David TiltmanDoes social really work? On one level, of course, it does. In both PR and marketing, we know that there are more ways than ever to drive 'earned media', to gain reach, and to encourage consumers to share or participate in a brand’s initiatives (assuming they are compelling enough). And there are plenty of great examples out there of campaigns that get people talking, tweeting, sharing, liking, participating and recommending. The question for brands is what that means in commercial terms: how do you turn 'buzz' into business results; what strategies and media combinations are most likely to deliver; and what metrics should you put in place, both in the short and long term? And, of course, how do you increase the chances of success in the future? We’re seeing both marketers and communications specialists grappling with these issues. Those that find the answers will have a huge competitive advantage. In short, the race is on to own social. This link between social effects and business results is the focus of a new competition – the Warc Prize for Social Strategy. It’s a competition for communications or marketing strategies that drive earned media and (crucially) lead to business results. The goal is to bring together the world’s smartest social cases and reward the best of them (literally reward them – there’s a $10,000 prize fund for winning authors). The Prize also looks at social in its broadest sense. So this is not just a contest for social media campaigns. It’s a contest for any strategy (PR, advertising, or anything else) designed to drive conversation, sharing, advocacy or participation. And that’s important – in a lot of the cases we publish, and the research we share, it’s becoming clear that social as a strategic choice, rather than simply a specific channel to optimise. We saw that in a recent talk by Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble's global brand building officer. He guaranteed himself headlines by arguing that digital marketing is “almost dead”. His focus is “building creative ideas that come to life through the mediums that we engage with every single day.” Warc’s background is in marketing best practice. We’re well known among planners and strategy people in creative and media agencies; less well known by their equivalents in the PR community. So we’re delighted to be working with the Holmes Report to make sure this message reaches PR practitioners. We know that some of the smartest social ideas are coming out of communications departments and PR agencies – it’s clear in the Holmes Report’s own Creative Index. I was struck by this comment from managing editor Arun Sudhaman: “Digital and social media are helping to unlock creativity in PR. Most of the top-ranked campaigns revolve around a core digital platform, demonstrating how today’s PR campaigns are genuinely integrated — seamlessly utilising social media engagement to spur advocacy.” It is exactly this kind of thinking we want to showcase in the Prize. Maybe we’ll even be able to show who ‘owns’ social – marketing or PR. So if you can show that a social strategy has delivered hard results, prove it. This is a chance to be recognised as one of the smartest social strategists in the world, in front of both a PR and a marketing audience. Here’s what you need to know.
  • The Prize is completely free to enter. It’s a global competition, open to brands and agencies in any discipline.
  • There’s a Prize fund of $10,000 - the author of the Grand Prix-winning paper will receive $5,000, there are five $1,000 Special Awards, and a Gold/Silver/Bronze award structure.
  • Entrants need to submit a written case study – all details are at the Prize website, www.warc.com/socialprize.
  • The entries will be judged by a very senior panel of experts, drawn from both clients and agencies, and from the marketing and PR side. The chairman of judges is Pete Blackshaw, Head of Digital and Social Media at Nestlé, and we’ll be announcing more judges soon.
David Tiltman is content development director at Warc [Pic credit: Flickr/Jason A. Howie]