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FutureComms15: 5 Minutes With Stephen Waddington

Blog post   •   Apr 20, 2015 16:44 BST

We caught up with, Stephen Waddington - Chief Engagement Officer at Ketchum - to get his thoughts on the state and future of PR, ahead of our FutureComms15 event on 18th June.

Stephen, who is Chief Engagement Officer at Ketchum, has earned a reputation as a public relations moderniser,  blogger, thought-leader and consumer engagement advocate through various senior roles as a public relations consultant, author and journalist.

Here's what Stephen had to say about FutureComms15 and his views on the current state of PR & comms...

Mynewsdesk: Which other talks are you most looking forward to?

Stephen: I'm particularly looking forward to the panel discussions; you’re tackling critical areas of future practice such as content, SEO and PESO, and have assembled excellent panels. I’m looking forward to learning.

Mynewsdesk: Robert Phillips, one of our key speakers, has famously claimed that "PR is dead" - would you agree? 

Stephen: Spin is dead and publicity may be dying but public relations, as a means of engagement between an organisation and its publics, is thriving.

Publics, empowered with their own forms of media, are quick to call out any difference between what an organisation says, and what it does.

Public trust is the most valuable currency of a modern organisation fostered through strong public values of authenticity, engagement and honesty.

Public relations increasingly has a role in every area of an organisation. It’s shifting from the communication department to human resources, customer service, sales and product development. It is the ears, eyes and mouth of an organisation, and increasingly the conscience.

Mynewsdesk: What are your views on the current state of PR & content?

Stephen: We have access, unlike ever before, to data from social forms of media to help us identify the media where publics are engaged, and understand their motivation.

The social web is often described as the largest market research exercise that no one ever commissioned. Increasingly third-party tools are available to cut data sets down to size and draw insights, and media choices, to inform campaign planning and content.

The Cannes International Festival of Creativity teaches us that memorable brands tell stories that respond to the motivation of their public or audience across all forms of media. Award winning work is based on smart creative. The content frequently engages the audience directly as part of the campaign.

But there’s a downside. Brands are increasingly becoming over enthusiastic on social networks in a bid to seize the moment. This issue particularly relates to the rise of so-called content marketing.

The results are polarised between the minority of campaigns that are rooted in listening and engagement, and the majority that make a lame effort to tame the zeitgeist and churn out bland content.

Mynewsdesk: And finally, what are your predictions and tips for PR and marketing over the next 12 months?

I predict an evolution in public relations. Public relations is modernising from publicity to influencer relations; and then from branded media to communities and social business. There has never been a more exciting time to be in our business.

There will be a demise in demographics. Traditional marketing models based on age, gender, location and income no longer work. Marketing segmentation was never that simple but in 2015 social media subverts all norms and hierarchies. Listen and I mean really listen, and then let’s have a conversation based on what I say, and more importantly, what I do.

Finally, a burgeoning tool market has emerged to support campaign planning across fragmented forms of media and devices. Be careful as there’s barrel loads of snake oil and solutions looking for a problem. Think hard about your workflow and how you can best integrate tools to deliver against your campaign objectives. Challenge vendors to demonstrate how their tools can help you deliver the outcomes that you need.

You can hear more from Stephen Waddington at FutureComms15 on 18th June. Find out more here: