Camp Ketchum: Winning on the Communication Battlefield

POL-milcomm-web-2The fragmentation of media brought about by the Internet has made engagement between an organization and its audiences more complicated than ever before. But there is also a significant upside. Digital and social forms of media make it easier to understand audience behaviors and motivations.

The result is that communications has an emerging role at the highest levels within organizations. It also means that public relations agencies are increasingly competing with other marketing and management disciplines.

This emerging battlefield was the topic of a presentation that Zocalo CEO, Paul Rand, and I gave today at Camp Ketchum in Mont Treblanc, Quebec. It’s a battlefield where we’re fighting in new business situations to assert our value against advertising, digital, and media agencies, as well as management consultancies.

Camp Ketchum is a week-long international summer school that brings together more than 80 campers and 30 counselors from Ketchum agencies around the world.

Our role at Camp was to help campers understand how organizations can use digital and social media to engage with audiences. More importantly, we wanted to give our campers practical models and tools to help them with the client challenge that they face in the coming days.

We examined four rapidly changing areas of the profession.

1. Engagement

My view is that the public relations profession took a wrong turn in the 1950s and became fixated with using mass media as a route to audience engagement. It’s only now – 60-years later – thanks to media disintermediation that we are engaging with audiences in a two-way process again.

2. Data

Every mouse click on the internet leaves an audit trail. Thanks to monitoring tools, we are able to mine this data. It empowers the profession like never before. We no longer have to persuade organizations that our solutions are correct; we can show that they are rooted in data driven insights.

3. Big ideas

The narrative of the recent Cannes Festival is that campaign winning ideas are simple ideas. They are big ideas that work across geographies and all forms of media. They connect with audiences by building a narrative around the organization.

I’d urge you to look-up some of the award-winning work from Cannes. Seek out the public relations category and also some of the other categories.

4. Media agnostic

The public relations profession has constrained itself by focussing on earned media. We need to challenge ourselves to work across all forms of media.

Our solutions need to deliver across whatever forms of media our insights tell us the audience is using. We need to be savvy in all forms of media engagement, not just earned or social, but also paid.

My view is that the public relations profession is in a strong position in the new communication battlefield thanks to its roots in engagement and access to data. We need to be brave in developing big campaign ideas and we need to get out of our silo and work across all forms of media.

Image credit: www.policemag.com

Stephen is a Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University. Chairman of Future Proof policy unit and Past President, CIPR. Author of Brand Anarchy and #BrandVandals; and editor and contributor to Share This and Share This Too.

Connect with him on Twitter: @wadds