During last year’s Brexit referendum campaign, Leave campaigner Michael Gove famously asserted that “people have had enough of experts”. We asked The Drum Network’s member agencies if he was correct and, if so, do expert spokespeople still have a valid role to play in promotional marketing campaigns?
Gavin Sherratt, managing director, Mashbo
There’s always room for experts, if what they are saying is backed up with evidence, conviction, values and heart. The key thing is about messaging, and diffusing the 'spin' and the bollocks. If it’s honest and bullshit free there’s plenty of room for experts in marketing campaigns to tell the right story.
Chloie Brandrick, Marketing and Content Executive, Click Consult
The meaning of 'expert' has evolved. Traditional, corporate spokespeople no longer have an impact in today's crowded digital landscape. To have influence, people need to feel inspired by your words and actions online (and offline too if it's appropriate to your brand and message). It takes differentiation - you must create a unique footprint in your area of expertise to build a community in which communication, trust and authenticity flows both ways.
Sarat Pediredla, CEO, Hedgehog Lab
Experts in the truest sense - those who have won the public’s trust through authenticity and experience - still have a crucial role to play in promotional marketing campaigns, offering insight and gravitas. People have simply become more selective about who they’re prepared to listen to - particularly when politicians are involved - which is no bad thing at all. The digital age may have sparked an explosion of voices clamouring for expert status, but it has also given us the tools to scrutinise on an entirely new level. Choose your experts wisely, use their knowledge appropriately and your campaign will shine.
Erika Clegg, co-founder, Spring
Michael Gove’s comment was simply his description of populism. Communities are the social fabric of our nation: experts are important but what Gove and his colleagues have learned in the past months is that, in democratic countries, the people must have their voices heard too.
It’s big news in 2017, and not just for politicians. Spring created our ‘Hyperlocal Everywhere’ consumer insight programme with just this in mind. Hyperlocal Everywhere reveals who the real opinion formers are, not just the experts, how communities share information and what their hopes and fears are. Crucially, this immersive process allows us to get to hard-to-reach groups: essential for many brands, allowing them to run communications and marketing programmes shaped to community needs and aspirations.
To ensure national coverage across the regions, last year we launched The Hyperlocal Everywhere™ Network of agencies with their head-offices in regional towns. The Network has secured a place on The Government Communication Service (GCS) and Crown Commercial Service (CCS) Communication Service framework for PR, and will allow GCS to better engage with people across the regions, as well as in the key towns and cities in the UK. So government is changing to respond to people power, and brand marketers must too.
Fleurie Forbes-Martin, marketing & communications manager, Salad
As much thanks as I owe LinkedIn for propelling me through my career, it is increasingly filling up with tripe. One of the content streams I loathe (but that secretly give me something to sneer at which I also enjoy) are public, professional 'debates’. I caught one recently erupting between a local business owner and a 'public speaker’ (town cryer?) around the misuse of the term ‘millennial’. It’s quite a sweeping stereotype in my opinion but I have found it interesting that millennial marketing ‘experts’ are also now a thing.
Anyway, I think self-proclaiming to be an expert is pretty valueless. Instead, I think there’s value in positioning oneself as an expert within a specific pool of knowledge through the words you say (and don’t say) without relying on the need to label yourself as one.
Businesses, brands and agencies can position their key thinkers and doers as experts by narrowing in on what valuable and unique insights they have that the people want. I feel the same way about ‘selling’ - it’s outdated. In this day and age, we don’t need all-knowing ‘experts' to tell us what’s good for us - our people, products, services and experience must work harder than ever to sell themselves without selling. The top influencers are at the top because we’ve caught onto the fact they know what they’re talking about and we want to know what they have to say next, not because their title is ‘expert’.
Richard Temple, board director, John Ayling & Associates (JAA)
Marketing experts always seem to represent the current consensus of best practice in our industry. They establish rules and constraints and we all aspire to be better than the average of the decreed ways of doing things. Yet it is only by rebelling from experts that our industry makes great creative leaps forward. We need our experts to set the rules, but we must treat them with irreverence. The industry once lionised Claude Hopkins, Rosser Reeves and Vance Packard as experts and yet how wrong they were all proved to be in time. Perhaps the marketing industry’s consensus on Facebook in this decade is already starting to unravel? As one renowned expert Jon Hegarty once said, “When the world zigs, zag.”
James Armstrong, digital marketing manager, SteadyGo
Gove was wrong; experts still have value in promotional campaigns (and should certainly still be listened to on more important issues!), but the way they’re being misused is eroding that value.
A ‘journalist’ recently put out a request to speak with a neuroscientist, so I introduced them to one. Later that day I got a nonplussed message from my neuroscientist friend; the journalist had questioned her on some mistaken pseudoscience. When the scientist repeatedly corrected her, the writer dropped her, saying “That’s not what I’m looking for, thanks anyway.” She was looking for an expert to rubber-stamp her piece, rather than getting to the truth.
We need to stop treating our audiences so contemptuously. Give them the truth, rather than spreading juicy junk-science stories, i.e. lies & fake news.
Przemek Czaicki, creative producer, Rooster Punk
We must defend the experts. The key problem with delivering messages from the experts is the lack of the entertainment factor. If you look at people like Hans Rosling, they have the ability to combine vast knowledge and authority in their field with excellent, entertaining delivery. The industry should stand behind the experts and help them deliver messages in a way that will connect with wider audiences.