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7 May 2024  •  By Jim Carden – Principal Consultant, Campaigns and Digital Reputation

Borrowing from the brand playbook

How Digital Advertising is bringing corporate affairs into the 21st century

The Age and Sydney Morning Herald[1] recently reported that the Federal Liberal Party website and press releases were showing up prominently in online searches about the key political issues of the day, such as the debate about Australia’s adoption of nuclear power. 

The revelation was met with concerns from some commentators about Google’s commitment to the verification of “news”.

Putting aside the semantics of what constitutes news, the report was interesting on several fronts.

First, the reporting can be seen as a small outbreak of the ongoing culture war between traditional media (newspapers like The Age and Sydney Morning Herald, for example) and digital-based media as to which owns the idea of news. What makes one more legitimate than the other (especially when both exist solely to benefit shareholders), rather than fulfil some higher social purpose?

Second, it is encouraging (at least to this author) that political parties are stepping out of the dark ages of analog political marketing and embracing the power of the internet to identify, target and engage their audiences.

Sure, we’ve all watched with varying degrees of Schadenfreude as the major parties have fumbled their way into the world of social media (who can forget early Young Liberal Tik Tok forays), but this latest development shows an industry finally getting to grips with the array of marketing weaponry that has actually been around for some time.

Third, the news was framed with the suggestion that the strategy is somehow nefarious or manipulative.

As readers on this platform would know, search engine optimisation (SEO) allows anyone from a global brand to the local plumber to attain a higher ranking in Google’s search engine result pages. You could be searching for “cheap local plumber” or “best running shoe for over 50s” and Google delivers.

In fact, it has got to the point where some of us even get frustrated if Google doesn’t automatically spit out useful results within .23 seconds the first time, even overlooking our typos and using algorithms to determine what it is we are actually searching for. It’s one part of the mysterious world of Artificial Intelligence almost none of us begrudge.

But how dare a political party use the sort of “tricks” to fool us into seeing what they want us to see?

If we take the lens out a little wider, the communications industry is increasingly embracing digital marketing techniques as a key component of our strategies, whether for marketing PR to support products and services, or high-stakes reputation, issues and crisis management.

The fact is, we need to take our messages to the people who matter most to us, on the platforms they use, at the times they will be most likely to engage with us and in the ways they will respond favourably to.

At Bastion Reputation, we call this Digital Corporate Affairs. It is all about bringing the proven techniques of the best brand marketers into the “reputation” space.

Reputation is the delta between your aspiration as a brand and the lived experience people have with how well you actually deliver on your promise. How well does what you say stack up against what you do in the eyes of those who deal with you, such as your people, clients, customers, consumers, partners and of course the media?

How someone experiences your brand in the digital world is just as critical and arguably even more so, given how quickly it can escalate and become damaging. 

Digital Corporate Affairs is a mix of basic hygiene and borrowing from the brand playbook, which includes:

  • Razor-sharp SEO, keyword matching and key term usage and Google keyword matching to remain at the top of any search
  • AI -driven cohort, persona, and stakeholder look-alike targeting
  • Geographic targeting allowing a “pin” to be dropped in a location as small as a city block that targets the most specific demographics available in market
  • Contact acquisition platforms that allow specific individuals to be targeted and acquired with custom messaging that only they see.

Now the plug: Bastion Reputation’s Campaigns and Digital Reputation team is a pioneer in corporate affairs campaigns that include specialist digital campaigning services. We are helping our clients understand and leverage the digital tools that will get them in front of the audiences they need to engage with, have a seat at the table of important debates and drive a positive reputation and position that supports their business strategy.

With the incredible (and overwhelmingly positive) benefits that AI continues to bring to our task as communicators, we are optimistic about the ability of technology to drive better outcomes for both organisations AND their audiences.

Whether that is a brand of shampoo or a political party trying to connect with young voters, surely that’s a good thing.


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