in Milan, Italy this week, and here’s the official announcement:

Milan, October 6th 2015 – A new international association, linking independent networking groups of senior women working in PR, is being launched at the forthcoming ICCO (International Communications Consultancy Organisation) Global Summit in Milan (October 8th – 9th).

Global Women in PR (GWPR) has been formed to act as an umbrella organisation to enable groups of senior PR women worldwide to come together to share ideas, contacts and experiences and to campaign on the major issues directly affecting women working in the PR industry today.

The development of GWPR is fully supported by ICCO and their President David Gallagher had this to say about the new initiative “women are the heart, soul and mind of PR consultancy all over the world, and we at ICCO are pleased to be associated with GWPR’s ambitious global plans.”

Following the recent success of Women in PR (WPR) in the UK and its resurgence as a significant and powerful networking organization; former Joint-Presidents Angela Oakes and Susan Hardwick felt that the time was right to encourage other countries to form their own WPR associations.

“The widely reported gender pay gap and the lack of women in the boardroom are two major issues which are not limited to the UK PR industry, but affect those working in PR worldwide. Coupled with what we believe to be an important vehicle for senior women to meet in a non-competitive environment, WPR also offers its members a chance to help shape the future of the industry and to act as mentors to the next generation. We want our successful networking blueprint in the UK to be rolled out globally and are taking the first steps to make this happen,” commented Angela and Susan.

The launch of GWPR is being supported by Business Wire (a Berkshire Hathaway company) and a major sponsor of WPR in the UK. “We are delighted to be supporting this important launch,” said Kim Deonanan Business Wire Regional VP, Northern & Central Europe.

————————————-

David is a senior partner and CEO for Ketchum in Europe, and outgoing president of ICCO.

What's Keeping PR Agency Bosses Awake At Night? #agencypublisher

dgPrint@TBoneGallagher Last week’s annual summit of the International Communications Consultancy Organization (ICCO) drew PR agency heads from nearly 40 countries to discuss the opportunities and challenges in front of the industry. This meeting is particularly known for its candour; the fact there are no clients in attendance reduces the showboating we’re famously fond of, and the speakers (from independents and the big networks alike) are especially generous and open with their insights. The good news: PR consulting continues to grow worldwide.   This is partly from new markets joining the global pool.  Partly from new clients adding PR for the first time to their wider business consulting and marketing communications investment.  Partly from agencies adding new services to their proposition, particularly in digital and social media. And partly, I think, from clients shifting a (small) share of their large ad budgets to PR. The bad news: well, there’s not much bad news, but there are a number of challenges keeping agency chiefs from feeling complacent.  Specifics vary by market, but the main anxieties follow common themes. Here’s a quick look:

  • Talent:  How do we attract talent from ‘non-traditional’ backgrounds to manage the new services and technologies our evolvling propositions require? How do we keep, develop and inspire our established talent – especially ‘millennials’?  And how do we leverage our senior talent in a fast-changing market?
  • Business models: How do we move from hourly rates and retainers to value-based service propositions (payment for business results)?  How do we structure teams to include more flexible solutions?  How can we integrate with ad agencies and other consultancies to meet complex client problems, without giving the farm away?
  • Competition: How do we manage in an environment in which we compete with each other on some engagements, while working as partners on others?  Are ad agencies our friends (for leads), competitors (for budget) or somewhere in between – frenemies?  Are digital and social media agencies potential poachers? Or acquisition candidates?  And how many unseen / disruptive competitors are there beyond our line of sight, waiting to Uberize our industry with wholly new approaches?  Does “PR” have value with the client community as a description of our proposition? Or is it need of modernization?
  • Creativity:  Are we sufficiently creative compared to other disciplines and channels?  Is it something we can teach, or is it found in talent to hire?  Are awards good indications you have it? How do you measure it?
Obviously a lot of the discussion revolved around what’s changing in our business, and how to address these developments in ways that make sense for our people, clients and shareholders.  Some of it focused on where – with a strong delegation from Africa discussing the remarkable growth and opportunity for PR consultancy there. But maybe it was the theme of why PR advice is now more needed than ever that offered participants the greatest comfort.  Knowing that you play a role in connecting people – helping them understand each other and the world around them – can be a strong incentive to work through the operational challenges. I’ll share some of the solutions and experiments presented in future posts, but for now, it’s good to know that as diverse as our industry is, we’re all worried about similar things. See you in Istanbul for the ICCO Global Summit 2016!

What’s Keeping PR Agency Bosses Awake At Night? #agencypublisher

Written by: David Gallagher

dgPrint@TBoneGallagher

Last week’s annual summit of the International Communications Consultancy Organization (ICCO) drew PR agency heads from nearly 40 countries to discuss the opportunities and challenges in front of the industry.

This meeting is particularly known for its candour; the fact there are no clients in attendance reduces the showboating we’re famously fond of, and the speakers (from independents and the big networks alike) are especially generous and open with their insights.

The good news: PR consulting continues to grow worldwide.   This is partly from new markets joining the global pool.  Partly from new clients adding PR for the first time to their wider business consulting and marketing communications investment.  Partly from agencies adding new services to their proposition, particularly in digital and social media. And partly, I think, from clients shifting a (small) share of their large ad budgets to PR.

The bad news: well, there’s not much bad news, but there are a number of challenges keeping agency chiefs from feeling complacent.  Specifics vary by market, but the main anxieties follow common themes.

Here’s a quick look:

  • Talent:  How do we attract talent from ‘non-traditional’ backgrounds to manage the new services and technologies our evolvling propositions require? How do we keep, develop and inspire our established talent – especially ‘millennials’?  And how do we leverage our senior talent in a fast-changing market?
  • Business models: How do we move from hourly rates and retainers to value-based service propositions (payment for business results)?  How do we structure teams to include more flexible solutions?  How can we integrate with ad agencies and other consultancies to meet complex client problems, without giving the farm away?
  • Competition: How do we manage in an environment in which we compete with each other on some engagements, while working as partners on others?  Are ad agencies our friends (for leads), competitors (for budget) or somewhere in between – frenemies?  Are digital and social media agencies potential poachers? Or acquisition candidates?  And how many unseen / disruptive competitors are there beyond our line of sight, waiting to Uberize our industry with wholly new approaches?  Does “PR” have value with the client community as a description of our proposition? Or is it need of modernization?
  • Creativity:  Are we sufficiently creative compared to other disciplines and channels?  Is it something we can teach, or is it found in talent to hire?  Are awards good indications you have it? How do you measure it?

Obviously a lot of the discussion revolved around what’s changing in our business, and how to address these developments in ways that make sense for our people, clients and shareholders.  Some of it focused on where – with a strong delegation from Africa discussing the remarkable growth and opportunity for PR consultancy there.

But maybe it was the theme of why PR advice is now more needed than ever that offered participants the greatest comfort.  Knowing that you play a role in connecting people – helping them understand each other and the world around them – can be a strong incentive to work through the operational challenges.

I’ll share some of the solutions and experiments presented in future posts, but for now, it’s good to know that as diverse as our industry is, we’re all worried about similar things.

See you in Istanbul for the ICCO Global Summit 2016!

PR As A Force For Global Competitiveness? #agencypublisher

Written by: David Gallagher

So today the World Economic Forum released its 2015-2016 Global Competitiveness Report – billed as the most comprehensive analysis of economic competitiveness among 140 countries and, in my opinion, a pretty good indicator of where it’s good to do business today.

And next week, ICCO will publish in conjunction with the Holmes Report the 2015 Global PR Report – the only analysis of its kind looking at the PR agency business across 30 or so markets.

Coincidence?

Well, yes. There’s no relationship at all between the two reports, their design or their conclusions, for that matter.

But there may be a pattern emerging between the two that’s worth considering. All ten of the most competitive economies overall (Switzerland, Singapore, US, Germany, Netherlands, Japan, Hong Kong, Finland, Sweden and the UK) also have well-established and generally growing PR consulting industries.

I’m not suggesting there’s a causal relationship, but it’s not too far of a stretch to imagine economies conducive to competition are also conducive to PR consultancy, and vice versa.

Dubious?  Consider the factors needed for PR consultancy to be effective and valuable (yes, some may be relative):

– freedom of speech and independent media

– democratic institutions of government

– market competition

– digital infrastructure

– engaged citizenry / consumers

– global / international trade

– rule of law

– creative talent

Or looking at the other end of the spectrum, it’s hard to see PR thriving in the least competitive markets.

In any case, it’s food for thought.

I’ll look forward to your views or at next week’s ICCO Global Summit in Milan.

David is president of the International Communications Consultancy Organisation and will chair its annual summit in Milan, 7-9 October in Milan

PR Agencies Are Changing – And Not A Moment Too Soon

Written by: David Gallagher

dgPrint@TBoneGallagher

Senior Partner/CEO Ketchum Europe
President, ICCO

One of the benefits of volunteering time to be active in industry associations like ICCO is the opportunity to learn from colleagues, thought-leaders and even competitors on what’s going on outside your own agency, and in conversations with smart innovators from the world, there’s a consistent theme: change.

Few of the leaders in the PR business I’ve met over the past year doubt that the agency world is undergoing significant transformation, and most would agree these changes are coming just in the nick of time.  Our business is no less vulnerable to the disruption we’ve seen in other industries – music, travel or, of course, the media – and the best agencies have plenty to teach us all when it comes to providing better service, developing stronger talent and building more resilient business models.

A few of the ways they’re changing (and what we can learn):

  1. Media relations – part of what marketers might assign to the ‘earned’ component of their channel mix (paid, earned, shared/social and owned) – is as valuable as ever. It’s a true differentiator against others that might specialise in advertising or website development for example.  But to survive in an integrated world, the strongest agencies are building their own capabilities to amplify content through paid channels, develop social media strategies and produce content that works across all channels.
  1. Leveraged teams – led by senior (and expensive) experts and supported by less experienced (and less expensive) layers of juniors still has a place in procurement-driven engagements. But this place may be shrinking as clients look for new areas of specialist skill, new ways of pricing work and new expectations for the actual results of an agency engagement.  Some agencies are finding success with more ‘liquid’ teams and flexible structures to accommodate changing client expectations and budgets.
  1. The boundaries between ‘independent’ and ‘network’ offerings are blurring. There are advantages to both, but many independent agencies are building their own networks of like-minded consultancies to provide expertise and reach wherever their clients need it, while many network agencies are developing their own ‘boutique’ offers and specialist services to offer widely to clients of all sizes.
  1. The talent coming into PR is stronger than ever – we need to nurture it. Most markets report greater numbers of stronger applicants entering the agency business than ever before – welcome news for business models that rely almost entirely on human brain-power.  Once in, however, great hires are not always easy to hold, with many lured into corporate assignments or other industries.  Great agencies learn how to anticipate and meet the needs of the ‘millennial’ generation for more sustainable, dynamic teams.
  1. Data, analytics and measurement are finally here.  Really. One of the most discussed but least-realised topics in PR has been the need for stronger research and robust measurement.   We have all discussed, agreed and, mostly, ignored.  No longer.  The most innovative agencies see that easily accessible data, simple analytics and a client orientation to proven results can offer a competitive advantage, which they are putting to work.

Another great thing about being active in local, national or international industry organisations like ICCO is the opportunity to meet the people leading the way in these areas, and hearing first hand of their successes in ways you can apply to your agency and your own career.

I know – I have had the pleasure to meet and learn from the best, from my own agency and our fiercest competitors.

And now you can too – at the global ICCO summit in Milan this October. If any of these topics are vexing you and your teams (or if you have successful solution to share), you won’t have a better opportunity to interact with our industry’s leading thinkers and problem solvers than this one-of-a-kind conference.

About ICCO

The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) is the voice of public relations consultancies around the world. The ICCO membership comprises national trade associations in 31 countries across the globe in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australasia. Collectively, these associations represent over 2,000 PR firms.

Contact Binta Kristin Hammerich, ICCO Global General Manager