Visual Content Widens the Branding and PR Gap

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The line between advertising, branding, marketing and PR may appear blurry to some, but I believe clarity has arrived.

Interestingly enough, it is the disruptive visual platforms Instagram and Pinterest that are bringing clarity to the overall communications industry.

In a traditional sense, Public Relations practitioners have been wordsmiths; conveying written and (limited) visual messages to the public. PR pros have mainly used words and text to increase awareness and educate people about products, services, controversies, and causes.

But, 2014 has been a tsunami of visuals and images in communication. This has widened the skills gap between branding and PR. For example, research proves that press releases and blog posts containing visuals have significantly higher open and read rates than content with straight text.

Many PR executives and organizations are inserting video snippets or infographics into their press releases. Their goal is to improve engagement and news pitches to reporters. Visual tours are becoming more commonplace with PR, too. Show, don’t tell.

This is a far cry from branding and the visual web that’s unfolding in our industry today.

Who ‘owns’ a company’s brand positioning?

Not the PR department, the mavens of linguistics.

According to a post on TheNextWeb, photo and video posts on Pinterest refer more traffic than Twitter, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn and Google+ combined.

Storytelling with visuals is driving branding as well. Forty-two percent of all Tumblr posts are photos.

The first commercial camera was introduced in 1873. Today, there are more than 1 billion photos on Instagram.

Welcome to the visual web.

Branding, marketing, advertising, and sales are based on the psychology of influencing human behavior and emotional touch points that convert into revenue.

I don’t believe that students of PR are the most trained, skilled, or experienced  in these areas. This is a far cry from matters such as Crisis Communications, an area of expertise that rightfully belongs within the scope of PR. Public Relations is aligned more closely with media relations than it is with branding. PR has largely owned social media because it’s closely aligned with reputation management.  But the visual web changes all that. Storytelling has long been the role of the Advertising or Brand Agency.

A post on Content Marketing Institute addresses the transformation of brand experience:

Just as Copernicus revolutionized our understanding of cosmology by proving that the sun is the center of our solar system (not the Earth), marketing has gone through a transformation of focus. Historically, we placed our brand at the center of our marketing decisions, which resulted in a lot of wasted effort. Cristina Heise gyro’s Director of Brand Experience points out that we’ve now put the customer in her rightful place — at the center of the marketing universe. “Think about the human at the center and how to make it easier on them. Think about what’s concerning her, what’s troubling her, what excites her, what motivates her, what she wants to accomplish and how you and your brand can help,” she recommends.

The hub of today’s hybrid messaging and modern marketing is the visual web. Analyst Shar VanBoskirk of Forrester says a marketing strategy based around value-driven interactions is vital in meeting customer expectations.

Linguistics and text are a shrinking part of the overall picture.

As the demand for consumer engagement skyrockets, it’s the visuals that show–and tell–our brand stories.

 

(Image via)

Watching Programmatic Advertising Grow Up

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It’s not commonplace in the marketing world because it’s too confusing.

That’s the conclusion I have drawn about programmatic advertising, which is defined simply as an automated process to buying online ads. Think Amazon or e-Bay.

Marketing pros who are embracing this (somewhat) new model see a busy and bright future for online display advertising.

On Adweek.com, Mike Shields says programmatic is about buying specific audiences using a lot of data to figure out the right ad, the right person, the right time. “It’s the idea that machines will simply handle all of the process involved in buying media—the insertion orders, the paperwork, the trafficking, the spreadsheets. A few mouse clicks, and you can go home.”

Marketers may be watching programmatic mature, but it’s still not sitting at the adult table just yet.

I like this thumbnail from AdAge:

“For all the ink spilled, you’d think the entire world had gone programmatic, but it’s still just a sliver of online-display advertising. Interpublic Group of Cos.’ buying arm Magna Global projects that programmatic spending will reach $9.8 billion in the U.S. this year, or about 20% of the overall digital-ad market. To move brand dollars, programmatic technologies have to grow up and advance to other forms of media, like TV and radio.”

There is movement in this direction.

A few weeks ago, Google launched Partner Select, a programmatic exchange for video ads.

TechCrunch.com’s Frederic Lardinois explains that almost by default, Google’s customers also want to buy their ads programmatically and spread their investment across multiple publishers. At the same time, many content providers tend to sell directly to the brands that want to advertise around their content.

And with this comes the challenges that brands and agencies are facing. One concern is a lack of quality content that’s available right now for programmatic video.

A second point that is bringing uneasiness into the conversation stems from location.

Programmatic is being hailed as a software tool that saves marketing dollars. But what happens if an ad is placed on a less-than-reputable web page that could do more damage than good?

We’ve seen brands getting burned by fraudster’s who create shell websites with an impressive number of followers and subscribers who don’t exist.

As long as marketers and brands are educated about the growing pains associated with programmatic advertising, we may just find it an efficient and exciting way to influence consumers in real time.

 

(Image via)

 

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