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Conference Recap: Scott Stratten on Un-Marketing, Being Authentic and Going Viral

October 26, 2016

Scott Stratten
Scott Stratten

“The first key of going viral is doing something worth talking about. We make mouths move when we have word of mouth,” said self-described “Un-Marketer” Scott Stratten at the closing General Session of the PRSA 2016 International Conference General Session on October 25.

“Opinion of a brand can change even if you don’t experience it,” he said, adding that the customers are the ones who make the stories. Stratten referred to a tale of Ritz-Carlton’s exceptional customer service when a child left behind his stuffed animal Joshie at one of their hotels. Employees took photos of the toy giraffe having fun at the hotel and mailed it back to the child with a letter and ID badge to show that he was well taken care of during their time apart.

 “We don’t write the story; we don’t tell the story. We influence the narrative,” Stratten said of what we can learn from the anecdote. “Everybody wants viral and word of mouth. The spread scale is infinite now and you are the brand. I can have 10 followers on Twitter and it can reach millions.”

He said that the key to great marketing is great hiring. “You have fewer fires to put out if you have great employees behind your brand,” Stratten said, adding that media relationships still thrive. “Customers don’t see silos; they see the brand. So you have to hire the best representatives.”

Remember that public relations is not about press releases or shouting, he said. It’s about connecting. Differentiate yourself by the people you know and who you meet, and have good relationships with good people. “PR is about building relationships — the skill is not only being able to communicate but also matching the right brand with the right voice.”

“The context of the medium is also key and adds value. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should,” Stratten said, noting that live streaming is not for everyone and that video is unforgiving and hard to do well. “Your content is not that interesting. Context is everything.”

Also “newsjacking” continues to be an issue, he said. Brands want to comment on pop culture or news, but the problem is that they have to do it tactfully and in real-time. “It’s not strategy; it’s marketing,” Stratten said. “When a tragedy happens, you either help or shut up. Tragedy and leverage should never be in the same sentence. You listen for your [brand] name, and you wait for the opportunity to leverage it. That is PR.

“A client can be happy with the metrics, but the metrics are really vanity. Is it impactful? This is a struggle,” he said. “You need to use deliverables that mean something — not vanity metrics. Move the needle.”

Stratten told the audience to be mindful of shifts in communications and customers’ preferences. “Tech — as our right arm — is an asset. If we combine our assets, especially in this industry, we’d be unstoppable,” he said. “Most of the time, the age-old methods work best. Everything has changed and nothing is different.”

Amy Jacques

Amy Jacques is the managing editor of publications for PRSA. A native of Greenville, S.C., she holds a master’s degree in arts journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in advertising from the University of Georgia’s Grady College and a certificate in magazine and website publishing from New York University.

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