Social Media: PR’s Entrée to Marketing’s ‘Big Idea’
The “big idea,” long the Holy Grail for brands, signifies an obsessive search for a “transformative” brand platform that speaks much louder than a tag line. The iconic “Just Do It” is perhaps the most famous example of a big idea that became the prevailing philosophy of the Nike brand for decades.
Traditionally, advertisers and brand marketers have owned the big idea – as was the case with Nike (thanks to Wieden + Kennedy) in 1988. The reality is that amid the new media frontier, the search for big brand ideas endures, but advertising is no longer the dominant driver to create and tell brand stories.
As a digital native and an integrated communications practitioner, I’d like to shout from the mountaintops that social media is the single most important medium that has changed the way brands must approach marketing strategy and stakeholder engagement. The argument that the communications function is best positioned to shepherd the brand of the future in the social sphere is nothing new. For at least 5 years, communications agencies have been trumpeting the evolution of social as the silver bullet that will finally throw the marketing balance of power into its favor. Even as the ever-powerful medium that it is, social media is actually not the Holy Grail, but it is an absolutely essential vehicle in the actualization of marketing’s big idea.
Yet the struggle for ownership of social persists. Makovsky recently surveyed marketing and public relations executives to find out how well both organizations work together, what they could learn from one another and where there is still work to be done. The prevailing headline was CMO’s and CCO’s really are still at odds over who controls social media – with 74% of respondents citing social as an area where the two functions fail to collaborate effectively. While this may be the case, PR continues to take a larger bite of the marketing pie, through social and while there is a struggle for ownership, PR is much better positioned at the strategy table.
Who better to take evidence from than the world’s largest marketing organization, P&G? During my recent trip to the Global PR Summit in Miami, P&G’s CMO Marc Pritchard and Communications Director, Paul Fox (Makovsky hosted Paul on a panel discussion of What Marketing Can Learn From Public Relations) were in strong agreement when talking about how the big idea and social media marketing are actualized within P&G. Public Relations must be a principal driver.
The example Marc and Paul used to bring P&G’s organizational philosophy to life was the Thank you, Mom campaign that launched around the 2012 London Olympics – a great example of a big idea right-sized for the “new-age” social media marketing landscape. The campaign is super-easy for consumers to grasp and emotionally charged: P&G is celebrating what in many cases is the most important person behind a future Olympic hero – mom. The campaign was deployed in the run-up to, and on center stage at the biggest global sporting event. While P&G no doubt used a multi-channel approach, including advertising, to tell the story, PR drove the program, especially the conversation in social. Compelling, sharable content is king in the social sphere and P&G’s team made sure they had a lot of it. P&G created over 60 mini-documentaries (see Gabby Douglas) throughout the Olympic campaign. This content, as well as a proactive group of P&G community managers, turned the big idea platform into the perfect storm of social media engagement with 75 million YouTube views of the launch video, an 89% increase in people talking about P&G on Facebook, and 370 million impressions on Twitter. This modern big idea campaign was driven by P&G’s PR agency.
The key to this transformation at P&G is the integration between marketing and public relations — the combination of the two functions under the same roof. In reality, not every brand is as progressive as P&G, but I believe the sustained growth of social will continue to force a wave of integration across both B2B and B2C players. And if that’s the case, PR practitioners are better positioned now more than ever, to own the creation and implementation of game-changing big ideas. The chase is on…