Dick's Soapbox: News and views you can use.

ABCs: Always Be Curious, storytellers

By: Sabrina M.

When you work in advertising one of your daily tasks is to identify “the problem”. What are you trying to solve for your client and how can you do it creatively? In my job, I have one consistent problem that I aim to solve daily: proving that social media is a highly integrated form of public relations and communications, valuable to any advertising effort. This past weekend, I was given the opportunity to drive this particular point home.

Hundreds of future public relations and advertising executives came together in downtown Chicago for Divergent, a regional PRSSA conference. I was invited to discuss the topic of PR vs. Advertising on a panel with:

Sara Gavin, President of Weber Schandwick, North America
Kathleen Henson, Founder and CEO of Henson Consulting
Michelle Tucker, Group Creative Director of Havas Worldwide, Chicago

The panelists with our moderator, Camden Robertson.

Left to right: Camden Robertson (moderator) with Sara Gavin, Kathleen Henson, Michelle Tucker, and Sabrina Medora.

At the end of our hour-long session, we four women managed to yell what was once only a whisper in our respective industries— that the lines between public relations and advertising are blurred, if present at all. The channels of communication and methods of implementation are different, but the core values that lie at the heart of a marketing and communications career are identical.

Traditional advertising has always been TV, radio, print and, more recently, web. Almost a full decade after digital marketing became “a thing”, people still wonder about the value of social media in advertising. Can social media really help to provide consumer insights and drive profits? Does social media marketing belong in a creative brand campaign? Oftentimes, agencies, brands and clients will see social media as a component that can be fit in at the end of a brand campaign. As a social media manager, it is critical to prove that the outlets provided are some of the most powerful creative communications channels.

Our panel moderator, Camden Robertson, addressed me with, “As a PR person, I like to think that social media should live with a PR agency. You’re in a creative agency. Tell us about how that functions and why you like to keep social media in-house to deliver that integrated approach.” My answer was simple. The foundations of both advertising and PR rely upon good storytelling. That involves listening, anticipating, creating and solving tension, entertaining, and excellent communication skills. Social media is not only one of the best ways to tell a story, but the tools to track how the story performed and insights gleaned from those results are also invaluable. It is the reliable, interactive way for brands to make their target audiences care about them and prove that they care about their target audience.

While creativity and good communication skills are important, a healthy sense of curiosity is also a critical component for success. Michelle Tucker encouraged the crowd to remember their ABCs: Always Be Curious. This is equally imperative in social media. Have a healthy curiosity about similar products or brands and your target audience. Ask questions, conduct quantitative and qualitative searches and, most of all, engage in social listening. Using social listening platforms to track conversation flow and keyword performances among various categories of target audiences provides a wealth of knowledge on how to go about constructing a brand campaign. With such insights, brands now have the ability not only to talk directly to their consumers but also to form relationships with them. There’s a difference between having a flawless website that gives customers what they want and building a community that keeps customers coming back. The latter is often more well-rounded and successful, proving that it isn’t enough to tell a story. It’s essential to base the narrative upon a strong understanding of what the audience wants and anticipation of their future desires. So don’t just be a storyteller, be a curious one. 

03.23.15   The Biz


It’s Informational Interview Season!