What is level 5 communication — and why is it important?
We live in the age of algorithms — and the late majority is quickly starting to catch on.
”Social media is dividing us,” critics claim.
However, the algorithms are also causing more direct (and potentially devastating) outcomes for us PR professionals.
Because now, the algorithms are sorting away more than even we, hardened PR professionals, can stomach.
How good is your communication?
As a thought experiment, imagine your communication activities grouped in five different levels based on, say, the basic quality in terms of PR craftsmanship.
Now, if I were to suggest that the algorithms will sort away all level 1- (“lousy”) and level 2 (“bad”) communication, most PR professionals would intuitively agree.
But, what if I were to suggest that the algorithms are also sorting away level 3 (“average”) and even level 4 (“good”) communication?
Could this really be true?
At this point, all we know is that competing for attention is constantly getting tougher and tougher.
But for anyone working in PR, the algorithms sure seems to be making an already challenging profession even more difficult.
Gatekeepers are slaves to algorithms, too
One might argue that the algorithms aren’t in full control — at least not yet. There are still powerful gatekeepers yielding their influence across huge audiences.
However, the power of these gatekeepers often stem from their ability to negotiate the algorithms.
Journalists are learning what will will drive clicks and social sharing.
Influencers are learning what will entertain their audiences.
Site owners are learning what will attract traffic and convert.
These gatekeepers, as follows, become nothing but pavlovian dogs; fully bred and conditioned by the algorithms. As Marshall McLuhan stated, “the medium is the message”.
Love them or hate them, embrace them or fear them — algorithms are makers of kings and queens today. Algorithms are the backbone of the media.
And we, as PR professionals, must change the way we prioritise.
Go for level 5 communication — or it’s a “no-go”
But the key takeaway here isn’t that great communication works better than good communication. We already knew that.
The key point is that good communication will be stealing resources from great communication — whatever that may entail in your niche.1
The media logic of algorithms is for today’s PR professionals what newsworthiness was to yesterday’s.
In the age of the algorithms, the winners takes all — or at least almost everything. Traffic. Conversions. Engagement. Share of voice. Attention.
Second placers are just first to lose.
In all external communication, we must be laser-focused in what objectives we pursue. And, we must abandon everything that aren’t “level 5 communication” by design.
New rules, new strategies
With new rules for the algorithmic media landscape, the PR profession must invent new playbooks.
We need new strategies based on what’s rapidly becoming the most valuable commodity in the world — attention.
This is why content themes works.
This is why the surround strategy works.
This is why ensuring critical mass works.
This is why the follower contract works.
This is why evergreen iceberg publishing works.
This is why it works to pick a fight with someone much bigger than you are — a stupid majority.
- To paraphrase business author Jim Collins — good can really be the enemy of great — also in public relations.