As a Master of Arts student currently studying Public Relations, I can highly recommend Brand Anarchy as a must-read to any aspiring PR pro about to enter the working world of work.
Unlike many other text books I have had the laborious task of reading (you know the type - full of airy-fairy words that no-one ever really uses and after the first paragraph you want to cry with boredom), this book is common sense, straight talking and actually, an absolute pleasure to read.
The book paints a very clear picture about the PR landscape today, with real world examples of good (and bad) practice. The authors share invaluable insight in to the use of social media as part of an integrated campaign; a skill many employers are looking for. Trust me, as a soon-to-be-graduate and current job seeker I've seen enough job adverts to know.
To wrap up, if PR students want an on-point, accurate portrait of the industry they are about to enter in to, peppered with pearls of wisdom in surviving PR in the 21st Century, Brand Anarchy should be the latest edition to your bookshelf.
The authors have distilled the wisdom of modern day PR practitioners into an accessible paperback. Attempts are made at populism with interviews from high profile pundits like Alistair Campbell. This veneer of populism hides the real value of the book. Brand Anarchy isn't a populist book like No Logo. Instead the value of it is for the likes of inexperienced account managers at PR agency who need to have informed opinion once they start to think about providing strategic counsel to their clients.
The book bridges traditional corporate communications with the online world and discusses some recent crises that had a substantial online component. If you work in PR make Brand Anarchy part of your holiday reading.
I purchased this book when I was conducting a literature review for my dissertation which was on social media application for PR. I had initially expected to extract a few quotes and move on. However,after reading the first chapter, I decided to make this book my key text. I got a distinction.
After my dissertation, I decided to read the book again and I find that it is as engaging as an academic text and a general knowledge read. it is my go-to book for PR in the Digital age.
"There is a simple reason why you should not waste your time wondering whether you have lost control of your brand's reputation. You have never had control of your brand's reputation."
This is the shocking and probably (for some) frightening premise of the whole book and the powerful opening line is an indication of what's to come for the next 240 pages.
In essence the book is a potent look at industrial-scale change in the media and how we can understand and cope with it as a profession.
Steve and Stephen set out these changes in the context of an amazing new online world view and chart the paths that have brought us to this exciting point in time.
Although this detail can sound a bit forensic it's treated with good humour and set out in a way that's engaging and relevant beyond those working in PR and media.
The authors assert that current PR methods haven't changed much since the 1930s, but that factors affecting the media today could be just as seismic as the invention of the first printing press.
At its heart the book is about that fragile and nuanced relationship between brand and consumer. The central question is how we control and shape that in a complex new world that is constantly changing at break neck speed.
Less control is frightening for organisations, but this fear must not cripple communicators because according to Brand Anarchy it was only ever an illusion.
It claims that PR as an industry is too concerned with crisis and needs to get on the front foot.
Sure, the challenges posed by social media, the new online world and the decline of newsprint are difficult, but they are also truly exciting and the book has plenty of examples of this.
But the danger is also clear for those who can't or won't adapt. PR is a middleman between people and brands, in a world where industry and publishing is increasingly looking to cut out the middle man.
There's a wonderful phrase that will ring true for many in PR where they insist we should be "gaining command, not seizing control."
Although social media plays a major part in the book, the authors have no time for `self-interest' evangelists who can't see anything beyond digital.
Although it doesn't give any easy answers or quick fix solutions the text includes fascinating thoughts from some of the key media players of the past few decades.
My generation had the web at university so have grown up with it and I think the impact has probably been undersold - "the web has broken every business model it's touched" is another line that sticks in the mind.
I loved the blog-style bullet point summary at the end of each chapter and will certainly benefit from the career advice that's inherent in the text:
Skills are more important than ever, learn the art of conversation speak, the right language and be in the right place.
Anyone who works in PR and marketing or is just interested in the evolution of the media must read this book.
Disclaimer - my name does appear at the start of this book as an acknowledgement because some of the work we did in Northumberland is briefly mentioned.
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. Following this lot as a list 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.
For those well versed in social media - those who don't need introductions to the likes of Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, Olivier Blanchard, Guy Clapperton, Brian Solis, Rob Brown and so on, there may not be a lot new in the theory side book.
For the PR newbie (perhaps even ex-journalists crossing into PR) to the senior account director, there's plenty here. While the more senior social media practitioner may know the theory the authors present, the new interviews dotted about the book give it a freshness and exclusive content.
The UK slant from the authors works well as the book avoids for the most part talking about the standard Social Media case studies - Coke, Zappos and so on and that's very refreshing.
Similarly, the whole outlook of the book, talking about the importance of online conversations and how PRs and brands can be involved, is written from a very practical viewpoint and not the more Californian head-in-the-air attitude of many US books which are written as if everyone is already drinking the social media Kool Aid thinking it's the most important thing ever.
It's also a book not ashamed to take some potshots at some popular beliefs like pointing out why a social media strategy is not what your business needs and pointing out that the PR industry was really late to the digital engagement arena. There's certainly a few talking points in the book - no doubt deliberate to give the book reason for engagement in the digital arenas post-publication (and praise to the authors for making it so).
Appropriately for a book aimed at all communicators, Internal Comms also gets, in Scottish parlance, "a good kick of the ball" in the book and it devotes a good chunk of space talking, not only about the idea of staff being a firm's best brand ambassadors, but how to get them engaged and make the most of them, keeping them feeling rewarded, motivated and interested. Many social media books underplay the internal communications element so it's a delight to see this chapter.
Equally refreshing is the element of social future proofing contained within the book as it talks in very simple to understand steps how to take the transition from being a business doing social media (something it seems to espouse throughout) to being a genuine social business.
Overall, it's a must-read for most in the PR industry. As noted, experienced social media commentators may not get as much out of it, but for the majority of the PRs in the UK, this should be their main summer read. If they're embaressed to be seen reading work books on holiday hide it under a cover of 50 Shades or Grey or put it on your Kindle and pretend your reading the sex book instead.
Brand Anarchy is a great book and relevant to anyone working in PR. Its style is very conversational and the authors talk to you in a non-patronising manner as if they were having a chat with you over a cup of coffee which makes it really easy to read.
There are some great nuggets of information and some really excellent case studies included in the book, but on many occasion I was left wanting more. Perhaps the authors are just teasing us ahead of a follow up, but the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster case study could fill an entire book in itself and so having only a couple of pages dedicated to it was a little disappointing as I was really interested in reading more about it - I doubt there are many bigger case studies to analyse over the last few years in terms of managing corporate reputation.
I did find the start of the book a little repetitive. We get the point that social media means brands and organisations are losing control of their reputations and this seemed to be discussed in many guises over the first few chapters, but once it delved into some of the case studies, it got a lot more interesting.
Given my own company, markettiers4dc featured in the book, I was naturally excited to see how we faired. However, if I'm honest, I was surprised at the lack of attention given to the power of video, both live and ondemand, on how it can influence a brand's reputation online and can engage directly with its various stakeholders. That said, I do appreciate I have a natural bias towards broadcast and do appreciate the amount that needs to be covered in a book such as this.
One of my favourite case studies in the book is that of Asda and how an advert from 2008 for DVDs, aimed at fathers, placed in the Daily Mirror alongside a news story about wife-beating, started being posted on twitter three years later in June 2011. The comments provided by Dominic Burch, Asda's head of corporate communications and another member of the CIPR's Social Media Panel are excellent.
I also really approved of how much AVE's were slated in Chapters 7 & 8 and encourage every one of our own clients who keep asking for us to include it in our final reports to read these chapters first!
I found the book really picked up pace after half way and there are some great tips later on that companies should act on straight away, one of which my own company can benefit from, having experienced a competitor bidding on our name as a Google Adword (should I name and shame?). The Seymourpowell case study was therefore particularly helpful. The final chapter on Reskilling for the Future is also a must read for all.
I have to say though, my favourite quote from the entire book has to be that "journalists often make the best PRs" - I love the fact that it comes from two former journos!
Brand Anarchy is an insightful evaluation of the changing landscape of the media, where the PR industry should look to position itself in the future, and in my opinion, most importantly - what skills practitioners should be learning to operate in a new era of reputation management.
This book boasts an array of up-to-date case studies, the authors portray an aptitude for capturing game changing moments and have clearly done their research - drawing insights from a variety of respected pro's, as well as their own knowledgeable advice.
A useful resource for those in the PR industry, those wanting to enter into it, people with an interest in the fragmentation of media and management with an interest in the reputation of their brand. This book has certainly provided me with insights into a number of topics relating to the industry I'm studying at university: the current and future media environment, the power of influence, the evolution of the industry, future practices, the expectation from consumers, internal comms, risk/crisis planning and the hugely important topic of measurement.
The following quotes from the beginning and respectively, end of the book sum up the theme of the content perfectly:
"You have never had control of your brand's reputation."
"Our advice is to stop worrying about whether or not you can control your reputation. You can't. But it needn't be brand anarchy either."
It's very easy to heap praise on an article or book that quotes your own opinion, but in this instance its essential.
As someone who comes from a finance background (chartered accountant 15 years qualified) to me Brand Anarchy demonstrates that awareness and understanding of the shifting dynamics of the media and communications environments is a necessity for any senior manager, no matter what their discipline.
The book provides an in depth analysis of the developments in digital and social media, the impact they have had on brands - positive and negative, as well as practical advice on how organisations need to adapt.
In this world where reputation, and therefore value, can be created, damaged, or even destroyed in a matter of hours communications knowledge is no longer an optional extra.The challenge this presents to non communication professionals is significant.
With its approachable style and language this book is an ideal place to start.
Disclaimer - As well as being quoted I know both the authors professionally and in Stephen Waddington's case, personally. However, as I am sure Stephen would attest, this is no guarantee of agreement or approval.
Over the years many PR's have attempted to write books about the industry, in my experience most of them have read like academic text books and consequently I never get past the first few chapters. Pointless drivel.
Brand Anarchy, however, is very different. I honestly couldn't put it down. I even found myself taking it with me, tucked in my bag in case I could squeeze in some reading time during my day. The thing I liked most about it was that I didn't feel like I was being taught a lesson in PR, it discusses the crucial influence of social media and its impact on the PR industry by referencing notable case studies whilst also giving useful pointers throughout.
It is important to note that this is not just a book for PR's and Marketeer's. If you have a business then you will be aware of the importance of 'public image', the way your stakeholders view your company. This book is a must have - and I do not say that lightly.
As a PR man I use this a my industry bible and it will always have a designed space on my work desk.