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Back to school November 27, 2008

Posted by James Warren in pr, work.

Here’s the original text of my PR Week Digital PR Essay, published today.  In it, I talk about the concept of Inline Communications (don’t plan/execute offline and online comms separately – all your comms must be ‘inline’) and revisit the requirement to Be Nice.  Comments welcome.


Beyond online.  Get inline

Digital must not be an afterthought.  Successful communications should be seamlessly integrated across all available channels

Is it really twelve months since the last PR Week Digital Essay supplement?  How time flies!  And yet, how much has changed since last we spoke.  Last year, on these very pages, I advised the communications function of every organization to assign dedicated resource to managing the promotion (and indeed protection) of its digital reputation.  I wonder how many followed this advice?  As anticipated, 2008 has seen the marketing world continue its unceasing adoption of digital tools and techniques.  This is only set to increase as we enter 2009 and we PROs are ideally placed to take full advantage – the online environment is fertile ground for creating and amplifying advocacy.  But how to profit from this advantage?

I wanted to use this essay to introduce two concepts; ideas upon which we at Weber Shandwick recommend you base your strategic communications planning and execution in 2009, and beyond.

The first idea is ‘inline.’  The beauty of inline is its simplicity: inline tells us not to build a standalone offline communications campaign and bolt it on to a distinct online campaign.  Rather, inline teaches us to plan, create and execute communications campaigns that make no distinction between the channels employed.  Public relations needs to break out of the silos of specialist planning and tactical execution and become truly reflective of how people (the community formerly known as target audience) are influenced.  At Weber Shandwick we do this by ensuring every campaign is optimized for the combination of channels that carry most influence.

As with all things, the devil is in the detail.  Working with our colleagues at Universal McCann we create what we call an Inline Profile for each campaign, an integrated influence model that reflects the audience we are trying to reach and the nature of the communications objective.  The Inline Profile enables us to identify which combinations of channels (and therefore tactical execution) will be most effective in driving advocacy.

To ensure all campaigns are inline, we have matched the insights gleaned from  the afore-mentioned profile with rigorous and thorough training of all staff, plus the embedding of digital experts into each practice/office across the company to give every Weber Shandwick consultant the confidence that only knowledge and experience bring.  This ensures that all campaigns are practically inline from conception to implementation.

Of course, inline communications is not only reflective of how the audience is influenced. Inline is a state of mind, a process and a point of view. It’s not just about media content – increasingly we are staging experiential events to help drive communications with key influencer groups.  And of course it is also based on media needs – ensuring that there is layer upon layer of additional corroborative information/messaging available via internet search and elsewhere, across all communication channels, to ensure no question of perspective goes unseen.

For evidence that inline communications works, look no further than the communicator of the year, President Elect Obama.  His election campaign was the living embodiment of inline thinking and execution, from the consistency of his ‘Change’ messaging to the perfectly coordinated integrated communications and engagement activities, whether via the media, online or in the field, the Obama team created a truly inline programme.

The second idea I want to talk about is again straightforward.  But if followed to the letter, it will ensure that the design and tactical execution of any digital activity is optimized for success.  And it is, very simply: Be Nice.

While it sounds trite, those businesses that adopt the attributes of niceness when communicating online can only succeed.  A few months ago I wrote on my blog: : “…if you’re generous with your time, are courteous, listen, don’t interrupt, help people achieve what they want to achieve and make people smile – in short, if you’re nice – then people will want to hang out with you and they’ll want to introduce you to their mates.”

Any organization that demonstrates the attributes of niceness online – those that run online campaigns that are inclusive, non-judgmental, even-handed, polite, respectful, courteous, humorous, empowering, supportive, interesting and engaging – will be infinitely better placed to succeed than an organization that doesn’t.  After all, it’s not not called antisocial media for nothing.

My advice to you all: get inline and be nice.  It’s just like being back at school.



1. renaissance chambara | Ged Carroll - Integrated thinking - November 27, 2008

[…] and the development of the ‘web-of-no-web’. I won’t repeat James’ essay you can go over to his blog and read it there, but instead I wanted to amplify a couple of salient points around it. Working with our colleagues […]

2. Ged Carroll - November 27, 2008

Hi James, I borrowed a copy this afternoon and had a read, I put some additional thoughts around the points you were making in a blog post, I have linked to with this comment.

3. Treat the mouse like a hot potato « Don’t Go Mad - December 4, 2008

[…] content, whatever that might be. So online remains a good way to engage this demographic and doing it inline even […]

4. Dont Go Mad » Blog Archive » Treat the mouse like a hot potato - December 5, 2008

[…] content, whatever that might be. So online remains a good way to engage this demographic and doing it inline even […]

5. Murphy’s Law » Some PR Links… - December 5, 2008

[…] referenced during my talk today: “Beyond online. Get Inline” by James […]

6. Paul Seaman - December 14, 2008

Dear James,

I have written a blog that challenges your understanding of the importance of being nice and inclusive online. Please take a look if you have time http://paulseaman.eu/2008/12/not-too-much-mr-nice-guy/

7. Not too much Mr Nice Guy | 21st-century PR issues › Paul Seaman's online review - September 6, 2009

[…] Let’s just listen to the counsel PR 2.0 blogger James Warren provides firms in his PR Week Digital PR Essay: contrariwise. […]

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