One has Ted Lasso, the football-turned-soccer coach in the wildly successful comedy of the same name, to thank for re-popularizing the famed Walt Whitman quote, “Be Curious. Not Judgmental.”
We were curious to learn when the great WW wrote this powerful statement and found it’s attributed to his famous “Leaves of Grass” anthology. There’s just one thing – according to Ed Folsom, co-director of the Walt Whitman Archive, the author never penned those words.
We’re not here to judge Ted Lasso for taking such liberties. The statement still has meaning, particularly for the public relations and marketing industry, which has seen more change in the last five years than the 25 before. The truth is some agencies have been curious about innovation and the evolution of the business, while others have held onto the status quo for as long as possible. We get it. Change can be disruptive to staff and expensive to justify. It’s not our place to judge.
However, we have embraced curiosity and given it purpose by investing in our positioning, people and technology. Our curiosity is attentive to:
The Integrated Agency. Companies and traditional agencies are quick to judge whether a PR firm can be good at marketing or a marketing firm can deliver on PR. How can any firm be better at creative or web than a creative or web firm? All fair judgments. However, to remain competitive, one must be willing to pivot and evolve. Build a tech stack that serves all three areas. Bring on talent as good as any single-disciplined agency. Give up your position as a dominant single service firm and embrace the integrated. Otherwise, expect judgment.
Affiliate Public Relations. The idea of earned-for-pay rubs many in the industry the wrong way, but can you blame media outlets for exploring new revenue channels when their industry has been cannibalized by bloggers and influencers? Affiliate PR enables us to marry the purely paid landscape with thoughtful editorial content. And we have no intention of divorcing ourselves from it.
Influencer Marketing. Let’s start with adoption. 67% of brands plan to increase their influencer budgets. Nano-influencers are achieving the highest engagement rates. 83% of influencers are willing to work for products. Influencer marketing is here to stay, and we are excited to have access to the industry’s best platform, Tagger Media.
Social Media Commerce. If we were going to break our own rules here and place a little judgment, it would be in the under-compensated social media landscape. Most companies simply don’t want to pay appropriately for this labor-intensive channel. However, monetize it directly [not indirectly] like with a TikTok Shop, and companies begin to loosen up the purse strings.
Artificial Intelligence. Some will say George Orwell matters more than ever in the age of AI. Should we be curious or judgmental? The landscape is still taking shape, but here are some things we do know:
- There will be increased demand for responsible AI.
- New verticalized AI solutions are coming.
- Large language models will impact conversational AI.
- AI will remain a curious consideration for the marketing and public relations industry.
So, thanks to Ted and Walt for reminding us, in some crazy way, how important it is to Be Curious, Not Judgmental. If there was ever a time for such a mantra, it will be 2024.