May 24, 2012

The Impact of the Agile Marketing Trend on Public Relations

via Flite Agile Marketing

The latest buzzword coming to the communications forefront is “agile marketing.”  Derived from the agile approach to software development bearing the same moniker, agile marketing  changes up the traditional marketing model and shares some of the same cornerstones that underpin the agile development approach, including:

  • An interative and incremental approach.  Agile development chops work into bite size pieces, but adds the capacity for iteration and adaption during development.  The result – a fast moving and fluid development cycle that enables continuous improvement.
  • The scrum.  The hallmark of the agile approach is the scrum – an development approach featuring a cross-functional team that works very dynamically to solve problems and meet deadlines.  The days of the silo are gone.  The agile marketing scrum will involve people from product, marketing, operations, sales and PR (at the least.)
  •  The sprint. Scrum development breaks projects down into fast-moving sprints, which are generally no more than one month in length, and are frequently measured in weeks or days.  The sprints define and organize the work to be done for a period of time by the scrum.

The precepts of agile development are well expressed in the graphic below.  In a nutshell – to me at least – the agile approach is about breaking out of the straightjacket of processes and getting.things.DONE.   It’s also about continuous improvement and iteration, and ultimately, about putting the customer first.

via Chiefmartec.com

So what does this mean to PR?  It’s helpful to think in terms of agile engagement  - staying connected with audiences, interacting with them and listening to what topics are top-of-mind with the people who are shaping conversations online.   This differs from the traditional approach of planned campaigns and crisis communications. Under an agile strategy, the PR team is plugged into marketing campaigns, but also develops the ability to adjust messaging quickly to  head off negative events and to capitalize upon fast-moving opportunities (e.g. newsjacking.)

Developing an agile engagement framework means the communications department will need to re-wire processes and build some new muscles.   Specifically, PR pros can expect a host of new demands and requirements, including:

  • Tighter integration  with faster-moving marketing and social media campaigns, demanding the ability to adjust messaging and audience targeting quickly
  • Increasing focus on customizing message, content and touch points for customers and specific audiences
  • Re-aligning the decision-making and processes to support the fast-moving agile approach.
  • Empowering  employees.  Find the social media extroverts and influencers in your midst and nurture them.
  • Increasing the commitment to real-time information.  Monitoring social channels becomes a necessity.

Developing an agile engagement framework means the communications department will need to re-wire processes and build some new muscles, aligning staff and expertise – in the communications groups and elsewhere in the organization – with corporate objectives.   The effort is worth it, however. The brand will develop  a flexible approach enabling communicators to quickly to their environment , aligning consumer and brand goals and ultimately maximizing return on brand equity and communications investments.

Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the free ebook Unlocking Social Media for PR.

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