How brand PR can make it personal. Valeria Lama, Marketing Practice Leader Hill+Knowlton Strategies Italia.

Among the hot topics of brand communication, one of the most challenging to me is the evidence that today’s consumers expect companies and brands to relate to them as individuals.

While creativity and storytelling continue to have tremendous importance, smart data and programmatic media buying are irreversibly changing the codes of advertising, creating the possibility of reaching consumers almost one by one. 

There is a feeling now that technology is setting a new agenda that brand communication is struggling to address.

Here are six points that consumer PR professionals in Italy are most likely facing (or they should start to) in the effort to get their brands closer to consumers.

  1. Data and insights

Brands must get smarter and smarter in getting closer to consumers. Today, smart data (turning meaningless numbers into actionable insights) are brands’ most precious resource. Truly robust PR strategies are not only insight- and data-driven, but also use data to measure impact. It is mandatory that PR not be cut off from the increasingly engineered communication arena.

  1. Consumers as individuals

People’s needs are changing as a result of digitalization, the empowerment of women, economic and social instability and changing levels of education. This creates a complex range of needs for each individual, and demands horizontal relationships between brands and consumers. PR teams need to have the right mindset to find insights that are personal and relevant to consumers in order to generate real one-to-one conversations.

  1. Digital habits

In the digital era, successful brands address consumers’ new needs. Digital experiences influence consumers’ expectations in the offline world, with a growing request for products and services that are highly personalized, that are free or are perceived as such, and that are immediately easy to use. Brand communication is no exception – these same expectations apply.

  1. Creativity

Creativity requires boldness, first in finding it and then in honestly evaluating it. A WPP P&G Creative Scale defines levels of creativity that go from “craft” to “crap”! PR expertise often teaches to be cautious and foresee negative outcomes.  Yet, this should not prevent us from elevating the craft of our creativity, and use our critical mind as a strength.

  1. Content

Content turns a PR agency into a publishing agency and a brand into an editor. It allows brands to working on a much larger scale than when they are just generating “earned” media – essentially, promotion by third parties. Videos, branded and native content are concrete opportunities that PR professionals are already using to engage consumers in a more personal way.  To go a step further, brand communication should also embrace Artificial Intelligence, chatbots and the Internet of Things, leveraging the power of billions of connected devices.

  1. Retail platforms

As the consumer journey changes, communication plays with new rules to generate preference and sales. Brands have to make their conversations relevant and available through all possible touchpoints. Retailers are transforming sales models and ways of addressing consumers, with Amazon leading the way. Smart PR people are working to include the new consumer journey and new retail platforms into their plans.

While sharing my experience, I am really looking forward to seeing how brand PR will face this new consumer challenge and the opportunities that this will unlock for our industry in the near future.