The Three Most Important Things You’re Going To Read Today About The World. Trust Me!

We’ve won a big Award. cup-1015714_1280

Doubtless, you are delighted for us. But it’s ok.  I’m not going to bang on about it.

What I am going to do is something I hope is a lot more useful: draw out the main lessons that I think this triumph of ours might have for fellow practitioners of the dark arts of B2B communication.  Which means that you will get something out of reading this, beyond just the joy of one of my regular rants.

OK, joking aside: The team here at Sarum, has done exceptionally well in a prestigious, cross-industry , global competition that highlights media campaigns and ranks how well they performed.

Actually, that’s only half of it. There are a whole bunch of criteria used by the judges, all genuine branding and marketing experts. So they look at the aesthetics of the work done, the look and feel of the collateral, as much as the metrics of its impact. And when I say branding experts, I’m not exaggerating: this is a system that draws on people’s knowledge in everything from international business travel to consumer finance, so teams from your Aeroflots and MasterCards are involved.

The work we did was for a great campaign called ‘World Paper Free Day,’ an annual push (on behalf of our client AIIM) to try and get us all to consider the implications of all the paper we use on a daily basis, from our offices and business identities but also in our daily lives.

We at Sarum put this forward to the League of American Communication Professional (LACP) Global Communication Competition ,  which awarded us, rather astonishingly, a Gold – the highest category.

If you follow this link you can get more specifics on all that , and I hope you do. (I also hope you read up on #WPFD itself, as it’s a great idea in itself that I support from personal conscience as much as someone passionate about how technology can make businesses more effective).  But let’s swoop back up a level and take five minutes to think about why a campaign for an information management membership organisation should be of such interest to global marketing experts.

And these, I think, are the three main reasons

  1. Communications is not just one thing any more

  2. Sometimes we provoke each other in hi-tech B2B PR by articles proclaiming the death of traditional media relations, or how ‘The Great God DATA’ may have feet of clay.

  3. The reality – as proven by this campaign, but also many others – is that we live in a hybrid age.

‘World Paper Free Day’ worked because we did stuff on all sorts of fronts. So there was social (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and for the 2015 version we added in Pinterest). There was an element of B2C; this year we ran a great little promotion, centred on ‘How clean is your desk?’ which had sponsorship (from a great, relevant brand, Fujitsu) so folks got something out of it, but which also aligned slap bang in the centre of the message, too (‘My desk is tidy because I was able to get rid of all that paper!’).

BUT there was also traditional PR and journo outreach – just as vital as ever. The point is the (beware, over-used comms term imminent!) synergy between the two sides – they worked together and supported, magnified each other. There are big lessons here.

Gold Global Comms Winner in the LACP awards for World Paper Free Day

People want content that they can use

It was fascinating to watch the ripples spread out from the work once we went live. As I sat in my underground James Bond villain command bunker, stroking my white moggy with the diamond collar, sort of thing, it was amazing to see how many places and things #WPFD touched. Organisations, people, publications that would never have responded to the ‘Rolodex PR’ call approach of old, connected up.

Why? Because they spotted things in it for them, information they could use. Proof in point: most responders were not the assumed demographic of the 46-56ers, but the next one down, the 22-46 cohort. Which, I don’t probably have to say, is quite a tasty set of people to win the attention of?

Surely we don’t need to hear again that if you don’t have content, something with depth, to offer, all the SEO in the world just won’t help you? Well, maybe we do. Shouting and shouting with nothing to say is useless, though a lot of younger PRs seem to think that’s the job now. I think this is a case study in why that’s a dead-end approach.

Other swimmers in the pool can help your backstroke

A case in point of unexpected connections was how two former strangers ended up becoming our #WPFD partners. One was a nimble PR company, Berkeley PR, which had a relevant client (Iron Mountain). It ‘swam’ alongside, drawn over by one of these unforeseen connections thanks to useful ideas and content getting shared, liked what it saw – and asked if it could play, too. We were glad to join forces for the duration – as we were when a major brand, O2, also drew alongside, realising one of its current campaigns, while not a 100% match, was close enough to get some useful heat off ours. So, again, brilliant – we connected up, temporarily, supporting each other’s work and adding significantly to the overall impact of all three campaigns and stakeholders.

The future, will be like this more and more. Co-operation and temp alliances like this will bloom and fade rapidly, but helpfully, on the Web and in people’s minds and on magazine’s pages if we let them. Again, this is well worth a ponder.

That brand journalism thing? Uh-huh. It’s real.

I’ve discussed before why brand journalism – using key traditional story-telling and press narrative structures and approaches, but in the service of telling client ‘stories’ and sharing objective content if it helps advance the client agenda – is the thing we need to be doing now.

Not everyone’s convinced, but #WPFD was a complete example of how to do it. It was about educating and influencing an audience, not hard selling them PPI. We embraced the client and its agenda, absolutely, but we went beyond that – creatively, with both hard-wired skills in play bit also a sense of fun and adventure – to play with it, extend it, make it as relevant and open as possible. Thus there were the fun Pinterest pics, but there were also the thoughtful byliners; there was the daft competition but there was also fresh client research as an asset at the end.

This is not just rewarding work in itself … it works.

We got attention. We got shared. We were recommended. People knew we had something to say.

Need I say more? Well, you know me. I could. And I will!

But please – smell the coffee here. This is the way we need to work now. And it’s certainly what buyers of PR should be hearing as examples of that much mooted ‘creativity’ in work when they get pitched to.

And if you don’t, why are you still in the room with these people?


Founder of Digital PR & Brand Journalism agency, Sarum

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