How to do PR in a post-PR world

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So this week the Twittersphere has been awash with negativity. Some of which is understandable, some simply serves to prove the point that there’s plenty wrong with the somewhat anonymous digital world.
Following the dismissal of Jeremy Clarkson the rumour mill began churning out speculative stories concerning the imminent appointment of Sue Perkins as a new host for¬†Top Gear. A rather unbelievable prediction, especially as Perkins herself denied all allegations, the furore was widespread on the part of the show’s die-hard fans, with horrifically homophobic messages widespread, and some calling for her to be burnt alive on Twitter.
Truly deplorable, at the same time over in the States Gwyneth Paltrow came unstuck after trying to live on the equivalent budget Americans surviving on food stamps have, but for just one week. People labelled it another case of a celebrity trying to drum up attention by wading in on socio-political issues, but not really sacrificing much, and the resulting diatribe went on for days.
Which brings about a rarely discussed point in the public relations world. Although we’re making no judgements as to whether the Hollywood A-lister in question was merely looking to increase exposure for herself or not, what the reactions highlight is that we live in a time when PR moves- deliberate, accidental, or merely perceived- are greeted with cynicism and mistrust on the part of the public.
So, how do you do PR in a post-PR world? Elsewhere on this blog we’ve highlighted how surveys have shown that the ever-elusive millennial generation value experiences over products and deals; they’re more likely to talk about things done, rather than things bought or given. But experiential campaigns aren’t always suitable, or feasible, leaving many brands wondering how to engage this demographic, and anyone else weary at the same old salesmanship.
Sticking with the 18-30 year olds, or thereabouts, perhaps if we look to the dissatisfaction and disillusionment with The Way The World Is that seems to define this loose age group then we can pick up some tips. Firstly, many don’t want to feel part of a huge consumerist model, and are suspicious of big corporations as a result of wealth inequalities. There’s also a large amount of skepticism towards anything that could be PR in ‘disguise’- such as a celebrity attempting to live on food stamps.
Earlier this week we ran a piece on The Greenwashing Index- Brands beware, there’s a website outing false green claims– which pretty much hit the nail on the head (not to blow our own trumpet). Fundamentally, any firm in any industry needs to be very careful when it comes to how they approach whatever target audience they are selling to because people are ¬†increasingly wary about believing what they read at face value.
To reiterate, then:
*Mean what you say
*Be open and honest
*Do not try to engage in anything that could be perceived as bandwagon jumping for the sake of a few more customers/social followers/column inches.