Word of the Week: Social (aka Digital)

18 October 2018

Here’s a word that gets bandied around a lot – social (aka ‘digital’ amongst those who want to imply a full range of non-traditional media skills). In the word cloud of my last 10 years in our industry the bloody word’s so prominent it cuckoos all the others out of the nest.

We had a bit of a seminal PR Week Awards moment at W this week – we won three times.

The fact that there were three was obviously killer but the thing that really excited me was that two of them were for things we’re not really known for – corporate comms and – yes – digital. We won the latter for our L’Eau de Chris work with CALM and I suspect we’d have won it on sheer impact alone. The campaign delivered 5 million organic video views, 1.3 million Facebook impressions, 829,000 image views on Instagram and 35,000 twitter mentions. It drove a 2000% increase in web traffic and a 500% uplift in web sign-ups.

But I’m not here to brag (well, maybe I am a little). The thing is, though, it wasn’t a social (or digital) campaign. Yes, it delivered social results and, yes, it was partly driven through social media channels. But it wasn’t conceived specifically to be digital. It was a PR campaign in its purest sense (we’re a PR agency, after all).

Many agencies and their clients fall into the trap of thinking that PR and social are two separate things (even we have our own standalone digital division, no one’s perfect). We create a whole different language around digital, boggle peoples’ minds with data and API chat and make it seem so different to PR that we genuinely start to believe they’re not indelibly linked. We even bring in teams of specialists with no PR expertise because many clients want to see a separate offer. But the thing is, PR and social are not separate things and they don’t work anywhere near as well apart as they do together.

L’Eau de Chris worked because it was an amazing earned media idea. Period. Not because it had the right ‘content assets’ (although it did). Not because it had ‘spend’ behind it (it didn’t need it). Not because it had a strong ‘content calendar’ underpinning it (although it did). And certainly not because it ‘leveraged deep data insights’ (it didn’t, although data was used to track success). It worked because the premise of the campaign was born of a razor sharp instinct for the news, those who make it and how that news spreads on social. Simple as that.

Not only do PR and social media work better together, they work in a way that delivers exponential value to the brand or business. They work, together, to drive the media and social media agenda. They work, together, to engage and manage influencers. And they work, together, to drive natural link building for web domains so that brands don’t have to rely on SEO to create artificial links and drive traffic (and sales).

Anyone who tries to separate the two – or conceive a campaign that does not have both seamlessly front and centre – is at best missing a trick and at worse letting their clients or CFOs down. Like many things I could mention – Marmite+toast, chips+mayonnaise and the UK+Europe (don’t shoot me, it’s my opinion), they tend to be much #bettertogether.