Chances are your digital firm is a passionate bunch, devoted 100% to delivering sound, successful communications strategies to its clients. However, as part of any valued relationship, they should be providing you — the client — with counsel that may not always be easy to swallow.
Below are five things you may never hear from your digital half. It’s the kind of stuff guaranteed to ruffle a few feathers and rate high on the squirm-factor scale. But that’s not always a bad thing. So, if your digital partners haven’t brought these possible issues up, don’t be afraid to take the lead.
1. You May Not be a Thought Leader
Is your point of view in step with your organization? Do you struggle with public speaking or lack social media acumen? Sure, you may appear to be the most likely candidate for brand thought leadership, but these kinds of factors might mitigate your ability to serve in that role. This must be addressed honestly and quickly. Although that does not mean it will be.
Your PR firm doesn’t want to have to tell you this. If you feel it might be an issue then acknowledge it. You may not be the best fit for the role, so identify those who are and put them forward. Thought leadership isn’t for everybody and requires commitment, flexibility, and panache.
2. There is No Guarantee
PR professionals aren’t soothsayers. Years of insight, study, and investing in developing mutual relationships empower PR pros to make well-informed decisions. However, no matter how much blood, sweat and tears they invest in the trenches, culling research or building relationships, the end result is ultimately in the hands of the public. And increasingly so thanks to social media.
The public are more savvy and skeptical than ever. Brand trust remains low and hard to acquire, and online behavior is ambiguous at best. In the end, it all comes down to trust. You must trust your team, their experience, and foresight. Trust that they have provided information of value based on the best ethics and best practices. Then cross your fingers with the rest of us that the reception will be strong.
3. KPIs Are an Endangered Species
Social media has flipped traditional measurement on its head. The old KPI measurement model is outdated and egregious the more it’s forced upon digital programs. While standard quantitative indicators can be set (number of tweets, comments, shares), qualitative data can’t necessarily be tallied up. Still, KPI’s can be “smashed” with one re-tweet. Conversely, unforeseen events like Twitter crashing may cannibalize an otherwise promising campaign.
Experienced digital strategists know integrated campaigns always contain some sort of calculated risk. They also recognize that defining digital measurement is like wrestling a bear and likely what keeps brand partners up at night. The human element and technology are powerful allies but opaque in their reliability. KPIs are benchmarks and should always be treated as such.
4. Digital Campaigns Are not Sales Tools
There exists a misconception that digital campaigns are sales tools. This isn’t the case. They are simply the platforms where content exists, audiences gather, conversations happen and interest is gained. The right content strategy will leverage digital media platforms to communicate messages of value and raise interest in the right areas.
If done well, audiences will go to where more information can be found and ultimately purchases will be made. So while digital platforms and analytics tools can measure performance indicators like website traffic, registrations, and purchases, it’s not the campaigns themselves that create the sales.
5. There’s no Such Thing as Free Advice
There’s something very disturbing happening in the PR industry. A turf war exists where firms are doing what they can to win new business. PR firms, ad agencies, and digital marketing shops are giving away business on a trial basis as part of their new business offerings.
Some would argue this is a positive sign of investment; a demonstration that the firm believes in the brand and is confident in future business. But in a struggling economy where many new business wins are project-based, this is simply not a viable solution for either party. What if you’re not in the position to take on the firm at the end of the trial program despite its success? Not many can stomach having just “invested” hundreds of man hours and thousands of dollars with no fiscal return.
On the incremental side, digital is being wedged in as a “bolt on” to an existing plan where the budgets remain the same. Think about it. The scope of the plan has changed, as have the expected results, yet the budget (translation: billable time) remains the same. Chances are you wouldn’t approve a program like this if the roles were reversed, so don’t get in the position where you set up your firm to suffer or even fail.