130-371515143_09dfb18858_m.jpgOne of the most significant challenges in 2010 and realtime is the inability for agencies to function in the traditional mode of signing things off.

PR, Marketing and Ad agencies typically, when writing copying, releasing images, video, etc, for a client, have it all signed off. This is a way of providing protection – for both the brand, and the agency – and it makes perfect sense. The challenge is that in 2010, with more emphasis on realtime response (on the web, and off the web), there is simultaneously the removal of the time to sign off on every engagement and interaction.

The solution that I pose for this problem is a fundamental shift in the way outside parties handle brands and accounts – a change from signing off to handing off. I’ll explain:

  • Signing off means every engagement must be pre-approved. Handing off means engagements (plural) are pre-identified and pre-approved.
  • Signing off means producing a press release, which is then signed off – which fits terribly in a Tweet. Handing off means every press release begins with a ‘Tweet Release’ or two, for Social Media purposes.
  • Signing off means every engagement is checked against the brand. Handing off means the engagement is informed by the brand.
  • Signing off means content first, brand personality check second. Handing off means brand personality first, content check second.

What Would The Brand Do?

In my 2010 framework I discuss the difference between guidance and governance. Governance is the control of content and context, thereby making it static and inherently hard to adapt and spread. Guidance instead encourages in the customisation of content and context, thereby making it dynamic and inherently easy to adapt and more spreadable.

Not only in Social Media, but in our knowledge based economy, and in a world heading towards people-to-people thought and Social Business, guidance wins over governance because it allows the users to make the content and context more personal by adapting the message – thereby making it more targeted and spreadable.

When it comes to handing off versus signing off, it’s the same pitting of guidance against governance. This means the agency handling the account needs to be able to guide the message – which means they have to take on the mantra of “What Would The Brand Do?” when carrying out any activity.

Sure – this may well already be what many agencies do – but few have been empowered to think like this. What Would The Brand Do means that a PR worker can put on one hat, then put on the other – having been well versed in the personalities of the different brand hats. Of course, this means we need development of our staff, not management.

Capturing this brand personality is, again, nothing new. Training, guidelines, examples. Yet the Social Media industry in particular seems to struggle with these when it comes to running multiple Twitter accounts. This is what we do for clients at Aaron+Gould, and I can tell you it works – we’ll publish some case studies soon. Certainly when it comes to collections (teams across multiple companies), this brand-mentality is essential.

So what do you think?

Beautiful photo with thanks to Kuw Son

Archived Comments

  • Sophy

    Scott – herewith an immediate repsonse!

    I agree. I think all communications need to be seen as a 360 degree whole. Therefore, ideally, when communicating a story we need to consider all the ways the right people might hear about it – whether that be an exclusive story, a universal tweet or even (gasp) a press release….

    The trick, and Scott you are so right, is to have enough trust between consultant and client to let the consultant become the brand and know the right voice and moment to speak on their behalf in a variety of ways…. this when the “hand off” comes in I guess. At this moment the consultant also needs to be savvy enough to carry this out effecively – so the tone and brand values are right – but so are all the facts and figures etc…

    There is more to discuss on this whole issue – in another post perhaps… Timing, releasing information, when and how to do it… who says what, who manages the communication path etc… these are all things that interest me….

    Hmmmm… some great food for thought – and as is the danger with an immediate repsonse – some ramblings from me!

    Nice one Scott!

  • Scott Gould

    1. 360 – yes, very good way of describing it. My hope would therefore be that a ‘hand off’ gives freedom for 360 movement without constantly checking everything off

    2. Trust – This is a massive issue isn’t it! Need to address this properly and should read Brogan’s Trust Agents before he arrives!

    3. Timing, when, where – I agree – these are deeper questions which are sensitive to each organisation. I’d like to explore this more too.

  • Sophy

    I look forward to talking about it with you! Exciting stuff!….

  • Sophy

    Oh – and PS – sadly trust the hardest nut to crack – hence red tape!

  • http://www.wavespr.com Claire Thompson

    The world of PR is a bit more complex than one path alone. We need both sign off (for legal, regulatory and even campaign reasons – suprise can be the thing that delights) and hand off (because it’s not ours to give anyway)

    There is still room for professionally produced content (Cadbury’s gorillas; music videos; and yes, press releases, which, like it or not, are often a legal requirement) and sign off is still an important part of the process (although SM tools and tech are making this a whole bunch easier)

    Signing off tweets is, of course, ludicrous. But something that could jeopardise your ability to trade is essential.

    It’s ALL about media literacy and context.

  • Scott Gould

    Hey Claire – thanks for the comment.

    Yes you’re right – there must be a sign up, and then a hand off. I think this would the way it develops – right?