Real-time is great, but it’s got to have a point

Real-time, or ‘reactive’ marketing is a dangerous game; one that’s guilty of spurring so many brands into creating content for content’s sake.

While the notion of news-jacking to respond to big media stories and events has existed in a PR context for years, it’s the sheer speed of social media that’s made everyone go a little crazy for ‘getting something out’ before the moment’s gone.

All you have to do is type ‘brands royal baby’ into Google to see the backlash to this. is my personal favourite.

There’s also now this misconception that real-time marketing is only limited to creating images in an instant – whereas in fact it’s much more than that.

TMW has been doing this type of social design for years on Lynx. It built an entirely new process around putting a designer and a copywriter together to quickly produce social posts that respond to cultural events, and that in turn has led to the creation of a whole new team of community managers.

But real-time also relates to everything else that goes on around this; building trust between client and agency (and then agency to agency) so that decisions can be made quickly, proper documentation of social guidelines and policies, and using the proper tools to monitor what’s really being said online.

It’s all very well trying to be witty in response to a blackout at the Super Bowl, but without these four things in place, you risk doing things for the sake of it – and seriously missing the mark.

Producing social content is great, but it’s got to be relevant – and at the end of the day, even if you nail it, it’s only one part of the picture.

How to structure your community management team

A few months ago I contributed to Marketing’s piece on structuring your community management team here.

I thought it might be useful to post my full contribution to it, because if you’re handling things in-house, or working with an agency, community management presents several interesting challenges to normal working schedules.

While much coverage of real-time marketing focuses on the creative output, there’s a host of things you need to set up behind the scenes to allow you to react quickly.

Be flexible with where your team works

Community managers are effectively being asked to deliver ‘always on’ coverage. This is typically self-managed or covered by shifts to achieve community management seven days a week and sometimes even round the clock. If you’re doing this, you need to be aware that time in lieu will accrue. It may not be necessary for your team to be in the office every day, and working hours may need to shift. Without being open to this, you risk putting too much pressure on your team – and attention to detail will slip.

Get your documents in order

Make sure your community manager is aware of any regulation that may affect how they respond or behave online and what you expect from them in terms of response time, escalation process and more. Key documents include a Rules of Engagement ‘handbook’, FAQ of pre-approved responses to core issues, a content matrix that outlines content themes to directly link output to strategy and visual brand guidelines for social.


A community manager can’t work on their own. Period. You can’t brief them to ‘come up with some posts’ and expect them to just get on with it solo. If they’re in-house, an agency partner can provide creative support and bring case studies and learnings from other brands to the table. If your community manager sits within an agency – they should work alongside planning, creative and client services to deliver the best results possible.

Don’t hire the stereotype

A truly excellent community manager is a polymath; with editorial, creative, account management and social experience – but where possible, hire to match passion for a subject with your brand. You can teach someone how to use Facebook, you can’t teach them to love something and make it credible.

Taking spot 50 in The #DrumDigerati

The Drum released its Digerati list last week; which looks at key players across the digital marketing industries.

A longlist got whittled down to 100, and I was pretty chuffed take spot number 50 🙂



Holmes Report Echo Chamber podcast

The Echo Chamber is a fortnightly podcast that explores the big PR stories from across the world.

Hosted by the Holmes Report’s Arun Sudhaman and produced by TVC Group, I joined him and Jericho Chambers’ Robert Phillips last week to chat about British Gas.

Check out and download the Oct 24th show here.


Year of random writing; on everything from digital to PR, social and beyond