THE CENTRALITY OF COMMUNICATION AND THE DELIGHT OF EXPERIMENTATION
If the world I find myself living in has taught me anything, it is that communication is central to business, to government and family. It has also taught me that there is a finite amount of content on Netflix, but that is another story.
This first revelation might be a surprising thing for someone who has worked in PR for the last twenty years to discover, you could argue. And you might be right.
The truth is that, although I have always argued that communications and PR should sit at the head of the marketing table, I have not always believed it already fills that role. It is easy to be cowed by the sheer size of the spend allocated to print advertising, to pay-per-click and to branding and then to retreat into a PR shaped box, at the beck and call of the big budgets.
This is particularly true in the technical and engineering realms where, up until the financial crisis, PR budgets were often ten times smaller than their advertising resources in a typical organisation. However, the creation of strategy belongs with communications because, by definition, it requires strategic thinking to practice. The absence of clear thought turns communications into words and public relations into shouting.
Our current crisis has taught us this very clearly. As I write the media and the public is clamouring for information about how the United Kingdom will exit lockdown. It's no secret that, at cabinet level, the Government's exit plan communications are being stress-tested already.
But nobody expects certainty. Nobody expects Andy Burnham to pop up on our TV screens and announce that on May 13th at 1.45 it will be safe to go outside again and that on August 25th at 2.37 a vaccine will be made available. All anyone expects is communication.
This is also true in the engineering and manufacturing sector. The people who work in our factories, warehouses, logistics hubs, and laboratories don't expect certainty, they expect communication. Your customers, and even your suppliers, are in a similar position. You've probably noticed fewer people calling you to sign the dotted line on that new deal, right?
The only way to provide that communication is to go through the strategic thinking and scenario planning that go hand in hand with it and create the marketing and PR plans that will underpin those messages.
Our good fortune as that, as communicators, this is exactly what we do for a living.
Dead Cat Comms
Lynton Crosby's dead cat communications technique has now become notorious, but for those of you who haven't heard of it, this is how it works. By introducing an unpalatable and controversial element into a conversation or public debate, that debate can be thrown off course, forcing your opponent to talk about this new issue, instead of the core problem that the debate was intended to resolve.
I anticipate that this strategy will be the one adopted by many engineering and manufacturing companies when we begin to emerge from the economic mire that COVID-19 will inevitably create.
You want evidence? What happened after the global economic crisis? Industry 4.0 - the convergence, under the banner of a cool name, of a series of technologies and techniques that already existed, and had, in many cases, existed for well over a decade. It was a kind of positive dead cutting that stimulated the engineering economy across the globe.
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Richard Stone is the founder of Stone Junction, a specialist technical PR agency delivering international and digital PR and marketing services for STEM companies. He believes that cats should be left alone by political PR people and allowed to spend their time as they like. He also believes that if you haven't already started planning for economic recovery, now is the right time to do so. If you do as well, you want to engage Stone Junction's ESSPC practice, or even if you want a chat about how you to have completed Netflix, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44(0) 1785 225416.