Nowhere better can this be seen than in the world of Public Relations, which in parallel to dramatic shifts driven by social media are leading brands to reassess their relationship with and management of content.
As an early adopter I'm running a social media video blog, delivering UGC lifestyle experiences. Over the past two years I've been involved in numerous projects, the most interesting being with Bompas & Parr, known for their eclectic approach to product launches. From a lake atop of Selfridges to the world's first chocolate waterfall to the re-creation of food featured in science fiction movies, their events have inspired across mainstream press and user driven social media.
July of this year saw the launch of the new Magnum cafe at Westfield. The program featured their Magnum Infinity Pleasure Pod, an object straight out of Mork & Mindy, where, while strapped into a chair connected to a variety of electrodes, the sensation of enjoying an ice cream would be projected visually on to the inside of the pod. For those interested, the content can be seen here.
I attended the launch, met the evenings celebrity Kelly Brook along with the CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman, and created a photo-video slideshow of the event. The content was distributed via social media but a couple of days later, YouTube - where we host our videos - notified me of a copyright infringement claim, filed by Unilever; which incidently tarnished the account's integrity with YouTube.
Given that I was invited officially I was surprised at the accusation, so contacted Bompas & Parr who were also in shock, more so given that Unilever's own team retweeted links to the content. A long story short, a claim was made by the agency employed by Unilever, Golin Harris, citing content of Kelly Brook, who opened the store, as their reason. Of course, a couple of days later I was at Goodwood where Kelly Brook was presenting an award with Rowan Atkinson. There didn't seem to be any problems with taking photos-video of her…After a few weeks of going back and forth, Golin Harris revoked their claim, apologised profusely and the YouTube accounts integrity was restored.
Just ten years ago, brands whether corporate or personal could easily manage the control and flow of information. Today, with modern tools, everyone and anyone can capture, edit and distribute content. This changing landscape has been understood by many, such as the organisers of Apassionata, a dramatic horse-show who while in London last year told members of the audience that if they do take photos and video clips, to (a) not use flash and (b) to share their content with their facebook and twitter feeds. But elsewhere the message is confused. For example, the organisers of the recent Destination Star Trek who brought together all five captains from the different series for the first time in England, placed limits on accredited press access. In some cases, this led to consumers having better content than the press.
While there is still a need for professionally produced content, it is often consumer grade content which is reaching wider audiences: experiencing something, sharing that thing, when matched to the right personality, can often command an even greater return.
It is estimated that by 2014, 80% of content on the internet will be video, a significant portion of this being User Generated Content. Thus, the challenge for business and established PR companies is not to restrict the consumers experience and their desire to share that experience. Rather to embrace this new form of information exchange, integrating it into their own efforts. In many ways this means relaxing stringent controls, which if managed correctly, allows for a better reallocation of resources where the focus is less on control and more on ensuring a better, richer experience for all.