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Public Engagement in the Conversation Age - 2008

Public Engagement in the Conversation Age is a series of essays written by senior members of the Edelman UK team, which set out to capture what our Communications world looks like today and what it might look like tomorrow, contextualised by today’s harsher economic reality. They are designed to provoke thought, stimulate debate and provide content. They speak directly to The Conversation Economy. They hopefully illustrate that PR can – and should – be at the vanguard of change.

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Public Engagement in the Conversation Age - 2008

  1. 1. Public EngagEmEntin thE convErsation agE
  2. 2. CONTENTDon’t Lose the Thought 3ForewordConfidence and Trust 4The Currency for RecoveryTrust Me, I’m a Banker 5The State of Financial ServicesThe Fall and Rise of the C Word 6The Future of PRCitizen Smith 8The Rise of Consumer PoliticsA Cloudy Future 9Cloud Computing and the Future of TechnologyRe-Humanising BusinessNext Generation Digital Communications 10 ABOuT EDELMANCrowd Surfing 12Thriving in the Age of Consumer EmpowermentThinking Our Way Out of the Crunch 14Could the Creative Industries Hold the Solution? Edelman is the world’s largest independently- owned PR agency, employing over 3,200Think Bravery Before Budgets 15 people in 54 offices around the world – 260Creativity and Brand Bravery of whom are in London. We work acrossEngaging with Health Citizens 16 all areas of the Communications spectrum,Health in the Conversation Age delivering award-winning campaigns in media old and new.Medical Communications inthe Conversation Age 18 We are retained by some of the world’sWhere Next with Health Care Professionals? largest multi-national companies and leadingAlive and Kicking 19 brands, some of which are mentioned in thisTrust and the Beating Heart of Media publication – including, but not exclusively the Department for Culture, Media andWithout Content There is No Conversation 20 Sport; Microsoft; AstraZeneca.Content, Conversation and CollaborationSoft Power to the People 22 For more information about Edelman,Into 2009 and Beyond please visit: / soon... 23 www.goodpurposecommunity.comTrust Barometer 2009 2 Public Engagement in the Conversation Age
  3. 3. Don’tlosE thEthoughtWe live in remarkable times. We have and the unexpected emergence of areached a crossroads in our economic new fashion for regulation; the rise ofhistory and stand at the threshold of Consumer Politics and a parallel, globalpotentially momentous change in the resurgence of interest in politics, per se;global political landscape. Trust in Business an Olympic Games that was mired first inand Government (of which Edelman controversy and then in tragedy – withhas been an avid student for the best human rights and human triumphs aspart of a decade) has oscillated with occasional, if odd, bedfellows; more talkrandom fury, while the inexorable march about The Cloud of Technology and alltowards universal Digital Democracy and that it will bring; and, finally, a growingempowerment continues apace. understanding of what it really means (and needs) to be Green – only to seeCommunications has reached a tipping this threatened by those who will use thepoint. Increasingly confronted by calls for economy to escape their environmentalan Economics of Less, we are witnessing a responsibilities.noticeable shift away from ‘consumption’and towards active citizenship and good This series of essays, each written by apurpose instead. PR now finds itself in an senior member of the Edelman team, setsaccelerated state of evolution – moving out to capture what our Communicationstowards a hyper-connected model of world looks like today and what it mightPublic Engagement that converges and look like tomorrow. These are not essaystranscends all existing marketing and on the theme of Recession – yet they arecommunications disciplines. each, in their own way, contextualised by today’s harsher economic reality. They areToo many organisations retreat designed to provoke thought, stimulateand retrench in recessionary times. debate and provide content. They sit withinEntrepreneurial spirit and thought the exciting and compelling frameworkleadership are often sadly and falsely of multi-lateral, multi-stakeholdersacrificed on the altar of commercial engagement. They speak directly to Theimperative. Our contention is that Thinking Conversation Economy. They hopefullycosts nothing and yet remains a key illustrate that PR can – and should – be atpoint of competitive advantage for firms, the vanguard of change.whether they are selling ‘stuff’ or stories.None of us can afford to lose the Thoughtif we take our businesses (and those of our December 2008customers and clients) seriously. Robert Phillips2008 has been a year in which we have UK CEO Edelmanseen the collapse of free market models page 3
  4. 4. Who could have imagined the changes that political observers got to hear endlesslyhave turned the financial markets and the about “ordinary people”, “working families”banking world upside down? Every day has and even “Joe the Plumber”, who became theseemed to have been yet another voyage uS equivalent of the ‘Man on the Claphaminto the unknown as great names crash, Omnibus’.burn or start pleading for bail-out support.Freddie Mac, Bank of America, Fannie Mae, Strip away the drama and the frighteningNorthern Rock, Ford, and General Motors speed of change of the last few months– the list goes on and on. and then it can be seen that this global crisis has always been about confidence andEver since the spectacular crash of Lehman trust.Brothers in September and against thelooming clouds of recession, all eyes have As was seen in the aftermath of the 9/11been turned upon national banks and attacks, these essential ingredients of businessregulators, governments and political leaders are fragile and vulnerable to the damagingas investors, shareholders, house owners and corrosive effects of negative rumourand consumers sought leadership and and doomsday forecasting, compounded inreassurance. But that comfort was slow in today’s crisis since trust is key to financialcoming, if at all. markets. Over recent months, political leaders have been perceived to be stumblingThe first, knee jerk reaction of presidents, and defensive in their responses. In a brief Mike Seymour is Internationalprime ministers and their banking leaders moment of optimism, commentators claimed Director, Crisis & Issues Management,was to claim that their national strategies that history might take the view that, like for Edelman worldwide and hasand budget plans had equipped their New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani after 9/11, extensive experience working alongsideeconomies to withstand any recessionary Henry Paulson would be seen to have seized multinational commercial andshocks that might arrive. In a single day, the moment with his multi-billion lifeline government organisations, involved inwe heard the same message from President to financial institutions. But that hope complex international issues, crises andBush, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and the quickly oozed away as the scramble began in emergencies.Spanish Government: “We want to reaffirm Congress to claim back favours, brokered forthe strength of our economy to overcome votes in various pork barrel deals. mike.seymour@edelman.comthe current situation”. of these problems were beyond the scopeConfidenCe and TrusT of normal regulatory or political experience, which in part explained the silence or shallow responses that were quickly– the currency for recovery perceived as defensive and hollow. In any times of national or financialAgainst these cataclysmic changes, it is too While the scale of the credit crunch and the uncertainty, leadership is demanded toeasy to claim now that governments acted banking freeze may be unprecedented, many reassure the general public that matterstoo slowly or stayed silent for far too long. of the contributory factors are commonplace are being brought under control and beingBut it is difficult to see how they should or in daily emergencies. When any crisis managed. When problems escalate to crisiscould have acted and communicated as they breaks, the first victims are always the truth levels, such leaders need to demonstratestruggled to comprehend the scale of the and facts. No-one can be sure what has confidence through bold statements,changes. happened or the root causes. backed up by far sighted and robust plans that can withstand the escalating chaos ofA defining moment was thought to come In our world of 24/7 news and constant threatening events.when uS Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulson, online chatter, information is quicklytriggered a series of stock market roller shot around the world. There is never Now international bankers, the G8 and G20coaster rides in announcing plans to set any shortage of commentators, critics have met and deliberated. Internationalaside uS$700 billion to purchase the “toxic” and ‘experts’ that will be quick to offer plans have been debated and agreed,derivative instruments. The uS Congress their opinions or ideas. But in responding which promise survival of a recession thatdemonstrated their politic priorities as they to recent events, even economists of has arrived and is daily biting deeper. Inhaggled over the initial Bill and the debate international standing have declared the uK, the government has announceddescended into a battle between saving Wall themselves to be bewildered by the speed a series of radical measures. Time willStreet and Main Street. and extent of the course of events. In this tell whether the impact of this array of global crisis, confidence has been further unprecedented measures will survive toAs all these critical steps were being taken undermined by the dissonance and lack of provide the injection of confidence whichin an attempt to wrest back some kind consensus within the forest of theories. must underpin any slowdown in the progressof control over the crisis in the financial of the current crisis. But true change andmarkets and the freeze-up of banking credit, When financial, banking and mortgage sustained recovery will only be possible oncethe Presidential Election race played out markets came under pressure as the credit confidence and trust start to return.- at times almost as a side show beside crunch took hold, the resulting effects hadthe main drama. Suddenly, against these potential impact for every stockholder, houseextraordinary circumstances, electors and owner, saver and consumer. The magnitude page 4 Public Engagement in the Conversation Age
  5. 5. TrusT me, i’m a banker innovative financial industries. Once again, negative perceptions lead reality.– the state of Financial services Set alongside the Banking sector and the Hedge Fund industry, the insurers have - withNo industry has felt the cold blast of the This collapse in Trust has coincided with the very notable exception of AIG in the uScredit crunch more than the Financial – indeed perhaps even been caused and/or - largely managed to avoid the most visibleServices sector. Whilst the turmoil and exacerbated by – the new Digital Democracy impact, and consequently the high profileupheaval in the global Banking system has we reference elsewhere. With the internet fallout, of the Credit Crunch. The impact ofdominated recent newspaper headlines, placing power in the hands of the Citizen as the collapse in equities will undoubtedly feedthe industry in general is experiencing a never before, this is the first recession of the through into the pensions sector but, again,collective collapse in Trust and confidence true Digital Age. The challenge the industry to date this industry has managed to remainwhich has also affected Insurance now faces is to overcome the current largely - though not exclusively - on thecompanies, Asset Managers and Hedge Funds negative perceptions and re-build Trust. periphery of the equal measure. Having gradually reducedto no more than a ‘hygiene factor’, suddenly The first lesson that needs to be heeded is The Financial Services industry finds itself atTrust is once again a commodity to be that life, as we have always known it for the a key point in its continuing development.cherished, protected and preserved. banks, has changed forever. So far as the There is little doubt that the next twelve media is concerned, every pound the banks months are going to present majorTo some extent the ‘sudden’ collapse of spend comes out of ‘our’ pockets – in the challenges to Communicators in the sectorTrust in the Banking system - and indeed current climate the normal rules of Business but this is not the time to adopt a bunkerin our established Financial Institutions no longer apply and the banks’ usual licence mentality. It is clear that stakeholders willgenerally – has been long coming. For the to operate has, effectively, been suspended. be asking searching questions of our banks,last decade, Edelman’s Trust Barometer has Events which were fully justifiable in the past Insurers and those that manage the wealthtracked the growth in credibility of peer-to- (and can arguably still be justified now) have of the nation.peer Communications at the expense of the to be considered in the light of a new realitytop-down, CEO-led programme and, what we – that ‘our’ money is paying for them. The organisations that emerge strongest fromsee today, is merely a practical application the economic downturn will be those thatof that trend. What is beyond dispute is HBoS saw this principle in action in early are most able to reach out to, and empathisethat Trust in the Banking industry has all but November when it was fiercely criticised with, the man or woman in the street. Theymelted away – not just amongst Consumers in the media for hosting two staff events. will recognise the role of the internet andbut most damagingly (and most tellingly) The reality is that the banks do still need social media and adapt their Communicationswithin the market itself. to motivate and reward their staff. But strategies to address these channels effectively. the perception of massed ranks of bankers And they will embrace the changing nature of indulging in lavish celebrations as we head Communications and take advantage of the Paul Lockstone, Managing Director, into a recession, and as the taxpayer digs collapse in traditional hierarchies. has extensive experience in deep to bail them out, is one that the banks financial communications, both in have to take great care not to foster. agency and in-house. He is also a The restoration of Trust between Financial frustrated rock star. His blog – Institutions and their customers is not What of the rest of the Financial Services something that can be achieved overnight. – is an industry? Sitting next to the banks on attempt to combine his professional Management must be prepared to invest not the naughty step, and finding itself cast only financially but in particular in devoting and personal life and interests. in the unwelcome role of chief scapegoat time to repairing relationships. It is well known for the collapse of the Financial world as that ‘nature abhors a vacuum’ and, in the we previously knew it, is the Hedge Fund absence of any engagement from the industry industry. Now most informed observers or individual firms, our new breed of Citizen recognise that Hedge Funds play an Consumers will draw their own conclusions. important role in the Financial Markets. Furthermore, the leading participants in the industry are some of the uK’s most active Further reading philanthropists, contributing substantial • Peston’s Picks: the blog of Robert sums to charities in both the uK and globally. Peston, the BBC’s business editor ( But with a few notable exceptions, the thereporters/robertpeston/) industry has on the whole been poor at • The Bank of England Financial Stability engaging with a wider group of external Review, October 2008 (http://www. stakeholders. This has allowed prejudice to become accepted fact, with the result that fsr/2008/index.htm) the industry now finds itself short of friends • and the websites when they are most needed. There is a clear of the world’s two leading business risk of an excessive regulatory response to newspapers recent issues, borne of the ’something must be done’ school of policymaking, that could curtail the activities of one of our most page 5
  6. 6. The future of PR belongs to the Citizen. The Consumer Age, as we know it, is coming to an end. Corporate Reputation and Brand Marketing are converging. In tomorrow’s world, constructive dialogue, engagement and a new tripartite contract between Citizens, Businesses and Government will shape and drive the Communications agenda. Radical Re-alignment: Endings and Beginnings There is a free radical somewhere deep within me that believes that we are facing the end of Consumerism as we know it. The global financial meltdown has served as a timely reminder that the death of Capitalism may be upon us also. If this was hitherto a personal, utopian fantasy, then it was equally surprising to find Newsnight and others leading on the very same subject. There are real lessons to be learned from recent events: consider the inconsistencies and the lack of responsible regulation in the Financial sector over the past decade – and think through the implications this may have if Governments and Citizens fail to actively intervene on an environmental level, to properly safeguard our planetary future. The Free Radical believes that tomorrow’s world is being shaped around Digital Democracy and the Citizen power that this brings; around the Wellbeing Imperative, and our thirst for a happier way of being; and around the Perfect Storm surrounding Climate Change – the acceptance that we cannot continue to over-consume the finite resources of the planet. Tomorrow’s world may yet prove that the Consumer – the one we all grew up to know and understand – was nothing more than a Twentieth Century blip, a bit like Marxism. Citizenship is more enduring. THE FALL AND You do not need to be an apocalyptic Green to recognise a changing world. We are all now learning to live within the necessary confines of a lower consumption, lower carbon economy – whether this is currently driven by heightened responsibility or by economic need. We have witnessed, first-hand, the rise of Consumer Politics – impacting which brands we buy and how we buy them; in parallel, we have seen thepage 6 Public Engagement in the Conversation Age
  7. 7. emergence of single-issue consumerist Third, Corporate Reputation must now be movements and campaigns whose aims are properly understood within the context of to encourage (Government) action to address active citizenship and Consumer Politics. perceived business bad practice. Nowhere is Old hierarchies have been denuded and this more evident than in the ‘hot’ issue areas demolished; pyramids of authority have of food, packaging, waste, fuel, energy and collapsed and have been replaced by a transport. Consumer Politics is now a very real new sphere of cross-information, in which consideration in any piece of communication. everyone has a say – regardless of age or Businesses and brands are no longer in status, gender or experience. Just ask the control. Fuelled by the immediacy and Road Petitioners. transparency of the web, power has passed to the people. Citizens hold businesses’ Fourth, everyone means everyone. NGOs, license to operate at their fingertips. Governments, Businesses, Brands, Employees and, yes, the Citizenship can now have The Client Community is embracing this shift. an equal say. A new system of checks and While we are not yet seeing comprehensive balances is now in place – together with ‘Citizen Briefs’, the number of pure consumer a new accountability that will clearly limit plays seems to be on the wane. There is an some of the more unpleasant excesses and increasing acknowledgment that consumer poor practices of the past. brands need the added protection of Public Affairs or Corporate counsel (and often in Fifth, we are learning to live with this Robert Phillips is the UK CEO of a global context). Brand marketers can no new equality; this new equilibrium. This is Edelman and the co-author of a new longer just sell – let alone spin – without the Tripartite Contract referenced above. Wiki Book, which can be found at a true appreciation of the impact this may Within this, constructive dialogue – real have on their company’s license to operate. engagement – will prevail. And PR agencies Likewise, major corporations are finding the – appreciating the Government agenda as brand link and working the same thinking in well as the business agenda, the needs of reverse. Never before have Brand Marketing the NGOs as well as the demands of Citizen has always aspired towards and promised. and Corporate Reputation been closer Consumers, are uniquely placed to deliver. We will have only ourselves to blame if we bedfellows. The implications for agency cannot now make this final step. We need structures and client org. charts are self-evident. Seeking Primacy. a culture shift of our own to match the Opportunities and Challenges societal shift that has, accidentally perhaps, Towards Public Engagement Our time has finally come. PR can now thrust us forwards. If we can be held to A new Communications model is emerging claim a legitimate primacy among all the account for some of the excesses and the – one that we, as Edelman, are broadly marketing disciplines – properly understood darkness of the past, then we can now be calling Public Engagement. To understand within the context of the Tripartite architects of a better future. the model, we need to accept five Truths: Contract and the concept of genuine Public Engagement. Conventional advertising, First, we should recognise that the already constrained by its inability to escape Further reading Consumer as we knew him or her is dead. To from a world of monologue and the 30 • Britain Since 1928: The Strange Career paraphrase Python, he is no longer; he has second spot, may well have its long-term of British Democracy, David Marquand ceased to be. The hard sell of consumerism decline accelerated, as it recognises that it is • Bring Home the Revolution, Jonathan just won’t cut it, in a more responsible, fundamentally ill-equipped to cope with the Freedland more thoughtful, more constrained world of wider communications demands of Public • limited resource and lower spend. Engagement. • • www.goodpurposecommunity.comD RISE OF THE C WORD – The Future of PR Second, the Citizen is emergent, if not And yet, the challenge facing PR is equally resurgent. We are all re-discovering the great. Agencies and practitioners need to Citizen in ourselves – recognising our real elevate strategy and strategic thinking. authority and our personal ability and Insight must be properly understood responsibility to effect change; to hold and always quantified. Spin needs to be businesses and brands, Governments and denounced and the shallow world of institutions, to account. We are driving a new celebrity rebuffed. A higher standard of democracy at breakneck speed. ethics is needed, backed by more rigour, more discipline, more content expertise. PR stands at the threshold of achieving what it page 7
  8. 8. Over the past 20 years, the climate in waged against it on the infant formulawhich business operates has changed issue – a campaign that celebrates itsfundamentally and nowhere more so than 20th Anniversary this year – to show howin the uK. It is a change that has seen some a small but committed media-savvy andof the world’s most successful companies technology-literate consumerist campaignbrought to heel by a single front page article can make such an impact.that criticises supposed corporate badpractice, or being named and shamed by a Political parties and the media have notmedia savvy NGO, or being mentioned in taken long to understand the power andParliament by an ambitious MP out to make influence of these groups and the issues theytheir name. highlight.The changing climate has its roots in the For the media, they provide endless copydemise of traditional political discourse to fill the ever expanding appetite forand the rise of what we have termed content. Harnessing and supporting certain‘Consumer Politics’ – where business and campaigns gives individual papers andbrands are placed centre-stage, facing broadcasters the opportunity to defineincreased scrutiny and an ever-greater themselves in an increasingly crowded mediaburden of customer, stakeholder and media market by championing their readers’/expectation. viewers’ perceived concerns.Consumer Politics has risen as the old Left- For political parties, the rise of Consumer Alex Bigg is Managing Director andversus-Right political ideological battles of Politics is a way of engaging a disengaged leads Edelman’s award winning Publicthe 60’s, 70’s and 80’s have given way to a electorate and reaching out to key electoral Affairs practicenew consensus over the parameters of the groups. One only needs to re-read (if alex.bigg@edelman.compolitical debate and the fight for the precious anybody bothered in the first place) allcentre ground - in which today’s political three political parties’ 2005 General Election The rise of Consumer Politics means thatparties fight to prove their managerial Manifestos to understand and witness the business and brands now live by a new set ofcompetence to run the country, and the rise of Consumer Politics and their electoral rules, created by a new generation of closelyeconomy, slightly better than the other lot. importance. inter-connected stakeholders, consumers and influencers, who have been energisedcitizEn smith and incentivised by the accessibility and immediacy of the web. It is a set of rules that demands accountability and a meaningful and transparent conversation. Businesses ignore– the rise of consumer Politics these rules at their peril. Today’s Communications and consumer landscape means that a business has to beConsumer Politics is the rise of consumerist Other recent examples include Tony Blair’s seen and heard for sure – but must, moremovements and campaigns whose aims Big Conversation initiative, which was an importantly, be seen to listen, to learn andare to encourage Government action attempt to identify and respond to such to act.– which is usually code for new or increased consumerist concerns, or David Cameron’sregulation – to address what they perceive social action and social responsibilityto be corporate bad practice. This usually platform that placed heavy emphasis on the Further readinginvolves seeking to curb a company’s licence corporate sector’s role in addressing widely • Microtrends, Mark Pennto operate – be it in the manufacture and held social concerns. • of foods high in fat, sugar or salt; manufacturingdissentbookthe promotion and selling of alcohol; a Against this backdrop, no business cancompany’s green (or not so green) footprint; assume its licence to operate is safe.or how a business operates around the Consumerist groups, political parties, citizensworld. and the media all have expectations of responsible and appropriate brand andWith the rise of new technology and the business behaviour – and will call to accountfreedom and power that the internet any organisation that is perceived to havebrings, these groups no longer just rely on fallen short. Certain industries – such asa simple letter-writing campaign to the Food, Energy, Waste, Alcohol and Transportlocal paper. As we mention elsewhere in – have already witnessed the power of thethis publication, one locally based individual consumer, but they are not the only ones.can now easily turn into an internet based Today, an organisation’s licence to operate isglobal coalition containing advocates affected by the behaviours and perceptionsagainst a company and its products. One of everything it touches – including its brand,only need look at Nestlé and the campaign employees, supply chain, carbon footprint. page 8 Public Engagement in the Conversation Age
  9. 9. a clouDy FuturE– Cloud Computing and the Future of TechnologyIn Technology, a common request is to things, assemble real things and have real Cloud? As with previous generations of newpredict what’s next. Today, looking into the experiences and deliver real services. Go Technology, the industry will need to createcrystal ball, the view is definitely cloudy – or beyond sharing photos and share reality.” technologies and protocols to solve theseto be more precise a complete cloud obscures challenges.the view. This is not just financial meltdown 3. Develop Influence: In the increasinglyangst but more importantly the future of vast interconnected web, understanding Clearly, Businesses will need to be acutelycomputing - Cloud Computing. who influences (at a global and micro aware of the Public Relations pitfalls of level) and how influence spreads will entering the cloudy future. Yet in the postMuch is already written on the subject of the replace the traditional need for control. credit crunch world, the need to get moreCloud and much confusion reigns as to what It will be communicators who can work out of less, communicate more efficientlyit is precisely, as well as the issues it raises with influencers to create new ideas and create new business models - all ofaround personal data security and privacy that will achieve powerful relationships. which are benefits of the Cloud – will mean– hence the cloudiness of the Cloud. understanding the nodes that create many firms have no choice. influence, who then amplifies an idea andFor the non-geek, the Cloud is essentially how conversations and stories spread and Further readingmade from the combination of datacentres gain momentum will be at the heart of • The Economist, Cloud Computingacting as computing factories that use communications strategy – not just for Supplement, Technology Quarterly,wireless networks to connect people to traditional Public Relations approaches Autumn 2008software being delivered as an online but truly conversational Brand strategies. • The Economist quotes Lutz Heuser, computingHead of Research at SAP, who refers to it 4. Use Embedded Brains: An extension of • an “Internet of services” but adds that the Cloud will be the ability for embedded watch?v=6PNuQHUiV3Qthe cloud metaphor is probably more adpt. computing to allow objects to talk to one • Cloud computing: A catchphraseBut despite this complexity, the Cloud will another. A car part will tell the garage in puberty (www.theregister.pervade economies transforming behaviours, via an ip address when it is going to and most importantly the way we breakdown. How we build strategies to • Cloud Computing: Are there dangerscommunicate. support this interaction between the real to having information infrastructure, and digital will become a key measure software and services hosted onHere are five headlines describing how of success. How Business harnesses and the internet rather than on our owncommunicators can respond to this change: exploits this transparency will be a key personal computers?, The Times Online,1. Understand Everything Will Connect: marketing differentiator transforming 5 May 2008 Through the Cloud, information will customer service and expectations. increasingly become connected to sources, related comment, opinions and 5. Exploit Mobile Mania: In the Cloud, Jonathan Hargreaves is European disagreements in a seamless way. This will computing will become more and more Managing Director. A committed make the connectivity of Web 2.0 seem disembodied and so be consumed armchair Rugby follower, he is hoping tame. Internet users will have to become where it is needed. Consumers will be that developments in cloud computing navigators of connections, understanding able to access it at anytime through create even greater opportunities to everything has a back story, some of mobile devices. As a result, mobile engage with the sport in the near future. it spurious but all of it trackable. As communications will take another professionals we will live in a digital world leap forward and become even more that we must understand in tremendous sophisticated. The communicators that depth and detail. Context will become king master the immediacy and human nature and we will have to be masters of context. of this new model will be the ones that work best in the cloudy future.2. Focus On Making It Real: The danger of this cloudy world is that everything is Amid these headline opportunities, there shaped digitally but it becomes ethereal. is also a dark side to the Cloud. Questions Consumers or Citizens will look to make are raised about how it will be made secure it real by building tangible connections and, importantly, what happens to privacy between digital and the real world. Our and an individual’s rights to access their success will be shaped by how we make own information when so much personal the Cloud tangible for our audiences data is held by the companies that maintain – understanding the interface will be the the Cloud. One obvious bug bear is who key to success. will control a person’s ability to store and access information kept within the Cloud. To quote a comment Does a Business have the right to turn “It should allow people to make real off your personal data stored within the page 9
  10. 10. re-hum – Next Generation Digital Communicatio Blogs, social networks, online communities and the other elements that together comprise what some have defined as Web 2.0 have really only been around for a few years. But already, the term has become passé, as the always-looking-for-something- new crowd, with their collective gnat-like attention span, looks for the Next Big Thing. If their search focuses on a technology, they will inevitably go astray. Technology will, of course, continue to evolve and advance. Perhaps the web will grow more semantically sensitive and serve us better by anticipating our needs. The move towards Cloud Computing – as described in Jonathan Hargreaves’s article, where all of our own information is accessible to us from anywhere at anytime – will certainly change how we work, play and preserve those experiences. Improvements in mobile devices may soon eliminate the need for desktop, laptop and notebook computers. These are all interesting and impactful technological changes. However, they pale in comparison with the social change that technology has already wrought. And it is this social change that Businesses and other institutions have yet to fully grasp and incorporate into their management and Communications practices. The changes centre around new or exponentially improved capabilities:page 10 Public Engagement in the Conversation Age
  11. 11. • Easy and convenient access to a massive To be sure, many of these are no longer relationships, Communicators become the trove of information new ideas and, even so, it will take most facilitators and conscience of the Business • The ability to quickly form groups around Businesses many years to fully grasp them. itself. For now, this is the realm of specialist a mutual interest, even a micro one As a result, any contemplative CEO or Brand Digital Communications experts, but that will • The solution to massive problems or the leader could be forgiven for thinking that certainly change in the coming years. completion of previously overwhelming the future looks bleak. Over the coming year, tasks with no management structures stakeholders will increasingly be the masters The move towards this new construct whatsoever of their relationships with Business. Troubled sets the stage for a hopeful future • The mobilisation of disorganised, times and the inevitable poor performances where Businesses are more responsible, disparate individuals into an impactful will make people even more skeptical and transparent, engaged and successful, with movement cynical of Business voices. Communications at the centre, making the dialogue happen. Access to information drives scepticism Therefore, the imperative to embrace change and is the primary force behind falling and re-humanise both Communications and Further reading public Trust in institutions across the board. broader Business practices will become an • Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky No longer must we take anyone’s word even stronger imperative. At a time when • Army of Davids, Glen Reynolds for it. With a click or two, any claim or Consumers are more carefully weighing • TED: Ideas Worth Spreading assertion can be confirmed or shown to be purchasing decisions, shareholders are ( incomplete, exaggerated or even false. Too examining the implications of every trade,manising business ons often, Business has fallen short in clear and and policy-makers are deliberating who to transparent Communications. prop up, the ramifications of whether – and how quickly – a Business moves forward As a result of that scepticism, people are could be extreme. reverting to instinct and, instinctively, we all have an innate ability to evaluate other Indeed, as more and more Businesses begin people. Here again, technology plays an to embrace the new (old) qualities, the ones important role. By facilitating interactions that are slower to do so aren’t simply sitting between people of similar interest, still. They are falling behind. The Businesses perspective or background, technology has that are embracing change are on a journey. created an alternate information resource, And for them, Digital Technology now and one that we find easier to evaluate, trust returns to the picture in the crucial role of and rely on. Viewed from that perspective, it facilitator. is unsurprising that Trust in ‘people like me’ is consistently on the rise. Social networks, blogs, and online communities like Flickr and YouTube are And it is here that Businesses have an now revealed as vital venues for dialogue opportunity. It starts with re-humanising: and interaction with stakeholders rather • Empowering the ‘people like me’ that than mere websites. Google search Marshall Manson is Edelman’s make up every Business to interact results for Brand-related terms provide Director of Digital Strategy more freely with internal and external a critical perspective on reputation and (but he still prefers golf to Facebook). stakeholders and to do so without fear Brand standing, as well as a pathway to • Being more honest and transparent in information. Business practices. Doing so requires, not coincidentally, being a better, more We can take heart that much of what is to responsible Business come mirrors what is passed. Like the High • Admitting faults and failings. After all, no Street shopkeeper of yore, Business will human being is perfect and no Business increasingly rely on Trust and relationships can credibly claim to be formed on the basis of dialogue and mutual • Building relationships with stakeholders respect. It is only the technology facilitating on the basis of mutual gain. This requires that dialogue that has changed. listening and willingness to be responsive to stakeholder input In this, Communicators have a key role to play: by understanding the technology and advising people at all levels within Business on how best it can help them facilitate essential page 11
  12. 12. As far as I can make out, the first Crowd meant that in effect the “customer walks Surfers in the rock and roll sense were either the halls” at Dell. And that means better Iggy Pop or Jim Morrison... no one seems to products, services and a Brand that has know for sure. Now of course, pretty much come down from the mountain and is now every pop star with pretensions will at some much more approachable and accessible. time launch themselves off the stage in the They still advertise and use direct marketing, hope and expectation that their fans will but they now also enter into pretty real break their fall, take their weight and pass and demanding relationships with their them hand over hand around the arena and customers and stakeholders. eventually put them back on the stage. The metaphor for Business is a slightly crude one Other companies like New Zealand Vodka I admit, but today voluntarily or otherwise, brand 42Below do it because they are more and more Brands and companies are (or were) small and have little money to having to get used to the idea that they are compete for attention in the usual marketing no longer in control like they used to be and ways. One of their YouTube commercials, that at times they are even at the mercy which was made for just a few hundred of their crowds. And they are discovering dollars became one of the online hits of 2006 that that means having to do some things and was passed around from blog to blog differently and occasionally being dumped and via email links and Facebook groups. on their head in the mosh pit (as it were). Consumers as the media channel (if you can entertain them enough for them to be Forrester have research that shows that 80% willing to play with you) can very quickly of a Brand’s online Communication is not get to scale and of course they carry with by the Brand itself; it is from Consumers, them the implied endorsement of the most commentators and media. Edelman’s Trust important person to any Brand or company Barometer shows that the most trusted – the person like me. source of information on a company is ‘people like me’ (true also in the uK, as well CROWD as globally by the way). The CEO is the seventh most trusted source. And so not only do Consumers now do much (if not most) of the communicating about BrandsDavid Brain is CEO of Edelman Europe and companies, they are also the most trusted communicators.and co-author of Crowd Surfing and – 925 words, so you don’t have to refinds it difficult to wipe the smile fromhis face at the moment because his 40 It seems inevitable therefore that theplus year obsession with Manchester old command-and-control style of The trick for managers and leaders nowCity has been rewarded with Abu Dhabi media (advertising, direct marketing and is to migrate their companies and Brandsmillions... and he is handling their PR promotions) are going to be less effective from the old ways of managing marketingaccount for Edelman. Personally. In than they were. Many companies recognise and communications to a much messier,fact no-one else is getting much of a this and are indeed changing their more difficult to quantify, trial-and-errorlook-in. Communication mix, but it also requires a approach where they sacrifice control for new mindset. the credibility that comes with participation, conversation and dialogue. As Proximo said Some companies like Dell come to this in the movie Gladiator, “Win the crowd and realisation because a “raging mob with you will win your freedom”. Crowd Surfing is pitchforks” attacks them. In Dell’s case this designed to help people with real jobs in real was inspired by one blogger, Jeff Jarvis, but companies do just that. quickly became a movement that at times almost overwhelmed Dell’s online presence And it’s not like the phenomena of the with negative comment in the form of the empowered Consumer is going to go away www.ihatedell.neet web site. In our book, anytime soon. As described elsewhere in Crowd Surfing, we (my co-author Martin this publication, the rocket fuel of Consumer Thomas and I) interviewed Dell managers empowerment is technology (social or 2.0 on the experience of having to enter into and mobile particularly) and it has only just conversation with an angry crowd and started to combust. Consider this: Both my they described how they started to respond children started using a mouse to navigate to people’s anger and frustration at bad web sites like Club Penguin at around the age products and service and how now they of three, about the same time they realised even institutionalise the sourcing of new they could play the games or look at the product and service ideas from the crowd via photos on my mobile phone. I have spoken, a kind of on-line to enough parents to know that we are not Consumer suggestion box. Michael Dell a family of total freaks in this. The internet says that giving up control by entering into became a Consumer friendly/ useful thing at the conversation that was going on anyway about 1993-4. The first generation then that page 12 Public Engagement in the Conversation Age
  13. 13. grew up using these technologies as soon as their grubby little fingers would allow them to were born in about 1990. They are now 18, going on 19 and are going to university and entering the workforce for the first time. They are the first true digital generation and if Brands and companies think that all this new stuff has been disruptive so far, then they better hold on to their hats, because we have only just begun. It is the companies and managers that learn to crowd surf that will survive and thrive in this new Consumer empowered age.D SuRFING ead the 60,000 in the book Further reading • • • page 13
  14. 14. Newspapers make for depressing reading, driver of productivity as innovative products Action Plan for the Creative Industries. Thewith alarming headlines such as “uK faces account for a greater share of turnover. report sets out a number of new initiatives toworst of global recession” (FT); “Deep and help the uK’s Creative Industries to flourish,lengthy recession takes shape as uK output Further, as we move towards a predominantly including 5,000 new apprenticeships tofigures shrink” (The Times); “Recession to knowledge based economy, the fact that help people from all backgrounds make thehit Britain hardest among Europe’s leading the Creative Industries’ workforce (the most of their creative skills, and the creationeconomies” (The Guardian); “Employers sector employs over 1.8 million people, of C&binet, the Creativity and Businessgloomy on job creation” (BBC News)… and, it including those working in related creative International Network, a new forum that willwould be fair to say, worse will follow. While occupations) is highly qualified with over bring together Creative and Business leaders.some pundits debate that such headlines and 49% of employees having at least a degreeresultant coverage have served to exacerbate level qualification (compared with an unlocking the potential of the Creativethe situation, one cannot disagree that we economy wide average of 31%) surely points Industries cannot be ignored as we look tofind ourselves at the mercy of turbulent to a trend for growth? The Work Foundation plot a course back to economic stability –financial markets which will have a deep describes the knowledge economy as the and it will be essential for both Governmentrooted and long lasting effect on us all. story of new technologies combining with and Business to work in partnership to human brain power to transform the basis maintain and create the most favourableSo as we attempt to plot a course back to of economic activity; CEO, Will Hutton, conditions in order to stimulate innovation,economic stability and renewed prosperity in believes that the knowledge economy, the creativity and dynamism.its truest sense, should we be looking beyond central tenet of the Creative Industries isthe faltering Financial sector to the Creative increasingly important to the uK’s financial Further readingIndustries and ask, can they provide us with a performance. • Staying Ahead: The Economicway forward and the hope of bolstering the Performance of the UK’s Creativecrunch? Could they drive potential growth The Birmingham Post recently ran an Industry, Will Hutton and the Workfor the future? interesting byline article on the future of the Foundation on behalf of the Dept. Creative sector (Creative Industries Well- for Culture, Media and SportThe impact of the Creative Industries as a key placed to Beat Credit Crunch, 31 August • From the Margins to the Mainstreamdriver of GDP in the uK is rapidly emerging 2008) by Lara Ratnaraja, Sector Development – Government Unveils New Action Planand transforming the perception that these Director of Creative, Cultural and Digital at for the Creative Industries, Dept. forbusinesses play a Cinderella role in the Business Link in the West Midlands, who Culture, Media and Sporteconomy, sitting on the outskirts of true made the point that: “Companies, which • Unlocking the Potential of the UK’sBusiness. Why? Well it is hard to argue with can show a strong yield on investment, Innovators, Cass Business School andthe facts. The Creative Industries grew by an will still have room to grow as long as they Microsoftaverage of 6% per annum between 1997 and can evidence that their knowledge-based • Creative Industries Well-placed to Beat2005 (which is twice as fast as the rest of services are in demand from consumers and Credit Crunch, Lara Ratnaraja, Sectorthe economy) and in 2005 accounted for £60 clients. In a nutshell, companies that exploit Development Director of Creative,billion or 7.3% of Gross Value Added (GVA). their intellectual property fully will emerge Cultural and Digital at Business Link,Total creative employment increased from from the crunch as market leaders.” Birmingham Post, 31 August 20081.6 million in 1997 to 1.9 million in 2006, Thinking our Way ouTrepresenting an average of 2% per annum,compared with 1% for the whole of theeconomy over this period. Moreover, the uK of The CrunChCreative Industries outperform every otherEuropean state and have moved to centrestage of the economy.Of course the Creative Industries will face – could the creative industries hold the solution?the same challenges as every other industry– including securing investment, debt Innovation plays a key role and, between Pamela Fieldhouse is Managingmanagement and access to private equity 1995 and 2005, start-up companies Director of Edelman’s Corporate– but could it be that they are better placed accounted for 48% of turnover growth with Reputation team. She has beento survive the crunch and display the most software and computer games contributing passionate about understanding howpromising trends for potential growth? the most. A recent report from Cass Business the human mind works and how to School and Microsoft, unlocking the influence behaviour change sinceSuccessful Business has always been Potential of the uK’s Innovators, predicts that studying psychology at university.dependent on firstly predicting market we could add £9 billion to the uK economy pamela.fieldhouse@edelman.comtrends and in turn possessing the flexibility simply by unlocking the talent of the hiddenand confidence to respond to them. This entrepreneurs.has never been more poignant than forthe world of Business today. However, it is Another critical factor will be investment inarguably more difficult than ever to achieve. skills to ensure we have the right people withThe highly innovative nature of the Creative the right skills to meet the demand and drivesector would suggest they are better able to growth. The Department for Culture, Mediadiversify their products and services. They and Sport is doing just that, as evidencedare also more likely than the average firm to in a recent report, From the Margins to theuser wider innovation, which is an important Mainstream – Government unveils New page 14 Public Engagement in the Conversation Age
  15. 15. Think braverybefore budgeTs– Creativity and Brand BraveryOne of the most talked about opportunities turn, represents accelerated risk. and realizing the power of a strong brandthat the changing economic climate will It is the willingness of Brands to take risks story to contribute to culture. Collaboratetelegraph for Communications is a greater that has always had the most significant with cultural institutions to build brandemphasis on innovation. Agencies will impact in getting creative ideas off the experiences and engage new expected to make more from less. It page. The real elephant in the room isis anticipated that this will encourage not the need for greater or consolidated Demonstrate Power and Critical Massstronger and clearer focus on creativity, and creativity or the confidence in, and – with ideas that work across a multitudehigher creative expectations from Brands. understanding of, new authors and new of channels, avoid thinking simply of channels – but the climate and tolerance Consumer PR t, everyone is a consumerThis is a good thing. Higher creative for risk, as guaranteeing KPIs and ROIs now, show and understand integratedexpectations are what our industry needs. becomes increasingly pivotal in getting platforms.Great ideas should always be the heartbeat campaigns that vital rubber stamp. The realof PR campaigns no matter what the challenge is not Budgets, its Brand Bravery. Show Robust Business Nous – that youchannels or who the editors are. know how to track and demonstrate Creativity could easily be forced to play measurable results, crucially, illustrate howBut is this emphasis on creative primacy second fiddle to ROI as Brands seek water the idea can effect sales.going to pose a significantly changed tight solutions. As the tussle for spendworking or business environment? morphs into a battleground between the Integrate and Collaborate - Consumer,Don’t we always need to be creatively strength and vision of an idea and the Corporate, Digital, PA, the best solutions willoutstanding and doesn’t every pound of commitment and comfort of guaranteed offer every service that the Brand budget spent need to deliver delivery – the safe way to do things versusmaximum return anyway, and should this the risky, Brand Marketers should lead the These are all obvious considerations, andnot always be the case? march by showing and making Brands feel that is ultimately the point. In the age of that they can have both their cake and eat it. decision by committee and fear of wasteMarketers are used to working with limited (money, time or otherwise), the onus is onresources and should always work on the We all know that PR is unique in its ability us to work more effectively with Brands toprinciple that the best ideas, campaigns to stretch and engage audiences across a deliver visionary creative campaigns thatand stories are not always the most multitude of channels, to influence and telegraph a robust success narrative fromexpensive. Take the seminal 1994 and 2008 shape culture and deliver 360Brand-owned inception to completion.JCPR Wonderbra campaigns as examples of campaigns. We truly now have the powerhuge and powerful campaigns delivered on to Think Big. Further readingsmall budgets. We do not need to invent • Juicing the Orange: How to Turnnew ways of working for these changing But do we have the ability to responsibly Creativity into a Powerful Businesstimes. The best agencies should always and impressively convince Brands of Advantage by Pat Fallon, Fred Sennrelish the challenge to produce exceptional this? Do we need to better interrogate • Branding Only Works on Cattle: Thework – whatever the financial resource and and articulate how we demonstrate and New Way to Get Known by Jonathanwhatever the financial context. communicate ideas to help Brands show Salem Baskin value and ultimately give them what theyWe have read much about the Economics need to make a great idea fly?of Less, the Rise of Consumer Politics, Ruth Warder is a Director at JCPR andand the Conversation Age. In the new The war on mediocre but safe solutions has been integrating brands with culturerules of Consumer Engagement, less means can only be won if Marketers can establish and entertainment for the past eight years.more. The perceived new creative dawn and develop a dynamic framework to ruth_warder@jcpr.comshould look to define itself in parallel with demonstrate the Business value and stretchthese principles and seize the opportunity of an idea – beyond traditional expectations,for less to mean creatively more, not traditional routes, traditional results and,just from a spend perspective but from most importantly traditional, channels.a thought perspective. As Brands bravelyembrace the world after the 30 second Four Ways to Better Communicate Ideasspot, they should seek to consolidate with and Influence Decisions:courageous, simple, uncluttered thought. Build Cultural Relevance - root ideas in theBut belief in the simple and the new has cultural Zeitgeist. Stay current and growalways required robust single minded the potential of the idea by harnessingconviction and pioneering spirit which, in page 15
  16. 16. A paradox is in play at the heart of today’s placed upon their interactions with their society. As individuals, we can consider lay and patient audiences. On the other ourselves more independent than ever hand, the world is moving on regardless; before, yet the opinions we hold and the and not just the world at large but their actions we take are increasingly driven by world too – people, patients, doctors and a sense of the wider societal context and advocacy groups are all becoming more consequence. The big issues, in politics, the engaged, demanding and democratised in environment and the economy sit at the their information-sharing and expectation of centre of individual concerns, influencing dialogue. many of our daily decisions. Engaging wit – Health in the Conversation Age As we describe earlier, the most significant According to the Health Engagement catalyst for change has been the Barometer – a new study by Edelman of digital revolution, which has effectively 5,000 people (1,000 in the uK) – more than democratised dialogue, debate, opinion half of adults (55%) in the uK say they are and ultimately, actions and procedures. becoming more actively engaged in health Individuals are invited - and are inviting issues, with conversations about health more themselves - to participate in conversations important to them now than in the past. at all levels on issues of all magnitude.Mike Kan is Managing Director of We are now active citizens, not passive The Health Engagement Barometer alsoHealth for Edelman in Europe. He is also consumers, and we are recognising how the confirms that pharmaceutical companiespassionate about design. He is obsessed digital channel gives us the authority and must embrace the digital revolution. Seventyby its role in shaping physical, social and ability to realise the responsibility of being nine percent of uK respondents regularlyliterary constructions of everyday life the change we want to see. turn to online sources when seekingfrom the 1840s to the 1930s. information about a health issue, and Almost every facet of society that regularly turn to blogs for information. communicated in the traditional ‘top- down’ pyramidal system is finding success But engagement goes beyond what people by letting the citizen in. Barack Obama’s want – it is what they expect and demand overwhelming presidential victory, for of companies in today’s world – and is the example, was driven by a desire to “speak fundamental driver of Trust. Seventy percent directly to his supporters” in the words of his of people say Trust is the most important chief strategist, and allow them to become factor with health companies, yet only 8% involved and empowered in the campaign. of people in the uK strongly trust health Initiatives such as, the companies. Meanwhile, those who are more social networking site with approximately engaged in health are more trusting of health 1.5 million active users, were “the central companies overall (60% vs. 53%) and more nervous system of the campaign,” according likely to be an advocate for them (68% vs. 48%). to Julie Germany, director of the Institute for Politics Democracy at the George So how can the pharmaceutical industrySteven Spurr is Managing Director, Washington university. The success is engage its stakeholders? The digital spaceHealth. He read Economics at the reflected in the contrast between Democrat cannot be ignored – 51% of uK respondentsLSE and it was here that he became and Republican levels of engagement, as in the Health Engagement Barometer saidfascinated with the concept of perfect evidenced by Obama supporters turning up online methods are their preferred methodinformation and its role in resource at rallies sporting lovingly home-made t- of communication with companies andallocation. shirts and banners, while McCain supporters organisations involved in health. While it usually wielded the homogeneous, party- a difficult step for any major corporation to made placards and printed-out badges. ‘let go’ and cede the control they have been used to (and this is particularly true in such So why is it that some elements of the a regulated and potentially litigious world as health sector – pharmaceutical companies in health), the pharmaceutical industry must be particular – are struggling to countenance braver and overcome perceptions of Digital dialogue with the emerging Digital Communications as something to be feared, Democracy? In one regard, it is tempting mistrusted and that, if ignored, might just go to excuse them from the new world order away. due to the legal and ethical constraints page 16 Public Engagement in the Conversation Age
  17. 17. ultimately, while the world of health is complex and multifarious, it has a simple requirement at heart: people who require healthcare want the right treatment and advice from people they trust at the right time and for the right ‘cost’ (whether in sterling or side effects). Engaging with this requirement is in the interest of all stakeholders in health, and finds its expression in conversations around access to hEalth citizEns The stakes are high and the time is right for the pharmaceutical industry to be braver. While regulatory and resource constraints are very real, there is significant scope for companies to prioritise their engagement in this conversation and to build Trust with their citizen stakeholders to secure their continued licence to operate. Ensuring appropriate access to medicine is a complex and fragmented process, and often too narrowly understood. Stakeholders in health are often found working in silos and sometimes to their own detriment. Communications specialists are uniquely positioned to weave these strands together: linking health economics, medical, media relations, pricing, reimbursement, advocacy, policy and disease awareness functions within pharmaceutical companies to facilitate consistent, transparent and multi-directional dialogue with the citizen stakeholders that determine their success. The engagement is essential across all channels and we know the stakeholders are increasingly online. It’s no longer an option. To secure the future, the pharmaceutical industry must take a deep breath, embrace this new channel and enter the brave new world of Public Engagement. Further reading • Edelman Health Engagement Barometer: Page 17
  18. 18. Medical Communications and Medical Acambis. However, this consolidation alone with their stakeholders about their drugsEducation are often used as synonymous is unlikely to address the need for late in development. Successful Medicalterms – and in part that is quite correct. All stage products, as most of the pipelines Communications is more business criticalthe efforts of a Medical Communications acquired in this way still require significant than ever. Those companies who embraceagency are directed at educating their development time. This is also compounded a more open dialogue about their drugsaudiences, who are primarily practicing by the fact that some of those biotechnology in development in innovative and moreHealth Care Professionals (HCPs). Education based drugs that have reached market will compelling ways with those professionalstakes on a different onus, however, when be facing patent expiry, and the spectre who are ultimately at the forefront ofthis is officially recognised as a Continuing of so-called ‘biosimilars’ (the term used to treating patients, will reap the rewards of theMedical Education (CME) or Continuing describe generic biologics) is looming large. new terms of engagement.Professional Development (CPD) programme. Pharmaceutical companies will need toIn this respect, different rules and regulations ensure that their R&D pipelines are not tooapply than in the broader Medical narrow in order to maintain the flow and Further ReadingCommunications perspective. The focus of momentum of getting products to market, • Edelman Trust Barometer:this article is on Medical Communications. although undoubtedly some will run the risk of cutting back on R&D during the current • PharmaFocusAlthough Medical Communications is a financial crisis. • SCRIPhighly regulated environment – with themajority of the Communications targeted at Against this background, there is no doubtHCPs and not appropriate (or permitted) for that pharmaceutical companies will beConsumer audiences – the time has come guarding their relationships with their HCPfor pharmaceutical companies to embrace advocates with great care. Strong advocatesthe same principles of engagement and at the developmental stage of a drug’sconversation as other industries. This is all lifecycle are critical to safeguard its longthe more important as the pharmaceuticalproduct development landscape is changingrapidly – with fewer blockbuster drugs,companies need to find more compellingways to communicate the benefits of their mediCalproducts in real clinical practice.Conversation is now at the heart of CommuniCaTions inany engaging Medical Communicationsprogramme. Enabling and driving peer-to-peer dialogue is far more powerful than The ConversaTion age – where next with health care Professionals?relying solely on the ‘old model’ of drivinginformation from the top opinion leadersdown to the broader HCP community.Trusting the source is the cornerstone of term survival, and we should expect medicalany successful Medical Communications communications to play an increasingly David Noble is Managing Director ofprogramme and, as the Edelman Trust important role in maintaining these BioScience Communications - Edelman’sBarometer has shown, people are more likely relationships at a time when companies specialist Medical Communicationsto trust ‘people like me’, so having strong will be seeking to ensure that they realise Division. He has extensive experienceprofessional advocates to drive peer-to-peer their ROI on their later stage compounds of the pharmaceutical industry havingCommunications is a clear advantage for in an increasingly competitive market. started out as an R&D biochemist beforepharmaceutical companies. Transparency continues to be the watch moving into communications. word in developing these relationships, david.noble@edelman.comIn the current economic climate, engaging so taking a responsible approach andin conversation with these advocates will be acknowledging the independence of HCPs isincreasingly important. A fairly long term paramount. It is only by encouraging debate‘scare-mongering’ headline in much of the that pharmaceutical companies can achievepharmaceutical press has been focused this with any real credibility.around the lack of robust pipelines in manymajor pharmaceutical companies, with some While the current economic turbulencehigh profile Phase III trial failures adding fuel will undoubtedly have an impact on R&Dto this. In the last few years, there has been budgets, pharmaceutical companies cannota great deal of consolidation in the industry afford to jeopardise their long term prospectsas pharmaceutical companies seek to by cutting back too severely. This would bothbolster their pipelines through acquisitions, damage their commercial outlook and theirmost notably of R&D driven biotechnology relationships with their key advocates incompanies. Roche, for example, increased healthcare practice.their stake in Genentech to take a controllingshare; AstraZeneca acquired MedImmune Furthermore, in an increasingly competitiveand Cambridge Antibody Technology; and market, pharmaceutical companies willmost recently, Sanofi Pasteur acquired need to embrace a more open dialogue page 18 Public Engagement in the Conversation Age