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Advocate or Die

Churn, Burn, & Decline

I’ve never been a fan of the ‘churn & burn’ growth model of international agencies that built geographic and revenue scale via a top-heavy focus on new business rather than client satisfaction. And now consumers aren’t, either.

Online has accelerated consumer mistrust, and many traditional brands haven't responded effectively by improving their products and processes in line with changing consumer priorities and expectations – particularly, societal ones. Across-the-board disintermediation, disaggregation and most of all: disruption, have resulted in lower effectiveness.



There are a lot of regional and national differences but systemically (since the US elections & Brexit) trust in government, business, media and NGOs is going down more than ever – although less so, in emerging markets. In the global echo chamber, activist brands are now doing best – they do more and talk less. That’s no surprise of course, in an environment of ever-declining trust.

Media – including social media, has become the least-trusted institution. As seen in the Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in platforms dipped 2 points while trust in (real) journalism jumped 5 points, trust in journalists rose 12 points. Technical experts, financial industry analysts, and successful entrepreneurs now register credibility levels of 50% or higher. The credibility of “a person like yourself” has dipped to an all-time low – partly because of fake news.


What’s happening with inbound marketing? Hubspot's aggregation of SEO stats show that 63% of companies cite traffic & lead generation as their top marketing challenge, content marketing stats show that YouTube, Facebook video and Instagram are top draws for adding marketing channels, and social media stats show that Facebook continued to grow last year as the place to be.

But 88% of marketers want to know how to measure their RoI for social media activity and 80% report their lead generation efforts are only slightly or somewhat effective. 70% cite lead conversion as their top marketing priority.

The Content Marketing Institute says that content marketing can generate up to 7.8 times more site traffic, heighten brand recall, boost customer engagement, and drive conversion rates – all at a cost up to 62% less than other forms of advertising, while generating up to 3X as many leads.

But tightly-aligned sales & marketing SLAs, remain a key success attribute. Not surprising, when demand generation (top-funnel) content only converts 4% of its 20% marketing-qualified leads to sales-qualified leads: only 0.8% sales-qualified, in other words. And I wonder what the final purchase outcomes are in most cases, on that?

Content marketers aren’t tightly-integrated with sales as their customer, we’re told. And I’m sure there’s a lot of truth in that. But if consumers increasingly mistrust many traditional brand propositions and believe them to ultimately be making the world a worse place and not a better one, who has to take responsibility for under-performance?

The Role of PR

Commercial PR at its best, is about building (and maintaining) reputation and brand value with thought leadership. Which increasingly plays to changing consumer consciousness and leverage. In an era of media and government mistrust, that means authentic advocacy right back to the product formulation, business and pricing models.

PR now needs to be instrumental at the highest levels of corporate strategy, and traditional brands need to ‘get with the programme’ or get out before they go the way of the dinosaurs.

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