Providing value in the 21st century

by Jeremy Church, on Aug 14, 2019

value

My colleagues at WordWrite often joke about my unofficial role as an expert on famous film quotes. I’ve come by that title honestly — it’s no secret how much I enjoy going to the movies.

My most recent trip took me to see “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Quentin Tarantino’s latest spotlights the declining career of a once-famous actor, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), and the death of the traditional studio system, both of which are coinciding with the rise of “auteur” filmmaking and the counterculture movement. The chief conceit of the story has DiCaprio’s character living next door to Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski’s wife and one of the victims of the Manson family murders.

In his review for entertainment website Collider, Gregory Ellwood expertly frames the lasting impact of that horrific crime. “The faux innocence meticulously managed by the big studio machines had been fading for a decade, but it was truly lost that night,” he writes. It’s not at all a spoiler to reveal Tarantino clearly wishes the entertainment world of his childhood had lasted at least a little bit longer.

Fast forward to 2019 and we’re living in another transitional era in entertainment and media consumption, thanks to streaming services, tablets and other portable devices.

In the communications world, instant accessibility to information has presented us with significant challenges in the most effective ways to share our clients’ stories, messages and thought leadership with their key target audiences. Cutting through this noise becomes even harder when factoring in the slow death of traditional “earned” media outlets like daily newspapers.

Gone are the days when agency professionals can measure their value primarily via media hits, placements and press release pickups. A combined 74 percent of CEOs polled for the 2019 USC Annenberg Global Communications Report said “shared” social media and “owned” content such as blogs, podcasts, webinars and websites would be considerably more valuable to their companies in the future than earned media (14 percent).

For good or bad, William J. Comcowich, the founder of media monitoring measurement service Glean.info, recently described in Ragan’s PR Daily how more than 60 percent of communications pros surveyed in the same report believe news consumers won’t be able to tell the difference between content written by reporters, paid for by a company or shared online via social media by another influencer. More revealing, 55 percent believe people won’t even care where this information is coming from.

To adapt to these changes, we’ve adopted a more holistic approach focused on the “PESO” (paid, earned, shared and owned) content model originally developed by Gini Dietrich in her book and blog, both titled Spin Sucks.”

Effective delivery methods, strategies and service mix percentages will always be part of execution, and PESO is the most effective way to distribute the messages our clients share.

Increasingly, however, execution has become a table stake — clients expect any professional strategic communications partner to have the tools in place to uncover and share outputs.

But what about identifying the ideas that will deliver ROI and measurable business results for your clients, time and again?

At WordWrite, we always start by identifying a client’s Capital S Story – why someone should buy from you, work with you, invest in you or partner with you. We believe every organization has at least one great “untold” story to tell: its own.

Why is that story untold? Because too many businesses conflate their story with their brand, just like they overvalue execution above strategy. Modern public relations practices lack the perspective of the human experience rooted in our biological and cultural need to remember powerful stories. We’ve gone as far as creating a proprietary, service marked process called StoryCrafting to help businesses uncover, develop and share their Capital S Story in a world consistently filled with noise and clutter.

Think that’s too esoteric or far-fetched?

Recent industry insights (and our more than 100 years of combined experience as communications professionals) conclude that valuable expertise and wise counsel are far more important than execution for clients.

The Holmes Report moderated a roundtable with global brand executives in France earlier this summer. Feedback consistently revealed that providing solutions to 21st-century communications challenges is the best way to build, grow and sustain long-term client relationships.

Consider this powerful statement from Damon Jones, vice president for global communications and advocacy at Proctor & Gamble:

“My advice to agencies, is fall in love with the problems of your client at the highest level. If I think we’re thinking about the same things when we’re trying to get to sleep at night, we will have a very different relationship and very different conversations.

“The challenges I am facing are business challenges, and so I need people who really understand business strategy. There are a lot of people in our profession who don’t fundamentally understand business. But more and more, we need that business standpoint first and foremost to define the problem we are trying to solve.”

These comments might come as a revelation to some in our industry, but speaker, author and business advisor David Baker has been making the case for expertise over execution in his consulting work with more than 900 agencies since 1994. Among the many highlights from his book, “The Business of Expertise,” Baker suggests agencies use the following approach: two rooms, one entrance.

“Most firms are allowing new clients to enter either room from the outside, buying either a defined strategy plan first (their preference) or moving straight to execution (the entrance that tends to get the most use). Instead, close off the outside entrance to the larger implementation room, forcing all new clients to enter by the strategy room.”

Our big ideas, not our execution, are the keys to delighting clients and their audiences. They are also the keys to building a sustainable business with a culture that will attract and retain top talent to deliver the results you want to achieve for your partners.

Together, we can help you discover your Capital S Story and tell it using experts in your organization in a way that consistently engages your audiences.

Once upon a time, before you had a brand, you had a story. These days, we all need a good story to tell.

Topics:consultingcommunications strategyadding valuebig ideas
Jeremy Church-1
Jeremy Church
Partner, Vice President and Director of Results

Jeremy Church is a partner, vice president and director of results at WordWrite. He can be reached at jeremy.church@wordwritepr.com or on Twitter at @churchjeremy.

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