Like many, I ended up in tech PR through ignorance. When I showed up for my first interview, I didn’t know what PR was (something like advertising?) and I didn’t know what this “press release” was that I had 30 minutes to write.
But something must have gone right, because not long after that I found myself nestled in front of a tidy desk for my first day at work — still with no idea what PR was.
The good news was, with social and digital flooding into the industry, it turned out neither did anyone else. I found myself arriving to an industry half in crisis because they could see the old ways were dying and half in blissful ignorance as the rug slid out from under them.
What I also found was that the world had tilted toward the internet I had grown up on. As a precocious youth with a father who worked in tech, I’d wasted hours on forums and newsgroups, totally immersed in the original social web.
So when introduced to Twitter, I still may have not known what a press release was — but I knew this was a language I could speak.
I quickly became the cliched Account Exec evangelising the latest thing: Google Wave, Google Buzz, Google+ (and even a few non-Google projects) — I was the man taking them all seriously.
I’ve since come to understand this is from the same instinct that makes me sit in the front row at standup shows: I want to try and experience the thing first, by myself, before I let others influence my view.
But as I watched platform after platform collapse, or evolve in disappointing ways, I also learned another significant lesson. From the latest to the ancient, some things that don’t change. Ultimately, whatever the means, people have the same drives, instincts, fears and desires they have had for thousands of years.
And so, a crucial lesson of my career has been: write strategy that optimises for the things that do not change.
This means things like:
- People trust other people, not brands.
- They especially trust people like them.
- They are all trying to achieve something — and if you help them, they may be grateful.
- Some people just want to be heard (think about complaints on social media.)
The principles of marketing aren’t really changed by developments in technology or new channels — It’s just our ability to fulfill them that does.
People became effective at broadcasting messages and not listening to their customer because really there was no simpler scalable route for some time.
PRs became effective at relying on journalists and publications to help spread their story, because there was no other channel.
But that’s just not true anymore.
By focusing on the higher, strategic level, by not saying “we’re going to do a social media strategy now” or, god forbid, “a Twitter (or Mastadon) strategy”, we can achieve more.
So when reviewing your strategy, it’s worth asking: have you found a way to appeal to the human habits that stay the same, or just a way to tweak the tech and algorithms to produce a short term result?
I know which I’d rather work on.