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PR Essays: Weber Shandwick - Engagement war horse

All that matters in the Digital Age is engagement, engagement, engagement - which is why we have developed a diagnostics tool to measure just how well brands are performing on this battlefield.

Brand engagement is big potatoes for marketers right now. With engagement at a premium, it's getting increasingly hard to create campaigns that will really connect with modern-day consumers, and trickier still to measure their effectiveness. Marketers can no longer rely on the hackneyed tools and crude measures of the pre-Digital Age, those old business-school models and mantras, to navigate their way through these uncharted waters. Classic tracking studies won't help them. Econometrics certainly won't. To understand what drives engagement, marketers need to tear up these tomes and turn to new disciplines.

I'm talking about science, specifically. That's not to say marketing is now a science. Far from it. Today, we need to be ever more creative to capture the attention of the sceptical masses. But engagement is most definitely a science. What makes us actively look at one piece of communication and not another? What makes us connect deeply with a particular viral? What drives us to tweet something to our friends? Science, specifically neuroscience, psychology and anthropology can help us answer these questions. Understanding engagement through these three lenses can help us to master the new engagement battlefield out there. It can show us, absolutely and definitively, what levers we need to pull to get people to connect with our campaigns.

Now, I've sat through enough industry conferences and tracking meetings in my time to know that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and this is especially true when it comes to science. That's why, when we set ourselves the lofty ambition of becoming the masters of this new engagement battlefield, Weber Shandwick decided to do so in partnership with world-renowned experts in each key scientific field.

The result is our groundbreaking Brand Engagement Footprint. It's the first robust diagnostic tool of its kind to achieve what other tracking studies before it have failed to do: to actively and concretely measure how well a brand engages with its audiences. For the first time ever, we can pinpoint exactly what a struggling service brand needs to say and how and where it needs to say it, in order to get people to sit up and listen, to actively engage with it again. We can use the Footprint to show what retailers need to do this Christmas to win the war on the high street. We can show waning FMCG brands exactly what they need to do to actively engage with audiences who have long since lost interest.

Why, you may ask, is an agency like Weber Shandwick doing this? The answer is that of all the communications industries, ours has arguably undergone the most fundamental shift as a result of the digital revolution. It's no longer enough to send a press release to a few choice titles and hope our message sticks, and it's certainly not enough to measure success using crude proxies such as the ad value equivalent. As measures go, this was never particularly meaningful, but it's even less so today. Just having presence out there means little. What matters is whether people are actually engaging with what we're saying. So we find ourselves now in the engagement business, and we need to become masters of it in order to achieve our objectives. That's why, at Weber Shandwick, we measure ourselves on how successful we've been at engaging our audiences, because that's all that matters - to us and our clients.

If you walk through our offices, you'll be hard-pressed to find any old marketing textbooks, because we've all embraced the new way. We're using new weapons to win this engagement war. Isn't it time you did too?

From Marketing's PR essay supplement, October 2012

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