Don’t worry, this post isn’t just about that awful saga of the Christmas Number One, its just an example.
Following the widely hailed success of a campaign started by Jon and Tracy Morter to break the strangle hold that Simon Cowell has on the UK charts at Christmas, I’ve been reading an interesting post by Scott Gould.
Scott has a theory about what is happening to PR. The post I’m interested in was set up by three earlier ones, setting out three key ideas.
Firstly, Scott thinks that PR is no longer about manufactured Press Releases, instead it is starting to be about Personal Relationships. This is because social media has empowered individuals to have a voice they didn’t have before, because the press (who publish releases) doesn’t form opinion any more. People do.
Secondly, Scott said that the difference between the press and social media is that the press is static (unchanging, unengaging) and social media is dynamic (flexible, adaptable, ever changing and engaging). He also pointed out that many don’t understand this and try to put static content (press releases) into social media (blogs – along with faceless authors). Boy have I learned that lesson! Anyhow…
And Thirdly, Scott posed a new draft framework for the new PR. Scotts model offers a new PR where one can both control the message (through traditional press, TV etc) or guide the message, through social media channels like online communities, facebook and twitter. What you do with social tools guides but does not control your message. For example, you can moderate comments but you can’t control them. This is risky but has much greater ‘spreadability’ because the community online spreads the message for you. Scott’s description of how this might work is well worth the read.
But then I come to the crux of the issue, his post about the Christmas Number One.
Scott posted about the campaign to make Rage Against The Machines’ single ‘Killing in the Name Of’ the Christmas number one as a case study for his framework on the new PR. He argues that the Xfactor machine is all about Reach (he states that 13.9 million people watched more than 50 hours of the programme) whereas the Morter’s campaign was all about Spreadability (people took up the ball and ran with it all over the internet).
Now I’ve no idea whether Scott’s model for the new PR predicted this hugely successful campaign in any way, but I can see how he might lay claim to having forecast it obliquely. Which is fine. This is beside the point really. What matters is his question at the end of his post.
“Do you think this kind of thing can be reproduced by corporates? Or does big business lack the authenticity and personal relationship to pull off not only viral campaigns but movements like this?”
I think the answer to this will lie in the nature of the message of the Morter campaign. Why did so many people take to it?
Was it simply because it was easy to participate in? No, although I think Scott is right that making it easy to do helps.
I think the campaign was successful because there was a constituency of people who wanted it to succeed. A group of people who had something to say but didn’t know how to say it effectively, and identified with this opportunity to do so.
It was not just the content of the choice they were making (the single and its message) but the context of the weeks and weeks of hype about the ITV programme, the assumption that the Christmas No.1 belonged to the winner of the show.
If a big corporate wanted to ‘reproduce this kind of thing’ they would have to reproduce something that an audience wanted to hear, to do, to support. As Scott says, papers don’t form opinion any more, and corporates using social media cannot either. What they can do is listen, identify existing opinion and provide opportunities to act on it.
For example, Angela Carr, an architect from Dublin, did this by identifying what homeowners in her area really cared about and aspired to, and set about talking to them about it, and helping them do this. This has enabled her set up a new business in a deep construction recession. You can read more about this example here.
So It doesn’t have to be as big as hating the X Factor, it just has to be something people care about. What public opinions can you support, help and facilitate?