The essence of good PR, everyone used to say, is storytelling. Indeed, the ability to convey a powerful message that consumers, governments, media, and a range of stakeholders, can relate to and adopt is, in many ways, a timeless one.
Enter social media: initially coming at the expense of good storytelling, the speed of an interaction- rather than how meaningful it was- became the new measuring rod for how successful a connection was.
Thankfully, this trend seems to be slowing down, with storytelling re-emerging as happy complement to the speed afforded by social media interactions. At the same time, however, the changing behaviour of millennial consumers is giving birth to a second wave of storytelling that brands- especially those based in Asia- are getting on board with. The name of this new wave is as exciting as it is tech-savvy: experiential public relations. Thanks to the connectivity revolution, experiential PR is now so much more than humble event management.
“Our clients are looking for ‘moments’ that create engagement and can be leveraged through media,” says Xavier Daurian, Asia managing director of Luminous Experiential MSLGroup, “experiential or brand engagement agencies are now leading the change.”
It would be an outright lie to claim that using events as part of PR campaigns was anything new. At the same time, interactive events aren’t exactly a revelation, with events that registered as quirky initially categorised as guerrilla marketing or dismissed as a PR stunt. Still, experiential PR has build on the characteristics of its predecessors and, over the last few years, combined them with contemporary communications principles.
“The fundamental difference from a typical media or consumer event is that with an experiential PR strategy, all components of integrated PR are brought into play,” asserts Kiri Sinclair, founder and managing director or Sinclair Communications, “from key messaging, audience insight and big ideas through to storytelling across traditional, social and digital platforms, with the key outcome focused on making a closer bond between consumers and the brand.”
The popularity of experiential PR is rocketing in Asia, thanks in no small part to the growing population of connected millennials seeking to be engaged in an experience, and not merely sold to.
“In some markets across Southeast Asia where some brands are relatively new, they need to gain legitimacy very quickly,” continues Daurian, “in more established markets like China it is a cultural thing, people want to see and test products before buying them.”
An explicit tie to such hyper-connectivity across Asia is the long-awaited growth and maturation of many of the region’s economies, which has seen an explosion of the region’s middle class- particularly across China, India and Vietnam.
“Asia’s millennial population is booming, as is their ability and willingness to spend on experiences,” Meiling Wee, executive director at Golin Singapore, explains, “as a result, while brands increasingly customise products and experiences, PR agencies have had to likewise develop experiential PR in ways that match the brand’s evolution and cater to the millennial consumers requirements.”