Groundswell, Here Comes Everybody, Crowd Surfing, Tribes: some of the most interesting books published this year have referred to the significance of the amateur and the importance of bottom-up, organic campaigns.
That’s not to dismiss the importance of professionalism or to devalue the importance of money. But, as a classroom exercise, a group of students were asked to imagine how they would help an individual raise money for charity, for free. Their recommendations were competent, but they kept displaying their dismay at being asked to do this for free (this was for practice, remember, not for real). They hadn’t considered that a well-funded charity campaign might be counter-productive. If the charity has the money to spend on promotions, then does it really need our money? That top-down messages are not always persuasive.
It takes experience to give good advice; it takes time to conduct good research. Good public relations does not usually come for free, but it has the benefits of the message being freely transmitted (by the media, via social media and word of mouth). So here’s the paradox: good PR advice might be expensive, but has the benefit of appearing to be free.
Here’s my standout sentence from Seth Godin’s new book, Tribes (my italics):
Marketing used to be about advertising, and advertising is expensive. Today, marketing is about engaging with the tribe and delivering products and services with stories that spread.
You can call it viral marketing, but I call this public relations.