What’s Up? This is What’s Up

By Matt Van Hoven 

Over the last few weeks I’ve had the good fortune to sit down with some really smart people, who wouldn’t be happy if I mentioned there names here &#151 but you know who you are &#151 and just shoot the breeze about how things are going. Bla bla it all sucks; and inevitably we get to riffing about the fundamentals. It’s fun. And here’s what’s up.

The Key to the City
The basis of advertising, public relations and journalism and really any media industry (let’s presume I’ve listed every significant label and it somehow fits into one of these 3 broadly defined categories) is communication. However there is one factor of communicating that pretty much mandates whether or not the message is successfully delivered (whatever that means for whichever medium: sales, impressions, conversations et al). What I’m talking about is trust.


Trust, in my opinion, is the linchpin of communication, and there’s very little of it left in what we think of as traditional advertising, PR and yes sometimes journalism. And that’s because we all have ulterior motives to messaging. Even right now, I’m hoping you’ll send this article around so I can get traffic and come in to work Monday to a site flush with banner ads. At the same time, I really enjoy this job, so that’s good too.

Wanna Grab a Beer?
It’s my opinion that since trust is so important that everything we do as communicators must somehow grow our audience’s faith is us. Think of it like this &#151 the best, most effective commercial or well written news story can’t hold a candle to a friend’s recommendation. And that pretty much says it all. If I was having this conversation with you at a bar (like I did last night), it would be much more convincing than I am being right now. That’s because most of you don’t know me and therefore it’s easier for you to just say &#151 well that was the dumbest argument I’ve ever heard, next story please.

If we were face to face we’d have a back and forth about the topic and hopefully I’d at least present a clear argument that you could say, “OK I see what you’re saying &#151 yeah, when my friends recommend something, I’m more likely to buy it.”

Friendship 101
So what am I getting at? That thanks to current tools and the development of applications that haven’t even come out yet, we’re now closer than ever to having those bar conversations on a bigger but still intimate scale. And by intimate I mean personal, relational, almost friend-like. Friendship is really the ultimate goal in developing trust and you just can’t really pay for it.

Or can you? I think the nuts and bolts of that question are being tested by people like you all the time. Social media firms like Converseon are big on it &#151 but ah, so are we. Those of you who don’t use Twitter (which is just a tool &#151 it’s bringing us closer to the bar scenario) or who don’t follow us on Twitter might not realize that the relationships we have via that medium are much different from what you see here on the blog. It’s just different, probably because even though you can be anonymous on Twitter, you have more to lose socially by being, well, a jerk.

Tools Evolve, But Today (for us) it’s Twitter
In that way conversing on Twitter is more like sitting at the bar than you might realize &#151 because if we’re having a cold one and you tell me (as many have before) that I’m the worst friggin writer on the planet and I should probably just kill myself &#151 and do so in a way that’s not a friendly jibe, well I might just get pissed and not think very highly of you anymore. I’m sure there are people close to me who think this way or have thought this at some point but in the interest of leading drama free lives keep these thoughts to themselves &#151 we all do this, all the time, in regards to people we know. It’s human nature, and that’s really what anonymity changes.

And one day another tool will come along to get us even closer to that bar without ever having to step inside one. There will be a select few who understand how to operate in this realm &#151 and who are able to mold themselves to a brand’s values in such a way that they’ll become that brand’s voice. But really that person, whose job it is to blog and tweet, will be like a friend if he/she does his/her job right &#151 and finally after all this time consumers will have a way to actually trust brands that has been controlled by the brand &#151 not by bloggers writing about a product or Yelp reviews.

This is What’s Up
That’s the future of communication and maybe even advertising and PR. I can see the brand voice acting as an anchor for the people who want to communicate in the digital space and traditional methods of communication &#151 Advertising, PR, Journalism &#151 will become support vehicles to that goal (which is building trust). “This is an awesome video,” we’ll tweet, minutes after tweeting about a story pertaining to our brand. And consumers might not mind that we kind of have an agenda because we’re also sharing interesting things that have nothing to do with what we’re selling. We’ll just be ourselves and maybe that will sell some stuff.

More: “Op Ed: Digital Done Right and Three Companies That Seem to Get It (Part 1)