Don’t bother worrying about whether you have lost control of your brand’s reputation. You never had control of it in the first place. However, there is an opportunity to take command of your brand. But it won’t be easy. And you probably should have started working on it yesterday.
This is a core axiom for Stephen Waddington* and Steve Earl* in their recently published book, Brand Anarchy. It is an ambitious attempt to trace the historical developments that have led to the current state of the PR and media sectors as well as an impressive survey of the major trends and issues that will impact anyone with responsibility for managing reputation today. And in the future.
One of the many things to commend about this book is the breadth of issues raised, analysed and evaluated. The authors don’t shy away from asking the big questions about the definition and meaning of crucial concepts such as reputation, engagement, influence, authenticity, participation, analytics and measurement. What is refreshing is that Waddington and Earl demonstrate their hard earned communication skills by writing in a clear and concise style, thus avoiding the Latinate concatenations of more prolix authors who claim authority in the field of PR and social media.
They also have credibility. These guys know of what they speak. They’ve been in the PR frontline for nearly two decades. Both were journalists. Both built and sold a multi-million pound PR firm from scratch. They continue to create and manage communication campaigns for top brands. But as they cogently argue, the speed and complexity of change within the PR and media industries means there is no room whatsoever for complacency – or for anyone to claim they have all the answers.
Another plus point for the book is the breadth of industry observers and commentators interviewed. The acknowledgements page reads like a Who’s Who of the brightest thinkers and doers in the UK PR sector today (indeed, many are regular CIPR Conversation contributors. As is of course Stephen Waddington himself). Following this lot on Twitter would give you a real time intelligence feed into the best insight in the industry today.
Combining this breadth of insight with the authors own tenacious desire to not just accept commonly held (but often mistaken) beliefs about the real drivers of industry change make a refreshing departure from many recent paeans to the power of digital media. The balance of optimism and healthy scepticism is about right.
Unsurprisingly, the ultimate conclusion drawn by Waddington and Earl is that the PR sector needs to develop new skills. And fast.
So. Should you buy the book?
If you want easy, simple answers, then don’t bother.
However, if you want something that makes you think more profoundly about the future of the PR and communications sector (and by definition, your own career and future within it), then yes, you should.
For the cost of a few pints of beer, I’d wager this may prove to be one of the best investments you could make this year. Or any year.
*Disclaimer: Stephen Waddington and Steve Earl are former colleagues. We all worked together in the mid 1990s in the same large PR firm. Even though we all went our separate ways, we have continued to meet and discuss the state of the PR industry in real life and online ever since. They have kindly given plenty of airtime to my views in the book. Does that make me biased? Probably. I leave it to the individual reader to decide whether my relationship with the authors adds weight to my assessment of the value of the book. Or not.