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New SHIFT Communications EVP Scott Monty on the Future of PR

ScottMontyWe’ll make a wild guess and assume that, if you work anywhere in communications, you heard the big news this morning: Scott Monty, former head of social for Ford Motor Company, joined Boston-based SHIFT Communications as EVP of strategy (he even has his own URL).

The announcement received mentions in trade pubs from Adweek to Automotive News and even inspired a bit of good-humored hashtaggery:

Scott elaborated on the #MontyDecision on his personal blog this morning, but he and SHIFT CEO Todd Defren also talked to us about the logic behind the move and their shared vision for the future of the comms industry.

Scott, how did your relationship with Todd influence your decision?

SCOTT: A whole world of new opportunities opened to me after I announced that I would be leaving Ford. Todd and I have known each other for better part of a decade, and I saw him a year ago at major auto show.

At a certain point we turned to each other and asked ‘Why aren’t we discussing the next move?’

These are not things we take lightly, so we spent time discussing what a new role would look like…continuing with SHIFT’s entrepreneurial spirit and helping it get to the next level. At the same time, the new role would give me the luxury of remaining in Michigan with my family while moving around and collaborating with SHIFT clients around the country. It’s geographically remote but it feels very close.

It also means that I don’t have to wear pants. I’m famous for saying ‘What is the ROI of putting your pants on everyday?’

TODD: Our existing relationship made the decision easier. These things never are simple, but…we have a very similar mindset in terms of where the comms industry is going and what clients need.

Could you elaborate on that mindset?

SCOTT: We both talk a lot about the growing role of paid promotion and analytics in PR. What had been an industry all about media relations became very much entrenched in social over the past 5-6 years. Over the past 18 months or so, paid/earned/owned media have all bled together in a way that is troubling but also reveals great opportunities.

It’s about being able to show a return on investment–how much money did that sponsored tweet deliver? Many agencies that are still afraid of that map.

What does this mean, strategically, for SHIFT?

TODD: We’re doing a lot of paid work now. For example: if we get New York Times placement, we make sure there’s a paid promotion along with the piece to market that content to anyone to whom it might have contextual relevance, re-target them if they visit the site, etc. in order to make sure the message saturates.

Scott will be a huge public advocate for our approach, and ultimately clients will work with him to evolve their own stories and services.

On a larger topic, we’ve written a lot about the challenges of content marketing and owned/sponsored content recently. Does PR need to change its approach to that practice?

SCOTT: I don’t think there’s any prescriptive answer to that question–it will vary based on the client and the type of industry they’re in.

That said, the entire practice is on the cusp of an overabundance of content. We’re experiencing “content glut” right now, and with so many choices, consumers grow fatigued. There will be more of a desire for/drive toward long-form content in the future as brands that take the time to do things deliberately create more demand for their services. You’ll always want more of something you can’t get enough of, and that’s going to be a really important part of how we counsel clients.

TODD: This may be my bias, but we’re big believers in earned media. Some brilliant things may come from owned content, but ultimately I don’t think most consumers want to read about Pulitzer-worthy topics sponsored by brands.

SCOTT: But then you never know. To my knowledge, you can’t apply for a Pulitzer–but that’s not the intention, that’s the icing on the cake.

What is the biggest Big Question the industry needs to consider moving forward?

TODD: Social is a horizontal revolution, and PR has benefited in that social puts relationships at the center of everything. We need to wrap our arms around the paid/earned/owned puzzle and what it means for marketing in addition to the content piece. All agencies [advertising, marketing and PR] are currently sniffing at the same pie, so having our arms around media/social/content (branded and otherwise) and understanding our role across those sectors will be the important thing.

SCOTT: Equally important is the notion that the silos need to be broken down. Because marketing is creeping into PR’s terrain and vice versa, it doesn’t amount to a land grab; it’s more about tilling the soil together to make it more fertile for our shared clients. That’s where the power of truly integrated communications and marketing services will come together.

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