The Business of Influence: 5 Principles of Successful Influencer Marketing


Today, every business is in the business of influence. More and more organizations are working with people who can influence desirable audiences to connect, engage, and make decisions—and purchases—on a powerful scale. However, unlocking the massive potential of influencer marketing in a networked world requires understandings and focuses that are eluding many organizations. As digital analyst Brian Solis reveals in his report ‘Influence 2.0: The Future of Influencer Marketing’, a reassessment of the value chain is vital for organizations to avoid lagging behind as the future of influence unfolds. Here are 5 key principles to help organizations re-evaluate the causes and characteristics of successful influencer marketing.

1. Effective relationship management is the driving force of influencer marketing

Relationships underpin the influencer marketing process, in which marketers borrow social capital from the relationships between influencers and their followers. However, as Solis emphasizes in the ‘Influence 2.0’ report, “You must do more than use the relationships of others to broadcast on your behalf, regardless of payment exchanged.” Instead, successful influencer marketing revolves around mutually beneficial relationships: connecting with the right people to create value not only for your brand, but also for the relationships influencers maintain with their communities.

In order to strengthen relationships and value creation, organizations are moving away from short-term, influencer-led campaigns towards more meaningful, long-term relationships that build trust and foster greater opportunities for ROI. According to Solis:

“The concept of Influence 2.0 is to help strategists envision a future of influencer marketing that aligns with the objectives of business, influencers, and customers. This is why…Influence 2.0 is centered on relationships…It’s time for brands and agencies to think beyond traditional endorsements and campaign-driving thinking.”

Recasting influencer marketing as “influencer relations” could, Solis suggests, create “a new discipline that transcends all relationship-driven marketing”. This would entail “not just a simple ‘rebrand’ of existing PR resources,” he stresses, but “continuous care through an influencer relationship management (IRM) platform and dedicated resources to connect customers with the people who influence them every day”.

2. A human approach to understanding customers and influencers can strengthen mutual value and social capital

An influencer and his or her community produce rich exchanges of mutual value and social capital, based on personal and professional ties. Executives can better capitalize on these ties if they invest in understanding how and why a particular influencer has actually earned their community, and what a mutually beneficially relationship might involve. As Solis points out, “few people actually read the work of influencers before reaching out to them”, an oversight which can reduce the uptake, quality and results of an influencer-brand relationship.

Likewise, deep customer understanding is essential for organizations to make the most of influencer marketing. According to executives surveyed for the ‘The 2016 State of Digital Transformation’ report, the top driver of CX-led digital transformation was understanding “evolving customer behaviors and preferences” (55%). At the same time, the top challenge was “understanding behavior or impact of a new customer” (71%). In-depth customer insights, therefore, remain crucial to help companies close the gap between what they assume customers value, want or do, and what customers actually value, want and do. As Michael Troiano, Chief Marketing Officer of Actifio, puts it:

“What customers want is intimacy…they expect to be understood as individuals, and to be treated like people. What marketers want is scale, the ability to touch lots of people at the most efficient CPM possible. The reason to get excited about social marketing is that it offers the promise of “Scalable Intimacy,” really the first medium to do so. And authenticity is the currency of this medium. You can’t “fake it,” by definition.”

Empathy and a focus on human to human (#H2H) interaction can foster the authenticity that organizations need to better understand and reach crowds with common values.

3. Influence requires championing and cross-functional leadership

In the ‘Influence 2.0’ report, a clear majority (71%) of surveyed brand marketers viewed influencer marketing as a strategic or highly strategic marketing category. Despite this, influencer marketing typically remains an add-on to a paid endorsement or PR program, rather than a standalone program with executive sponsorship. Indeed, 65% of surveyed companies assigned engagement with influencers to PR, but only 16% cited PR as the owner of their influencer marketing. This disconnect between the departments that own influencer marketing and those that execute it, is, according to Solis, stunting the growth of influence programs:

“To become more prominent within the marketing mix, influencer programs require someone to make the case, uniting stakeholders to lead a cross-functional initiative.”

Below is the Cross-Functional Influence Model Solis proposes in ‘Influence 2.0’:

By having a dedicated team that coordinates with various departments—for example, with Public Relations, Marketing, Digital Communications, Client Relations, IT, Sales, and HR—influencer relations can earn executive attention that transcends business functions. This, in turn, may benefit an organization’s larger digital transformation efforts by improving customer experience, since, as Solis puts it, “Customers don’t want to see the ‘cogs,’ they want to believe that businesses operate seamlessly and effortlessly to serve their needs.”

4. Influence never stops, and should be integrated with all touchpoints of the customer journey

Customer journeys are “always on”, and people are constantly turning to trusted others to help them make informed decisions. Therefore, Solis recommends mapping influencer relations against all stages of the customer journey:

“It’s uncommon for executives to live the business the way their customers and employees do, so escalating influence requires marketers to expose how, where, and why digital customers and employees seek information.
Where do they derive value?
Who do they trust?
And, how does engaging with your company affect each step of their decision-making journey?”

A successful influence program, in Solis’s view, “must consider outcomes across the board and then reverse engineer programs to deliver against them”. Business outcomes must be aligned “with influencer and customer objectives in each moment of truth—from awareness, to consideration, to decision, to overall experience”. This approach helps organizations clarify what factors are really driving their relationships forward and creating mutual value.

5. Influencers can align content creation and distribution with customer care and conversions

Integral to influencer relations is a shift from corporate-centric to customer-centric narratives. “Paradoxically, your “story” is not about you—it’s about what you do for others,” writes Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs. The customer, consequently, becomes the hero of your story.

A shift to influencer relations could help organizations to integrate customer experience with content strategies and influencer engagement. 80% of the organizations surveyed for ‘Influence 2.0’ describe influencer marketing as most impactful for content marketing. However, relatively few companies (22%) are linking their content strategy to the needs of customers throughout their journey. Influencers can bridge this gap by aligning content creation and distribution with each stage of the customer journey.

In the above framework from ‘Influence 2.0’, influencers produce and share useful and engaging content throughout the customer journey, from introducing new products and answering questions to showcasing new product capabilities and directing customers to points of sale, support and further information.

Innovation over iteration

The ‘Influence 2.0’ report by Brian Solis is valuable for its emphasis on helping organizations align the future of influencer marketing with the objectives of their business, influencers, and customers alike.

Without the shift to influencer relations proposed by Solis, influencer marketing risks becoming a process of iteration, where new tools generate similar results, rather than a process of innovation in which new strategies unlock value.

It will be interesting to see if and how PR can benefit from a cross-functional approach to influencer relations. What does seem likely is that success in the future of influence calls for an adaptive mindset and the ability to work together to optimize—and humanize—outcomes across the influence ecosystem.

Images: andy.brandon50; and concept diagrams from ‘Influence 2.0: The Future of Influencer Marketing‘ by Brian Solis from Altimeter

Insights into Tomorrow’s Marketing Organizations: The Interplay of Brands and Agencies


As the marketing discipline becomes more fragmented, marketing agencies and internal departments need to take a collaborative approach to achieve success and longevity. Specialists will have a key role working with marketing teams to provide strategic communications counsel for brands who truly understand what they’re all about and who their audiences are, as discussed by three key communications leaders at our recent Sydney meetup.

‘The Marketing Organisation of the Future’ was the hot topic for our senior panel, who addressed the questions: What is changing and is not changing in marketing? What are the characteristics and capabilities of marketing organizations of the future? What can we be doing now to become the successful marketing organization of tomorrow?

Below are the key insights shared by each panellist on shaping the marketing department and agency of the future.

Pru Quinlan, CEO, Einsteinz Communications

  • We will see a more collaborative approach with many agencies coming together.
  • Agencies need to think about how they interact with marketers and employees.
  • The agency of the future will have to be more agile than it is now – navigate 1-to-1 marketing and make quick decisions based on technology and consumer behavior.
  • It’s challenging for brands to invest in long form content … the need is for ‘snackable’ content to be distributed in the right way to reach target audiences.
  • Brands should own the content, not the agency.
  • Agencies need to show and lead by example when it comes to budgets and the value of what we do.
  • Brands need to control themselves but also need to reflect on the workforce of today, including freelancers and contractors; there are many talented individuals who don’t fit in a particular hole but have a role to play within a company, or for a brand.
  • There will be more roles for individuals, on their own or as collectives, to work with brands, work magic, then maybe even leave.
  • Advice: focus on what audiences really want and what your brand means for them … And brands have to open minds to new approaches and play differently to speak to our market.

Ben Shipley, Managing Director, Spectrum Group

  • The market has been product-centric, not audience-centric, but we will move back to being people-centric.
  • Greater focus on useful and quality content designed for niche audiences, but also need to also understand how the content will reach them.
  • Need to aggregate audiences and keep people engaged.
  • Agencies have a role in giving brands an objective viewpoint.
  • Whitepapers are no longer effective and could work better as a series of shorter pieces of content.
  • Building owned homes for content has an important impact on search. There is a split in media: live event content (news) versus distributed evergreen content (broadsheet).
  • Key piece of advice is to be a singular brand – know what you are and why – and consider the different messaging required for different audience segments.

Tony Faure, Chairman, Junkee Media, Stackla, Pollenizer

  • Key piece of advice is to use data to fully understand your customer and be very clear about your point of difference.
  • Brand is going to be even more massive and go back to ‘difficult marketing’.
  • Aggregation of services will be done by technology.
  • We are heading into an era of specialists, not generalists.
  • We will see companies and brands taking back ownership of marketing, which has largely been ceded to agencies.
  • Journalists are not always capable of realizing not everything they write is interesting, so they may not be the best people to produce content.
  • Long-form content can be more difficult to execute … a one-minute video for Facebook is cheaper, measured instantly, and easier to do.
  • Key elements to consider are: Who is the customer? Why is my brand different from everyone else’s?
  • The customer and brand piece needs to be owned by the brand.
  • Less of a believer in big aggregated agencies.
  • The creative agency has more relevance now.
  • There is an increase in big brands wanting specialists.
  • It’s about identifying niche communities within your brand community and understanding the nuances of how to best engage with them.
  • Australian agency versus global marketing agency: main issues are scale; regional Australian clients are less likely to take risks because they’re the brand channel for our market.

Please let us know your thoughts on any of the points raised, or if you have comments to add to the discussion on the marketing organization of the future.

Join our Future of PR – Sydney Meetup Group here and find out when our next meetup will be held.

A Review of Successful Micropayment Platforms


Micropayment platforms that allow people to buy individual news stories for 10, 20, or 50 cents are finally reaching the mainstream after about 20 years of development hell.

Blendle and Winnipeg Free Press offer two successful micropayment systems that might prove the model works.

Both are effective in terms of delivery, but more importantly, they’ve found the right markets and the right zeitgeist to turn a long-time vision into a profitable reality.

Blendle, a Dutch app often called “the iTunes of news,” has wooed more than half a million users since launching in 2014, making it the current benchmark.
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Users put money on their accounts and use it to buy stories from a variety of established publications for about 20 cents each. The idea is to “blend” articles to create a personalized newspaper or magazine.

Blendle looks like it’s here to stay and grow. The company has promised to enter the US. sometime in 2016, where it will apparently stock articles from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other established American newspapers.

Right place…

Blendle’s entry into the US will be a crunch moment for micropayments.

The Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium, which make up Blendle’s main market, have a combined population of barely 100 million, but also boast four languages and far more localized news issues than the US.

Blendle originally offered articles from 56 European publications, which would barely register in America’s saturated media landscape, but immediately gave it a presence in Europe’s highly localized news market.

A focus on smaller markets is a key link between Blendle and Winnipeg Free Press, another micropayment success story.

The print edition of the Winnipeg Free Press has been published consistently since 1872 and continues to print six days a week. Its hometown, the capital of the Canadian province of Manitoba, has a population of about 700,000.

The publication launched a bespoke micropayment system in July 2015 and by December had exceeded its revenue and readership goals.

It’s notable that these two successful micropayment platforms both started with a manageable, localized market. It’s not the whole story, but it could be a lesson for developers who think they’ll immediately sweep through a saturated market like the US or the UK.

…right time

Another link between Blendle and Winnipeg Free Press is their relative youth. It’s not just about learning from previous mistakes, but riding the current wave of interest in micropayment platforms.

The concept of micropayments for news emerged in the 1990s, but when the impact of Internet publishing became clear, the hastily accepted wisdom was that paywall models were the future, not micropayments.

The cycle seems to have turned, with a number of publishers turning away from paywall models. News publishers are searching for a new commercial model and they might see it in the current wave of micropayment platforms.

Micropayments allow news consumers to “impulse buy” an individual story without signing up for a yearly subscription.

When printed newspapers dominated, consumers might have paid $2 for one day’s newspaper just because they were particularly interested in the news that day.

Subscriptions force consumers to pay more upfront. They also demand that consumers commit to a publication. Not many consumers can afford to juggle multiple subscriptions that might cost thousands of dollars in total.

Enthusiasm doesn’t mean success for micropayment platforms

In terms of delivery, one link between Blendle and Winnipeg Free Press is the offer of refunds for individual articles.

This feature is clearly a tool to reassure consumers who might be skeptical. (Winnipeg Free Press also allows users to choose a traditional subscription rather than micropayments.)

But it also appeals to consumers’ willingness to pay for news. It assumes that users won’t ask for a refund on everything and therefore pay nothing.

The success of micro-donation platforms such as Flattr and Tipsy shows that news consumers can be altruistic. One German news website reportedly made more than EUR6000 from Flattr in 2014.

Like Flattr and Tipsy, Blendle and the Winnipeg Free Press are the result of a belief that consumers will pay for news in the right circumstances. Unlike so many failed micropayment startups, however, they’ve tempered this optimism with commercial caution.

Blendle didn’t go live until it had 56 publications signed on. Winnipeg Free Press relied on a pre-existing consumer and production base, rather than building a platform as a third party and waiting for news producers to join in.

The key lessons here could be the importance of a manageable target market and an acknowledgment that consumers need convincing.

Micropayment platforms are a teasing prospect. The major lesson so far is they require groundwork, timing, and a pinch of luck—familiar ideas to any entrepreneur. It’s been a long road, but mainstream success could be right around the corner.

Image Sources: Modern Wall Street, Archives of the Winnipeg Free Press

Leaders of the Future:  Collaborative, High EQ and Data-Driven


There’s no denying the influence of technology on communication practices, however it is with the value of human experience, honed gut instinct and emotional intelligence that PR leaders of the future will shape the industry.

Our first Creating the Future of PR Meetup in Sydney recently brought together a panel of industry leaders with varied backgrounds to discuss the skills, capabilities and qualities required of our future communications leaders, and how best to nurture their talents.

All panelists agreed our future leaders must be more flexible in their thinking, comfortable with being data-driven and working with people across the broader business, not just within the communications function. The technology plus human relationship is critical where tech will be led by human intuition.

Below are key discussion points shared by our panelists during the event.

Caspian Smith, Director Brand & Communications, IBM Asia Pacific


  • Greater requirement for transparency in communication.
  • Communication leaders as custodians of the brands they manage – it’s their job to help employees understand what the brand stands for; they will be the voice of the brand and shape interactions.
  • We will work with people across the business and become adept at working in multi-disciplinary teams, e.g. IT, product developers, psychologists, software engineers etc.
  • Cognitive machine learning is the future and something IBM is currently working on with IBM’s Watson Technology: it will allow us to learn at great scale. Communications teams will help guide the creation of tech for one-to-one communication at mass scale. We will teach the technology and the technology will teach employees with consistent, up-to-date and ‘on-brand’ information.

Kieran Moore, CEO, Ogilvy PR Australia, Regional Talent Director, EXCO member, STW Group Australia, Board Member, Ogilvy PR

  • As communications leaders we need a better understanding of data, insights, strategy, planning, and digital technology via a team of specialists with each of these skills. A collaborative approach is essential and the days of marketing disciplines fighting each other are gone; whoever gets the jump on paid and social will do well.
  • We need to understand the value of paid and search to know where people go to look for content. People aren’t going to brand websites for information anymore. PR has been great at creating content but if we don’t know where to distribute this content then no-one will see what we create.
  • We need really good EQ (Emotional Quotient) to nurture teams and future leaders. One of the best things about the role of communications in this digital era is the role of people in decision-making, relationship building and the communication process. Even if you have the best tech in the world you still need a human touch.
  • Future leaders will need to understand changing demographics and the nature of work, value employees as influencers, be more transparent and understand that loyalty to consumer brands is not there anymore.

Kim McKay, director and founder, Klick Communications

  • Leadership qualities aren’t going to change. Leaders will still need to be visionary and see what’s coming while being inspiring enough to take people along with them.
  • We need to think about the future of work and what that looks like, working with freelancers and remote staff, and we need to be able to lead and motivate geographically dispersed teams. We need to get people inducted and up-to-speed on the business and brands they’re working on quickly to best manage agency employee turnover.
  • SEO and social media as industries “should not have happened on our watch … We’ve always been in control of the words, where they go and how they’re applied” so to miss these are bad for PR. PR should have gotten in early with social and claimed it early but I think we’ve learned from this as an industry and now we’re focused on the what’s next and what our role will be.

Professor Jim Macnamara, Associate Dean UTS was unable to attend but contributed some key thoughts as below:

  • Get out of silos and ghettos and work collaboratively.
  • A more strategic focus, and evidence-based and data-driven communication is needed.
  • We will see a move towards greater social conscience.

Audience Discussion

Here are some comments from the audience shared via Twitter on the night.

Why PR Shouldn’t Fear a Recession


Almost daily we see media coverage of potential downturns or various bubbles bursting. Whether or not another Great Recession is headed our way, 2016 is looking like a year of uncertainty. The US election, the UK’s EU Brexit referendum, the crisis in the Middle East, oil, China’s volatile stock market – there’s plenty of disruptive factors right now. Never a good thing for economic and business confidence.

As marketing and communications professionals, history tells us that when a recession rears its ugly head, it’s our departments that are the first to be cut. However, have things changed? Should the marketing community be more confident these days that our budgets are safe if a recession or downturn appears?

I think the answer is yes.

At LEWIS Futures Forums events held in San Francisco and San Diego in February 2016, we polled senior global marketing decision makers on this topic.

In terms of how a marketer in 2016 would respond to a recession, a third said they would expect to increase marketing spend. Another third said they expect it to be business as usual. Fifteen per cent said it was likely resources would be diverted into R&D. Meanwhile, a cautious fifth are reaching for the rope to firmly batten down those hatches.

Overall, those surveyed were fairly confident. But should they be, given the track record of marketing budgets and recessions?

According to Mike Banic, VP Marketing at San Jose, CA-based Vectra Networks, the answer lies in the rapid development and accessibility of marketing automation tools.

“At the time of the last recession in 2008, sophisticated marketing automation tools were not readily available. Often the price point was within reach of only the largest organizations. Today, marketing tools are highly sophisticated and because there is much more choice and better pricing, these systems are common place. Even your local florist is using a tool like HubSpot in its day-to-day business with customers.”

Marketing and communications has secured a different place and value since the last recession. We have the data, analysis and systems to prove that cutting marketing and communications during an economic downturn is a bad idea.

In 2008, marketers focused on activity. It was challenging to prove the connection to business value. Now, we have the data to exactly demonstrate business value and trace the contribution of marketing to corporate strategy and objectives. Data will act as the lifebelt for marketers when the economy gets into choppy waters.

2008’s single-layer email marketing solutions have given way to marketing automation platforms. These allow for more sophisticated execution, management and measurement of marketing campaigns.

These solutions are now tightly integrated with CRM technologies. This means measurement can carry through all the way from lead to close in a way that wasn’t possible before.

Google Analytics at the time was for specialists, not the general marketer. We had data, but the ease of analysis to demonstrate business value was out of reach to most.

Similarly, at the same time social media was still in relative infancy and very much a consumer plaything. Twitter was a celebrity tool Ashton Kutcher used to reach masses. Measuring social was not even an option.

Many saw tools like Hootsuite and Hubspot as a game changer bringing excellent measurement solutions into the hands of marketers in any size of organisation. Google and Facebook analytics are now used capably by marketing and communications generalists.

We could even say that 2008 was before content marketing became a serious marketing strategy. Now, the value of content we are creating has never been more important. In the last decade, it was difficult to prove the value and direct impact of content. Now we can track and report back on the value and contribution of content across every channel and platform that an organization uses.

Mike Banic agrees that data is the key to weathering the storm of any potential recessions: “I can tell the board how many inbound web visitors we had from reading articles online or engaging in social media and then linking to the website. When we publish blog posts about threat research, we can track a huge spike in web visits. I know exactly where people are going after reading the blog.

“The most important aspect is to be able to track the customer journey. There are so many great tools today to build pathways or journeys through digital content. For example, what content resonates at what part of the buying cycle, where are you in your journey. It’s very simple to associate calls to action in digital outbound activity.

“In our weekly sale and marketing team meetings, we review leads by channels, like inbound web queries, content, social media, how many leads turned into meetings. We analyze what lead sources work or not. This gives me the ability to make brutal decisions about where to make investments, and where to reduce or stop.

“This level of insight was non-existent at the time of the last recession. The quality of the data I regularly provide to the board basis proves the exact value of marketing and communications.”

Cutting down on marketing and communications is no longer an option during a recessionary period. Organizations would lose the insights and analytics to help improve the business when it needs it most. What operational improvements would be needed to help get an organization through a tough economic period.

If there is a positive we can take from a potential recession this year, it’s that the marketing community need not fear the axe being wielded. We have no excuses to not be confident about delivering and demonstrating business value. Because the data is out there. And all of us bar none have the means to show this to the board, month in, month out, rain or shine.

9 Pieces of Technology You Can Use to Do Better PR


Today, even an Android smartphone has more computational power than did the world’s most powerful supercomputer just a couple of decades ago. Yet, few public relations pros have updated the way they work to take advantage of the capabilities now available to them.

It is true that public relations is at least in part a people business, and human relations are naturally resistant to digitization.

Even so, the tools I discuss here have boosted my productivity dramatically. In 2015, generated more than $80 million of media coverage, without an agency and with just one internal person dedicated to PR (me). Moreover, I have operated in another time zone and on another continent from most of the team.

So, here are some tips on using productivity-enhancing tools. They have helped place stories everywhere from CNBC and the New York Times to China Daily and Nikkei Asian Review.


Evernote is like the notebook where your mother used to keep her recipes (or maybe it was your father – no stereotypes here).

Unlike that notebook, Evernote can never get full. You can insert any sort of document, picture or video. It is completely searchable, easy to organize and even shareable with people who don’t have an account.

I have one Evernote notebook for news related to, which I share with Sales and Marketing. Another shared notebook stores content that I have created, and a third holds confidential files, which I share with no one. I clip items directly from my Chrome browser, iPad and even iPhone.

Evernote makes it easy for me to store and retrieve much more information than was ever possible before.

Apple Devices

You may prefer Android or Windows. By all means stick with what works for you.

As for me, I find Apple’s smooth, intuitive software makes work more fun.

The ease with which I can manage and produce files, photos, audio and video saves me countless hours on creative tasks. My MacBook Pro laptop is so portable that I take notes on it in meetings.

As for the iPad, it is a vast improvement over wading through a stack of newspapers and magazines each morning. Believe it or not, the iPad is also an excellent tool for writing, because it allows you to more easily narrow your focus down to the project at hand. Turn off all but the most important notifications in Settings, and you can compose without distraction.

The iPhone is so powerful that I have more than once worked entire afternoons with no other device, and been nearly as effective as I would have been with the laptop.

For greatest productivity on all of your Apple devices, in ‘Settings’ enable the dictation feature so you can compose an email or an article as quickly as you can speak the words.

Also, be sure to create official email signatures on your portable devices, so you look professional.


If you want to be good at public relations, you can’t let opportunities fall through the cracks. And, you need to make the most of the relationships you have.

After trying many, many contact and task managers, I have finally settled on this one. Officially billed as a CRM, Contactually works nearly as well for the public relations pro as the salesperson.

I use sales pipelines to track stories I am pitching. Contactually automatically creates tasks when I need it to. I rely on its built-in email templates and bulk emailing to easily send personalized messages to large numbers of individuals. Contactually could make it easier to sort contacts, and its mobile apps are atrocious. Still, it is the best relationship manager I have seen for PR pros.

Factiva and Meltwater

News databases and clipping services let you research the media environment before you pitch, and communicate the value you are generating after you collect your clips.

Factiva has much more powerful search functions, but several times a week Meltwater sends me clips that Factiva has overlooked. I recommend both if budget permits.


A subscription media contact database is helpful for those occasions when you need to reach someone new. It is expensive but useful, especially if you can share the cost among a team.

I have found Vuelio has slightly better lists for the international media I often pitch.

Skype and Viber

I place calls to every continent on almost a daily basis, which would be prohibitively expensive via my regular mobile phone service. Nor can I always wait until I am able to use a landline.

These two services allow me to call any phone, anywhere in the world, for pennies. Usually, call quality is better with Viber. On the other hand, colleagues and journalists are more likely to have a Skype account, which enables video chats and text messaging. You can even use Viber’s and Skype’s smartphone apps when you do not have Wi-Fi service, over your regular mobile signal.


One reason public relations is such a rewarding career is that you get to both work intensively with others and also spend time on your own — thinking and writing.

This is my favorite software for writing. Ulysses makes it extremely easy to organize files, but really shines in providing a clean, inviting workspace for putting down your thoughts. Just about every media release, op-ed, messaging brief and piece of web content that I create starts here.

My final advice is to keep experimenting and not let yourself be limited by what your employer will pay for. Invest a few of your own dollars to try promising apps or devices, and it will more than pay off in the long run.

Thought Leaders on What to Expect in PR in 2016: Story and Content


What should we expect for PR in 2016? We asked top industry thought leaders for their thoughts.

Three powerful themes emerged from their responses:
Scope and Breadth (Click link for insights)
Science, Data and Analytics (Click link for insights)
Story and Content (Insights below)

On story, content, and channels, Michael Brenner of Marketing Insider Group points to the power of storytelling, Mark Schaefer of Schaefer Marketing Solutions says we need to focus on content, Lars Voedisch from PRecious Communications explores how content marketing and story telling can bring results, while Trevor Young looks to the potential of video live-streaming.

Read the insights on story and content from these top thought leaders below.

I expect the PR industry in 2016 will shift to helping brands tell their stories in the classic tradition on storytelling. Great stories have heroes who overcome a challenge and find surprising things about themselves along the way. The hero of the stories brands tell needs to be their customers. And PR pros will continue to focus on classic storytelling techniques in 2016.

Michael Brenner, CEO, Marketing Insider Group
Follow on Twitter: @BrennerMichael

There is one mega-trend affecting every PR person on the planet: Rising above the tidal wave of information density to stand out. And this is a problem that is expected to get much, much worse. The amount of information on the web is expected to increase by 400% in the next four years. This trend will impact budgets, strategies, content/platform innovations and the skillsets needed to succeed now and in the future. How do we win in this environment? By focusing beyond content, beyond the message, to concentrate on who and how the message is getting shared.

Mark W. Schaefer,Executive Director, Schaefer Marketing Solutions and author of The Content Code
Follow on Twitter: @markwschaefer

The hot topics for 2016 are content marketing and story telling – in my opinion not new topics though, rather a new context of discussing them from a PR perspective and trying to label them.

PR’s job has always been to influence different audiences’ perception of brands, people or topics. And the arsenal of communications methods has always gone beyond the different iterations of the press release. Combinations of white paper, opinion pieces, blog posts or editorial contributions are at the centre of content and story telling – just that finally we look at it from a more strategic approach of the core story to bring across and then packaging them into different formats and pushing them through different channels across earned, shared and paid including third party services like e.g. Outbrain.

But for PR to keep its hands in the game and fend off marketing – it has to look at the ROI from those activities. For the longest time PR wanted nearly frantically to not be associated with sales results. Those artificial wars have to be over – we’ve to look into linking efforts not only to outputs, but outcomes: Do our activities drive traffic, conversion or perception changes.

Real strategic PR will use stories and content from a holistic perspective and link it to a wider sales funnel approachl – at which points of a customers or audience conversation can we influence behaviour and trigger perception changes, if not even actions!

Content is only as effective as the results it can provide.

Lars Voedisch, Managing Director, PRecious Communications
Follow on Twitter: @larsv

I’m bullish on video live-streaming. I think it has tremendous application for PR and comms folk, especially around humanising organisations and putting a sense of urgency back into our communications. THINK: Periscope, Meerkat – and we’ve just seen the launch of MeVee, which has some extra benefits – this, from @MeVeeApp on Twitter to me the other day: “we have ad revenue sharing opportunities, streams don’t disappear … anyone can view the streams, you can share streams to any social media channel”. And I think has tremendous potential. Hopefully as an industry we can start embracing these new social formats.

Trevor Young, Founder and Chief, PR Warrior
Follow on Twitter: @trevoryoung

Thought Leaders on What to Expect in PR in 2016: Science, Data and Analytics


What should we expect in PR and communications in 2016? We asked top thought leaders for their insights.

Three powerful themes emerged from their responses:
Scope and Breadth (Click link for insights)
Science, Data and Analytics (Insights below)
Story and Content (Click link for insights)

The importance of data and science in taking PR forward stood out. Fred Bateman of Bateman Group points to the analytical capabilities required, Blogger and Author Jeff Bullas says PR is now a science, while Futurist Carmen Villadar looks at the role of data science in a social context.

Read the insights on science, data, and analytics from these top thought leaders below.

In 2015, PR as an industry definitely came into its own and solidified a seat at the C-level table. But to keep it, 2016 needs to be about putting to rest lingering notions that PR people are pure creatives who don’t understand the complex spectrum of dynamics impacting their businesses. To be successful in PR today requires a lot, with mastery of the spoken and written word but only one of the criteria. It requires a hyper analytical mind able to quickly dissect products, competitors and markets. Every strategy is also dependent on our ability to accurately calculate every possible risk while never being too risk averse in our recommended approach. In other words, PR is hard.

PR professionals need to know more or at least be better informed than anyone else in the room, including the CEO. In 2016, I predict PR people across all industries will lean in even more to bring the profession to new levels of respect and admiration.

Fred Bateman, Owner, Bateman Group
Follow on Twitter: @fredbateman

The digital world has turned communications on its head and made everyone publishers and communicators. Simple media has become complex and a multi-media minefield. This means that the “Public Relations” industry needs to adapt to this new mobile and social web that is global and in real time. Fast evolving technology has also provided the tools and platforms to talk to the world at scale.

So PR is no longer just an art…. but a science. So in 2016 what does PR need to embrace and implement for themselves and their clients?

It needs to continue innovate so it can manage the splintered media world we now live in that is made of many moving parts. This means adopting digital technology and big data strategies that provides monitoring and communication at scale and simplified with automation.

If you don’t then you are at risk of becoming irrelevant and a dinosaur.

Jeff Bullas, Blogger, Author, Strategist and Speaker,
Follow on Twitter@jeffbullas

I expect to see hybrid roles and/or teams develop that converges data science with more customized social metrics. The role of cognitive computing will become more and more important as companies continue to seek a deeper understanding of the dynamics of building relevance and relationships in a rapidly augmented (reality) world. I’m thinking this would fit under something like the ABC’s of PR. Awareness. Branding. Cognition., but I’m sure that’s been said before.

Carmen Villadar, Futurist, #AIoT
Follow on Twitter: @digitalfemme

Thought Leaders on What to Expect in PR in 2016: Scope and Breadth


We asked global thought leaders in PR and communications what they expect in 2016.

Three powerful themes emerged from their responses:
Scope and Breadth (Insights below)
Science, Data and Analytics (Click link for insights)
Story and Content (Click link for insights)

The theme of increasing breadth and scope of what PR needs to become was particularly important. Lucy Allen of LEWIS points to PR agencies crossing over to encompass paid as well as earned media, Grey Healthcare Group’s Erin Byrne sees PR going beyond its traditional role to be at the center of corporate marketing and communications, Tracey Follows of AnyDayNow expects the growth of internal comms to drive customer experience, and Marian Salzman of Havas PR looks at the breadth of experience that PR professionals need to succeed.

Read the insights on the increasing scope and breadth of PR from these top thought leaders below.

Whether it’s paid social, mobile or display, PR agencies are getting more serious about their media spend. In 2016, I expect we’ll see more agencies growing their paid media departments, especially in digital media. Programmatic has levelled the playing field when it comes to media buying power. It’s no longer about who spends the most, since anyone can bid. That gives PR agencies the opportunity to get into the advertising market. Clients are seeing the value of paid media to amplify and complement PR content. Meanwhile, media owners are recognizing this and welcoming PR firms in their beta programs for new products and tools. We’ll see more PR agencies develop their skills in this area. We’ll likely see some resulting debate in 2016 about how PR agencies account for their revenues (fees vs turnover).

Lucy Allen, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, LEWIS
Follow on Twitter: @lucya

PR is so fundamental to marketing and communications as a whole that I believe this will be the year that PR truly has a seat at the table beyond corporate communications. Reputation is more important than ever, stakeholders are usually part of multiple target groups, and digital becoming ubiquitous has created an environment where messages can no longer be directed to one group. Therefore, PR can and should be at the center of an organization’s marketing and communications strategy. Along with this will come: – Much more robust approaches to content development, management and syndication – Proactive social media engagement, including in highly regulated industries like health – Assisted analytics that truly measure the efforts of PR based on how they impact other disciplines Just like years ago there was a big move to ensure everyone had a baseline level of digital expertise, this will be the year that all marketing and communications professionals are required to have a working knowledge and ability around the principles of public relations and corporate communications.

Erin Byrne, Chief Client Officer, Grey Healthcare Group
Follow on Twitter: @ErinByrne

The one thing I expect in 2016 for the PR industry is an increased focus on internal comms rather than external comms. Of course the latter is still important but it’s getting harder and harder to influence consumers through the efficient deployment of one consistent messaging plan; it’s now all about the experience.

New brands with new business models work to a longer term 10-20 yr vision and execute 2 or 3 initiatives that accelerate them towards that vision every 6-12 months. Nurturing a coherent long and short term plan is key; and creating an attractive internal culture with everyone delivering it to a high standard in a joined up way, is now the name of the game. Only a coherent internal experience can deliver a coherent consumer experience. Look at culture-building at Google, Facebook, Apple and how it shows up in their end users’ service. That’s the blueprint for every company now.

Tracey Follows, Founder and Futurist, Any Day Now
Follow on Twitter: @tracey_lou

For PR pros, a faux intimacy among themselves, influencers and media personalities comes about through tech addiction and its ugly cousin, contact collection (the antithesis of experience collection, because you’re collecting folks whom you oftentimes know by name without ever getting to know them). We’re not only addicted to our techno toys, but we’re also addicted to the rush of adding yet another fan, friend or follower—especially one who sits in the seat of influence.

In another area, experience is the new classroom. Internships have been the new first jobs in PR; now add to that office swaps, which are early career-learning bonanzas. PR pros need to do many things other than taking classes, including immersing themselves in newsrooms, working alongside event planners, being based in client offices and doing everything they do on the job with a student lens. I can imagine a two-year immersion into our biz that replaces graduate study—and puts rolled-up sleeves on the keyboard, ready to collaborate and cooperate in a professional mode.

Marian Salzman, Chairman, Global Collective, Havas PR and CEO, Havas PR North America
Follow on Twitter: @mariansalzman

What It Means to Be a PR Pro in 2016 and Beyond


How crazy has this year been?

From a PR practitioner’s perspective, we’ve had to:

  • come up to speed with the challenges and opportunities of live video streaming (THINK: Periscope, Meerkat etc);
  • grapple with the ever-decreasing organic reach of our clients’ (agency or inhouse) Facebook Pages, while at the same time try to understand how advertising on the platform works;
  • keep abreast of all the new apps, tools and platforms that emerge with alarming regularity (one of my favourites is Meddle; I’m also a huge fan of Blab – I think it has huge potential);
  • stay ahead of the curve by learning and understanding the finer points of podcasting and audio-on-demand formats (this is a trend we’re going to see and hear a lot more of in 2016 and beyond);
  • become savvy video storytellers so as to tap into a visual medium that continues to grow like crazy;
  • continue to get our heads around the myriad platform changes occurring at LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram seemingly on a daily basis; and
  • understand the need to post content where audiences live, for example, blogging on LinkedIn’s Pulse, and Facebook Notes.

And I haven’t even yet mentioned SEO, native advertising, online newsrooms and mobile (the latter, of course, is having a profound impact on the communications business) – these are all things PR pros need to have at least a basic understanding of.

Heck, we’re still trying to get our clients to understand the finer points of being on Twitter (be truthful, how many companies and organisations really get Twitter? Indeed, how many have truly become open and connected brands as a result of social media? How many value openness and transparency as core attributes?).

Of course, all of this is against an ever-evolving backdrop of big picture societal themes – fueled by technology but inherently driven by good old human behavior – that continue to force us to think differently (and act more nimbly) as professional communicators:

  • The democratization of information, in which everyone is now a real-time, global publisher.
  • Further to the above, a growing number of content creators are becoming bona fide influencers in their own right, which in turn means they probably should be on the radar of some in the PR industry.
  • Consumers are becoming expert ‘hunters and gatherers’ of information; we’re more than happy to get our news and information from a range of different sources, including brands – as long as we trust the source.
  • Demand for radical corporate transparency is at an all-time high (and at a time when trust in government, business and institutions remains at undesirable levels).

The good news is, the demand for savvy PR professionals is going to go through the roof as the complexity of communicating with one’s constituents continues to increase.

The challenge for communications pros is being ‘big picture’ enough to be able to join the dots strategically, but also sufficiently savvy tactically so any recommendations we make are practical and grounded in common sense, not just ‘cool things to do’.

Of course, there will also be an increased need for tactical specialists. For some of us, this might be a great way of differentiating our professional offering in the PR marketplace.

Lots of challenges ahead, but also heaps of opportunities available for those in our industry who invest the time to understand the ever-evolving new media landscape; not just how it works, but where it makes sense for us to be involved professionally. Concurrently, however, we should not forget the more traditional skills and tactics in our kitbag that when applied correctly in the right situation can still work effectively for the companies and organizations we represent.

Bring on 2016!