So here’s the deal about agency life: we work with a LOT of people with a lot of different backgrounds, passions and expertise from all around the world. We also work with a LOT of clients from different sectors, industries, histories and cultures, from all around the world. That’s a lot of opportune ingredients, right? Endless combos to keep it exciting. But I’ll let you in on a little secret – real agency magic happens when the RIGHT agency people with the right experience and right passions align with the right client. It can be tough to make happen, but I think that’s the beauty of working at a global agency. It’s the right thing to do for both our employees and our clients, so when Weber Shandwick can make it happen, they do it. And then…magic. Beautiful PR magic.
A Weber Shandwick magician waved their wand over me when I took a seat at this agency – and it continues to yield magical moments.
Yes, I’m what they call a #PRPro, specializing in strategic social and digital storytelling. That’s what I studied in school and what I believe I am supposed to do — my gig, if you will — and I love it. But before there were professional dreams, there was just me – an Army brat for 26 years. I traveled the world with my figurative and literal Army family. That Army thing runs deep – it’s a unique culture with its own language, norms, protocol and people. I’m a born and bred Army kid, so you can imagine what a magical moment it was for me to begin working with them three and a half years ago.
Another magical moment recently plopped itself right into our Seattle Army team’s lap. An old Army client and agency friend, Maj. John Paul Arnold, invited my amazing colleague, Mark Mohammadpour, and me to come present social and digital best practices at the Joint Base Lewis McChord Public Affairs Officer [PAO] Conference. Mark’s spent a LOT of time on this Army business too and is as smart as they come. So we put our heads together to think up a presentation that would capture the science and art of social strategy, highlight the social and digital programs we help manage with the U.S. Army Marketing and Research Group, and hopefully, leave some inspiration for their own digital storytelling programs.
Looking out at a crowd of 60+ camo-ridden Army PAOs, I felt not-so-strangely right at home. Those guys are used to leading and quick, smart, critical thinking. But for this one session on this one magical day, Mark and I had the incredible honor to share our expertise with them.
So what do you ‘teach’ an impressive crew like this? Actually, just about the same things we teach all of our clients:
- You have an opportunity to serve as a brand publisher: Use it. Use your own voice to tell your own story. It’s an integral part of the storytelling puzzle now. That plus third party endorsement and engagement creates a holistic and credible picture of your brand.
- It’s a strategy, not a tactic: For the love of combat boots, do NOT ask for your integrated marketing team to make you a “viral video.” This whole digital puzzle piece works just like traditional media outreach. First we need goals, objectives and measureable KPIs. Then we find the right storytelling opportunity with the right hooks. Then we think through which channel and device will best connect with the target audience to meet these specific goals. Then we custom create content that works toward that strategy. Then, only then, MIGHT we have a “viral video.” More realistically, if we nail that strategic process, we end up with a super smart tactic that is custom crafted for brand storytelling success.
- Content and visuals are unique to each channel, audience and goal: While we’re all sick of winter, the ‘blanket approach’ just doesn’t cut it in social and digital storytelling. Remember that laundry list of ingredients we work with at an agency? We have just about as many variables to work through here too. Spraying pieces of content to the masses with identical language, creatives and hyperlinking in hopes that we reach our audience is what the pros call ‘spray and pray.’ It doesn’t work. Be strategic and channel-considerate. And throw the blanket away. It’s almost summer anyway.
- Paid is integral: Nothing new, but increasingly important as we see these social channels changing stride every. single. day. They’re changing the way audiences consume content, and thus, the way we do business. Don’t invest the time and resources into creating great content to just have it fall flat and see zero reach or engagement. Follow through. Put paid behind the great content – that’s when we’ll have real business-oriented ROI to demonstrate.
- Content calendars make all the difference: While we know this particular crowd has impeccable aim, the ‘shoot from the hip’ approach doesn’t do a story justice. Putting the upfront effort in to plan out a content calendar will not only help us remain consistent to key dates and themes, but also help smarter leverage evergreen content in real-time.
- Measure, analyze and iterate: Just like the Army does an After Action Report to analyze the ‘sustains’ and ‘improves’ for any mission – big or small – we too need to rely on metrics to understand our level of success. Metrics should come before, during and after campaigns. They drive our every move and help us course-correct to maximize each opportunity.
It was seriously a magical day for Mark and me – one that stands out as a career highlight. We love what we do. We love how Weber Shandwick tells stories. We love getting out into the community to talk to the people behind the email address. But what we love more than anything, is helping our clients win. That’s some serious PR magic.
Disclosure: The U.S. Army is a Weber Shandwick client.