Brian Solis on Brand Journalism and the ‘Connected Consumer’

Thu, Dec 08 2011

Guest blog: Trevor Young, Director of Strategy and Innovation at Edelman Australia. First featured on Trevor’s blog, ‘The PR Warrior’  on Wednesday 26 October.

The PR Warrior provides 'Comments from the Marketing Frontline: News, Views, soapbox observations, and general riffs on all things public relations, marketing and communications, PR 2.0, social media, word-of-mouth and brand engagement.'

Best-selling author and renowned new media thinker Brian Solis delivered a neatly-packaged glimpse into the future of public relations during his opening keynote address at the Public Relations Institute of Australia’s PR Directions national conference in Sydney this week.

Could Solis have jam packed any more information into his one-hour presentation? I think not. That said, social media and its effect on PR and marketing is a massive multi-headed beast of a subject, and so props to Solis for being able to paint such a broad (but vivid) picture within his allotted one and a bit hours.

It was perfect timing because he has only just released his new book: The End of Business As Usual (Rewire the way you work to succeed in the consumer revolution) and the theme of his presentation was more or less along these lines.

These quotes, from an interview with Solis that appeared yesterday in ZDNet, will give you a pretty good feel for Solis’s current pitch:

The End of Business as Usual is aimed squarely at change agents and business leaders. It isn’t about social media as much as it is about building a business that connects with a new generation of connected customers.

Think about the ties that bind in social media for a moment. Everything and everyone is connected by shared experiences. What you’re doing, what you’re witnessing, what moves you, what you’re learning, what you love, what you hate, you are compelled to share your experiences.

When it comes to businesses, shared experiences assemble to form a brand that’s co-created by the consumers who experience it. Connected customers see this pool of experiences within their social streams or in the results of a social search. Experiences are influential and they are absent from a traditional Google search.

The ‘Connected Consumer’

Solis talks a lot about the ‘connected consumer’.

He says you don’t need to connect with everybody, you just have to connect with ‘hubs’ (of connected consumers).

He also advises looking beyond the major social networking platforms, saying that just because you set up a Facebook or Twitter account doesn’t mean you’re hitting the connected consumer.

It’s how we earn relevance with the connected consumer that’s important.

“My job is to speak through you (the connected consumer)…that changes my entire strategy”.

Brand Journalism

Solis is a staunch advocate for the concept of ‘brand journalism’, saying: “We have to become the resource, we have to become the influencer”.

He introduces the idea of creating a new role within the organisation – the CEO, or Chief Editorial Officer.

People will follow you if you provide information that helps them, Solis says.

He gives the example of Cisco’s ‘The Network’ technology news site for which the company hired journalists and bloggers to write content that’s of interest to customers.

The website’s audience is in some cases bigger than the publications that cover the tech industry.

Flipboard has reportedly hired a senior editor from Forbes magazine to manage its brand journalism efforts.

Indium Corporation, which manufactures among other things solders and semiconductor assembly materials (yep, very sexy stuff!) created content around questions people were asking for/searching for online.

The company’s portfolio of blogs (yep, they have way more than one, indeed its portfolio of blogs is written by a team of 15 writers) - increased inbound leads by 600%! More on Indium here.

“Content is not king,” Solis contends. “Context is king”.

(NOTE: author David Meerman Scott is also a strong advocate for the concept of brand journalism – check out his take on it here).

Paid, Owned & Earned Media … and more

In PR circles, the concept of paid, owned and earned media is now well accepted.

However, Solis throws two more into the equation – ‘promoted’ and ‘shared’ media (i.e. shared media = Dell’s IdeaStorm and the My Starbucks Idea platforms; promoted media = promoted tweets and sponsored Facebook stories).

Solis gives the example of Budweiser which created a Wordpress site that became a hub for Bud content that was interesting and newsworthy, and targeted to people who loved commercials, Superbowl and beer.

“It’s about making something so interesting it’s shareable,” he says.

“This is a time when we can become part of the story.”

Solis urges brands to adapt to a new KISS model: Keep It Significant and Shareable.

Resonance is the new ROI

Solis is big on listening to connected consumers – he says you’ve got to listen so you know what they want … “it’s about intelligence, not (just) monitoring for followers and likes”.

Intelligence, he maintains, translates into insight which in turn can translate into ideas.

“Being in public relations is more incredible than ever before,” he says.



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