THE BLOG
05/02/2015 09:50 GMT | Updated 06/04/2015 06:59 BST

To Kill a Mockingbird and the Humanity of PR and Marketing

It is no reverse anachronism to state that Harper Lee did not need to undertake an SEO campaign to boost amazon rankings of her novel in the past 15 years, and there's no content marketing case study from 1955.

I read yesterday that the average person checks their phone 150 times a day. It struck me as timely, as it was also the day it was announced that Harper Lee's second novel would be published, 55 years after To Kill a Mockingbird.

The reason I make the connection is that Lee's famous novel has been read by people of all generations for half a century, became an Oscar winning film and continues to be relevant in the cultural zeitgeist in 2015.

And it's what we do to 'make things' happen in 2015 that I paused to think about, wondering if it is 1955 that was behind the times, or if technology has taken precedent at the sacrifice of something else?

It is no reverse anachronism to state that Harper Lee did not need to undertake an SEO campaign to boost amazon rankings of her novel in the past 15 years, and there's no content marketing case study from 1955. And while millions discuss the (controversial) publication of her second novel on the internet, the author herself is reportedly in frail health and oblivious to this online noise.

It leads me to question that when compared to truly spellbinding creativity, one of the great books of all time, how much of what we spend our lives doing on the internet and checking on our screens actually matters?

Content marketing; PR; SEO; native advertising - all variations of the same aim of taking people from A to a clearly defined B, be that consumer, journalist or even a Google spider.

Much of the work produced has the juxtaposing lifespan of immediate eternity, it is relevant in the immediacy and then consigned to the irrelevance of the internet for eternity.

The storytellers of an age gone by, authors like Harper Lee often, produced just one piece of work, which had to be sought out and interpreted in the mind of the beholder. There was never any guarantee of longevity, of Hollywood, of what so many people, brands and organisations crave in today's mobile world - fame or infamy.

The journey millions have taken reading To Kill a Mockingbird has never been A to B, it's a choice influenced as much by our own lives as that of the author.

'Disruption' was the buzzword of 2014 for many PR and marketing people, yet within this disruption there remained a real lack of true freedom for people engaging with campaigns. Hidden beneath the personalised cans, the geo-targeting, the driverless cars and the hidden camera videos, remains an attempt to move individuals to a clearly defined place.

This place is in danger of becoming prisoner to SEO analytics and behaviours refined, defined and ultimately denied through the need for a measurement on the return on investment. What if someone wants to interpret what we have created in a different way, or is it simply that what's been created is artificial and soulless?

I think it's time to revisit To Kill a Mockingbird, but to put down and turn off all devices when I do. I may have checked my smart phone 150 times yesterday, but I would struggle to tell you what I read.

Maybe consumers are facing a similar problem. Without the freedom to interpret and engage on their own terms, they are receiving plenty of stories that lack one basic ingredient, humanity.

And what is To Kill a Mockingbird but the brutal, beautiful essence of humanity?