Doing the same thing again and again, and expecting a different result, is the very definition of insanity, remarked Einstein.
But as a behavioural trait in the corporate world, the process seems all too familiar.
So why do such things persist? There are probably a myriad of reasons ranging from the ‘we’ve always done it this way’ mentality to lethargy, or wider corporate inflexibility.
And although we’re not management consultants – who are perhaps better placed to explain such things – too often we’re witness to the practice when prospects ask us why their media and marketing campaigns aren’t working.
Yes, it’s easy to step back as a consultant and criticise internal behaviours but, as long as the discussion is fair and well structured, firms should be open to trying new approaches.
The most common mistakes in media and marketing campaigns
1. Underinvesting in the PR process, resulting in a lack of content, engagement, ideas and scope.
A lot of internal marketing and communications is hamstrung by a lack of financial investment – read: one or two people trying to do everything – or a failure by senior management and key personnel to invest time in supporting PR activity.
Too often, we hear that Business Development heads ‘struggle to see the value’ in investing their time or budgets. Pushing on with limited communications capacity, and expecting your customer and prospects to suddenly change their buying behaviour in your favour is, at best, a pipedream.
2. Relying on the same themes, talking points and media approach.
Companies grow and develop; so too should their communications. Relying on messages that haven’t moved on, and no longer reflect the commercial operation of a firm, won’t resonate with target audiences.
3. Maintaining the belief that your business is interesting, without considering context or situation.
What makes your business interesting? Many firms labour under the misapprehension that certain announcements will be of definite interest to their media targets, and by extension core audiences. But without context this is rarely the case.
Journalists and editors frequently complain of receiving bland, non-stories for press releases that will never make it into print. Applying an editorial filter – asking why this really matters – is the only way to ensure that campaigns will see any kind of coverage.
A day at a time...
Of course, if you’re in a situation where some of these scenarios are familiar, you’ll equally recognise that, in some situations, changing things quickly is akin to turning round an oil tanker. And in reality, it’s only one of the above that needs to be out of line in order to negatively affect an entire campaign.
But, if the ambition is to move things on, what can be done? To return to our 3 problems:
Firstly – try and tackle underinvestment by driving towards commercially focussed campaigns. Sounds simple, of course, and we know that PR is a notoriously difficult activity to benchmark. But, involving business development directors and senior personnel, and devising campaigns that focus around commercial pinch points rather than generic brand building, should start to resonate.
Secondly – keep the content fresh. PR practitioners are great at creativity – but that inventiveness needs to be grounded with some input from around the business. A willingness to work with multiple internal stakeholders – from HR to sales – can often uncover hidden information that might just be the start of a leading campaign.
Thirdly – if you’re an internal PR executive, don’t fall into the trap of losing that editorial objectivity by looking too much within. Your business isn’t fundamentally interesting all of the time – even if you are Tesla. What keeps firms front of mind for the media is how they position themselves in relation to trends and global developments – context is, after all, how the best stories work.
None of these suggestions are quick wins, and seeing the results will take time. You might consider hiring an external agency. But before you do, make sure that you understand the difference between a PR agency and an in-house PR.