16 Mar 2021

How does Clubhouse fit into the communications mix?

The situation prior to 2021 looked like this: Radio is unbrokenly popular and podcasts have been gaining strongly for years. Against the supposed superiority of the visual, listening remains present. But the hype triggered by the Clubhouse app came with vehemence.

In the app’s pop-up audio chat rooms, politicians, celebrities and opinion makers meet with interested parties of all stripes – and, as professional as they may act, they are suddenly much more private, removed from the ritualised TV discussion rounds they have trained themselves to for decades. Perhaps, some media analysed, Corona was the app’s accelerator because it brought back into our lives the spontaneity that contact restrictions had eliminated. Politicians, too, are talking more openly. And Bodo Ramelow from the far-left „Die Linke“ provided a frightening – and telling – example of how this can backfire when he called the German Chancellor the belittling “Merkelchen”. A medium that provides such insights is truly new. And the gaffe is good evidence that not every speaker is the right representative for a brand, party or cause.

But it is also proof that Clubhouse, for all its informal and authentic communication without “masks”, remains a public space. Although the T&Cs forbid recordings and their distribution, transcripts and audio recordings have surfaced.

Where does the app come from? 
Paul Davison and Rohan Seth, ex-Pinterest and Google employees, are the brains behind Clubhouse. So they are experts in their field, but still creative enough to do things differently. Their innovation is disruptive not only in its design (no pictures, no comments, no likes), but above all in the length of time its users spend on the site: initially, users surveyed said they spent several hours a day listening to Clubhouse.

So the app is the new place to be, because it brings a little improvisation into communication, alongside proximity and genuine interaction. And: There is an important difference to Facebook and Insta, where users can unleash a shitstorm after a post. Here, anyone can have their say – but unlike a written comment, it is not left unchallenged, but can be countered with arguments; those who rant are sometimes deprived of their right to speak. Rooms that are uninteresting or uncooperative are punished by being ignored – according to the motto: “Suppose they gave a troll – and nobody came“. The immediacy of interaction is also new – when do you ever ask a member of parliament a question yourself?

What does Clubhouse bring to PR?
As an agency, our attention at ad publica quickly turned to another perspective: How can we use Clubhouse outside our private sphere? Can Clubhouse be used for public relations? It is logical that politicians and visionaries as well as company founders would have an interest in publicity and a corresponding influx of listeners. But is there a niche for Clubhouse in the marketing mix for many? That was the question we quickly asked ourselves. The answer is: yes, there is. But it takes a strategy to make the Clubhouse presence successful.

We have already successfully designed a Clubhouse strategy as part of the marketing mix for a client. Of course, each case is individual, but we can say this much about the first launch:

  • Clubhouse is not about brands or products; in fact, brand profiles that advertise are excluded in the general terms and conditions. So everything here is about personality marketing, about voices from the cosmos of a brand that convince with content!
  • This leads to the postulate “strategy first”! What does a person, leader, doer behind a company stand for? Great, if she is an exciting host or he is an exciting host. But what will she or he send as an ambassador? Which topics from the host’s cosmos are relevant and enriching for others? Much more than in any other social medium, reach can be achieved through deep content via a personality here. As a content creator, ad publica has won many awards, and we also find thematic levers for Clubhouse.
  • For the Rooms themselves, the same applies: The “leave” button is quickly pressed, so audiences are only created if people are captivated.
  • But that doesn’t mean that people with know-how are invited to monologue here. It’s the interaction with guests and audiences that makes it exciting, and a large part of the clubhouse appeal comes from the fact that anyone can speak up. So hosts have to allow that and keep connecting with their guests. Surprise chat is the buzzword of the hour, reaction is king.
  • You should always keep an eye on how the conversation is conducted. Particularly in the case of surprising conversational voltages, it is worth giving the new listeners a hint every now and then as to what the conversation is about. All such subtleties can be tested and learned in a quick tutorial. At ad publica we are usually booked for interview training, but now it’s interviewer training.
  • If you have a topic and a few interesting participants, you should get started! Take advantage of the freshness of the medium, this slightly anarchic mood and get on board. Because one thing is already clear: the longer you wait with a clubhouse presence, the more difficult it will be to find your audience.
  • Many people are now talking about hype – and of course we can’t predict whether Clubhouse will become established in the long run. But communication is often about the opportunities that arise when you don’t react but actively communicate – especially in the context of new, exciting platforms. If you are one of the early adopters, you have opportunities in the here and now.

ECCO Germany | ad publica’s Chief Digital Officer Jan-Philip Thie: “A good communication strategy also includes selection – you cannot and should not follow every hype. But at Clubhouse there is an incredible amount of potential for publicity about personalities. In Germany, there is a tradition of restraint in this area – the majority of CEOs are still not to be found in social media. But here they could find the framework in which they can make themselves and their ideals, goals and ideas perfectly visible in interaction with fellow campaigners and sparring partners.”

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