Dorothy Crenshaw July 25, 2013 | 04:36:52

PR Should Own Real-Time Marketing

Mere moments after HRH George Alexander Louis of Cambridge made his entrance, the tweets and posts came in a rush. From Pampers, to Hostess, to Lululemon, all manner of brands spawned seemingly on-the-fly messages in the wake of the #royalbaby delivery. Some were witty, others were boring, and a few stretched the limits of taste, but most were covered and shared as the latest examples of the red-hot real-time marketing trend.

Of course, those spontaneous messages pushed out after the world’s longest pregnancy were anything but that. This wasn’t the Super Bowl blackout, after all; marketers had months to prepare for the global coming-out party. But the royal fuss did shine a light on real-time marketing, just as Oreo’s dunk in the dark did during Super Bowl XLVII.

Real-time marketing has arrived, because, well, it usually delivers. Whether clumsy or clever, the real-time royal-baby marketing machine was fueled by a frenzy of social sharing in the days following the birth.

For advertisers and their agencies, the new emphasis on real-time campaigns requires new skills. As Colin Mitchell, Ogilvy’s Worldwide Head of Planning put it recently, planning will be less important than ongoing campaign management. Mitchell names six “new” skills for ad pros, using words like “rapid response research” and “opportunistic media” to describe the demands and opportunities born by the popularity of real-time marketing.

Sound familiar? So where is PR in the real-time mix? PR professionals have been executing a version of real-time marketing since the business began. A story breaks, and the media relations team has four hours to take advantage of the news window with a client interview, quote, or blog post. The earned-media version may lack the polish and the broad viral potential of the social-media-fueled #royalbaby tweet or a milk-soaked Oreo, but the principle is the same.

In fact, PRs are well suited to pick up our share of real-time marketing. We’re accustomed to delivering content on the fly, we understand news opportunities, and we tend to be quite good at thinking creatively and acting spontaneously. We’ve all basically grown up around the news business, and social media has only heightened that sense of urgency.

Granted, true real-time marketing goes beyond mere newsjacking. An optimal response often requires a blend of paid and earned media, and it takes professional creative execution. Most importantly, the best real-time campaigns grow out of a brand’s story rather than being tacked onto a breaking news event. My favorite recent example is Virgin Holidays’ social campaign after same-sex marriage became law in the U.K. “Time for a honeymoon,” winks the ad, featuring the clinking of two lipsticked champagne flutes. It’s a perfect match with its intended audience, and the tone is classic Virgin, – sexy, subversive, and cheeky.

The Virgin ad was created by Saatchi. But it shouldn’t be long before we can enjoy the fruits of a PR-led team’s labor in the real-time marketing stage. Now, that will truly be a blessed event.

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