OK, yesterday's post How PR works was a bit tongue-in-cheek. I don't really think PR is merely the process which encourages me to see a link, read an article, watch a video interview, then buy a Bryan Ferry album with just one click.
But it was part of the battle to complete Online Public Relations 3rd ed - the really difficult bit when the book is close to sign off and I suddenly start asking myself "What is PR?"
On one level I am trying to assess to what extent online interactions influence my behaviour (and whether my behaviour is in anyway typical!). In terms of consumer activity, the Bryan Ferry example was misleading - I didn't need much persuading to buy the album and my long if troubled relationship with Bryan is too deep for me to be much influenced by one interview. I did, however, genuinely buy an album last week purely because I read an article in the Guardian, "It was a tragedy we didn't stay together" (iPad edition, of course).
I had all but compleetly forgotten 10cc, but something about the interview aroused my curiousity. I wanted to know if they really were the missing link between Abba and Frank Zappa. (Oddly, a social media friend who I like a lot but who has very different tastes to me, tweeted a link to the same interview and, if anything, that made me less likely to buy...).
Anyway, this line of thinking very much frames PR as 'part of the marketing mix', the bit which is categorised as earned media. Conceivably, the article contributed to an increase in my goodwill towards and undertanding of 10cc.
What it doesn't do is make me part of a "public." I was not mobilised into action by any shared ambition or response.
I was part of a distinct market segment - of an age to have grown up with 10cc singles (and they lived nearby), and Guardian reader down to my beard and sandals, etc. Should a similar article have been published in the Daily Mail it would have triggered a whole different range of responses and I wouldn't have bought the album.
It is down to perspective and values. I share some of my perspective and some of my values with other readers of the Guardian piece. An article in the Guardian is still a reasonable way of reaching me, and reaching me in a way that goes beyond alerting to me to new Bryan Ferry album I would bought as soon as I was aware of it, to creating an interest in 10cc that I didn't know I had. The Daily Mail could have done the first part, it couldn't have done the latter.
Exploring the concept of semantic analysis, David Phillips explains:
What is evident is that the technologies we are deploying (based on semantics) provides us with this new type of constituency segment: ‘community perspective’ segment.
It is sensitive to the values of the people who are engaging at the time and it is sensitive to the values in on-line and offline conversations of the minute.
Not publics, not stakeholders, not socio-economic and cultural demographics but people with a community perspective expressed in some words they have in common.
This constituency does not have to be very engaged but does have similar values:
Giving a tantalising glimpse of what he calls The Lisbon Theory, David goes on to argue:
A new theory is emerging based on the idea that the perspectives of people evident in their values. These are evident in what they are interested in and look for and are made available to the practitioner by application of Big Data semantic applications.
Historic segmentation theories such as Grunig and Hunt's publics, Freedman's stakeholders and the marketing approach of social and economic demographic segmentation models need to be re-cast to accommodate the new reality.
Most notably, we now have considerable evidence of people commenting about organisations and brands with little of no reference to the organisation or brand (often no experience at all). They are part of an eco system of brand values that are not much influenced by organisations but are (often if only by sheer numbers) influential.
Organisations, in many instances have lost control of the brand. It is owned by what can be regarded as the community perspective
Anyway, simply alerting people to new products is marketing, isn't it.