Conversation: the key to the 'Youniverse'
If you want to spread your message online, think PR not advertising.
Because it's a conversation, not a billboard…
The internet user is not part of a passive audience. We choose
to go online when we feel like it, each on our own path of interest
with no two views being identical. And we do this because we want
something out of it.
We ask our own questions and select what we want to see, hear
or buy. Our computers are gateways to individual multi-dimensional
space where we are in charge.
So online isn't one universe as seen by a mass audience through
the same spaceship window. Individuals see their own personal
piece of it. More than that, they control the shaping of what
they want to see.
This is the online Youniverse (not our term originally, but
one which we've embraced with gusto). It's revolutionising the
e-business world and advertisers are only slowly learning how
to approach it correctly.
Traditional ad agencies can still be found using a broadcast
approach that simply doesn't fit with the Youniverse concept.
Geared up to reach as wide an audience as possible through established
media, advertisers tap into a perceived cultural consciousness
and then bombard us with a message designed to strike a chord
with that consciousness. These ads are bold statements with no
room for negotiation.
The Youniverse works on a much smaller, conversational scale.
While there is no right way of doing things - purely because the
online industry is still so young - the old ways are no match
for the intricacies of emerging online dialogue.
Traditional advertisers are brilliant mass communicators. They
take a single idea and push it at millions of people. But the
consumer at a computer screen is an individual, in command of
their own space and accepting or rejecting what appears in their
The internet is interactive and conversational. The online medium
is a totally new way of delivering brand values. While traditional
audiences passively consume, individuals actively experience.
By contrast, PR is more in tune with the conversational characteristics
of the internet - so many PR campaigns are about engagement.
PR skills focus on customisation and conversation. They approach
businesses or publications in a personal manner, aiming their
clients' products towards one specific audience at a time.
This method works. The Youniverse is unimpressed with one-sided
advertising online. Instead it demands an e-relationship.
Corporate communicators and PR practitioners know how to chat.
They know how to develop relationships. PRs seek to influence
the individual and understand who they are talking to, in order
to work towards a deeper two-way relationship.
These skills lead the change in online advertising content, and
all ad agencies must develop them in order to maximise the conversational
nature of the medium for their clients.
An example of how the advertising business has typically used
communication space is provided by Apple. Funky Apple laptops
and sexy iPods have become cultural accessories. The advertising
for these products is always dramatic and dynamic - who can forget
the white iPod/black silhouette imagery that launched the iPod
brand - but impersonal. Great on a billboards, less so in email
By contrast, Apple do engage with people on a one-to-one level
at a store level. Their flagship London shop in Regent Street,
is an example of a space in which the corporate engages with the
personal. Banks of laptops and iPods offer hands on experience
and a chance to talk to assistants about all the things that make
Apple aspirational and different. It's that instore conversation
that needs to be created online.
Businesses must always remember that there's a human sitting
at the other end of the line. If people enjoy the experience of
visiting a website they'll be back.
Online is no place for a billboard. The Youniverse is all
about talking with, not selling to. It's about people allowing
brands into their own private world.
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