Level 5 Content: Go Big or Go Home

In the age of algorithms, only the laser-focused will stand a chance.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

What is level 5 com­mu­nic­a­tion — and why is it important?

In this art­icle, you’ll get a brief explan­a­tion of how algorithms are sort­ing away mediocre com­mu­nic­a­tion and good communication.

I’ve been advising cli­ents on con­tent strategies for over a dec­ade. In short: What used to work does­n’t work anymore.

Today, you have to go big or go home.

Here’s why:

Digital is Evolving at Light Speed

Social media is divid­ing us,” crit­ics claim.

We live in the age of algorithms, and even the lag­gards are start­ing to catch on. We battle many unex­pec­ted issues, from online act­iv­ists to journ­al­ists hid­ing behind pay­walls.

One of many out­comes is the rap­id pro­fes­sion­al­iz­a­tion of the Internet, i.e. the Money Web con­tent cre­at­ors are push­ing the lim­its of fast and agile pro­duc­tions with pol­ished res­ults. The com­pet­i­tion is more chal­len­ging than ever.

While most brands will struggle to keep up with influ­en­cers and social media nat­ur­als, the idea has always been that brands can pro­duce valu­able content.

However, it seems like good social media con­tent won’t cut it anymore. 

What’s hap­pen­ing?

Is Your Communication Good Enough?

Imagine your com­mu­nic­a­tion activ­it­ies grouped into five levels based on PR quality.

Level 5 communication - 1
Will “good enough” com­mu­nic­a­tion be allowed by algorithms?

Most would agree that it’s reas­on­able for algorithms to sort away lousy, harm­ful, or even aver­age con­tent activities.

But today, the algorithms are also sort­ing away good communication.

Level 5 communication - 2
The cut-off point for an algorithm is nar­row­ing the poten­tial for success.

We know that com­pet­ing for atten­tion is con­stantly get­ting more demand­ing. For pro­fes­sion­al com­mu­nic­at­ors, it’s not get­ting any easier.

Gatekeepers are Slaves to Algorithms, Too

One might argue that the algorithms aren’t in com­plete con­trol — at least not yet. There are still power­ful gate­keep­ers yield­ing their influ­ence across huge audi­ences.

However, the power of these gate­keep­ers stems from their abil­ity to nego­ti­ate the algorithms.

Journalists are learn­ing what will drive clicks and social shar­ing.
Influencers are learn­ing what will enter­tain their audi­ences.
Site own­ers are learn­ing what will attract traffic and convert.

These gate­keep­ers act like Pavlovian dogs, con­di­tioned by the algorithms. Gatekeepers influ­ence user beha­viour; beha­viours influ­ence the algorithms, and the algorithms exploit gate­keep­ers. And around we go.

Love them or hate them, embrace them or fear them. Algorithms are the back­bone of the digit­al media landscape.

Or, as Marshall McLuhan stated, “the medi­um is the mes­sage.”

Marshall McLuhan - The Medium is the Message
Marshall McLuhan (1911 — 1980).
Spin Academy | Online PR Courses

Marshall McLuhan: “The Medium is the Message”

The medi­um is the mes­sage” is a phrase coined by the Canadian philo­soph­er Marshall McLuhan in the first chapter of his not­able book “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man.” 1Understanding Media. (2023, September 18). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​U​n​d​e​r​s​t​a​n​d​i​n​g​_​M​e​dia

Despite being one of the most influ­en­tial thinkers in media the­ory, McLuhan’s ideas are often widely mis­un­der­stood. “The medi­um is the mes­sage” is no exception.

The medi­um is the mes­sage” does­n’t imply that con­tent or sub­stance lacks import­ance, only that the medi­um in which mes­sages are sent will sig­ni­fic­antly impact humanity.

  • McLuhan pro­posed that intro­du­cing a new medi­um will impact human­ity sig­ni­fic­antly more than any­thing sub­sequently trans­mit­ted through that medium.

McLuhan views medi­ums as exten­sions of human physiology. Our abil­ity to build houses extends our human skin, as it pro­tects against the ele­ments. This added lay­er of pro­tec­tion and phys­ic­al safety frees up men­tal band­width for human interaction.

So, a house is a medi­um in McLuhan’s inter­pret­a­tion. All human tech­no­lo­gies, down to the camp­fire, are con­sidered mediums.

McLuhan’s insight was that a medi­um affects the soci­ety in which it plays a role not by the con­tent delivered over the medi­um, but by the char­ac­ter­ist­ics of the medi­um itself. […] McLuhan poin­ted to the light bulb as a clear demon­stra­tion of this concept. A light bulb does not have con­tent in the way that a news­pa­per has art­icles or a tele­vi­sion has pro­grams, yet it is a medi­um that has a social effect; that is, a light bulb enables people to cre­ate spaces dur­ing night­time that would oth­er­wise be envel­oped by dark­ness.”
Source: Wikipedia 2Marshall McLuhan. (2023, May 15). In Wikipedia. https://​en​.wiki​pe​dia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​M​a​r​s​h​a​l​l​_​M​c​L​u​han

According to McLuhan, our abil­ity to cre­ate exten­sions of human­ity expo­nen­tially impacts our com­mu­nic­a­tion more than any mes­sage con­veyed as a result:

  • A light­bulb is a medi­um (an exten­sion of the human eye).
  • A house is a medi­um (an exten­sion of the human skin).
  • The tele­phone is a medi­um (an exten­sion of human vocal cords).

And so on.

Why is McLuhan’s ana­lys­is neces­sary? “The medi­um is the mes­sage” is a stark remind­er that a medi­um’s format (and its lim­it­a­tions) will massively impact human soci­ety — and the mes­sages them­selves, too.

We often default to seek­ing mean­ing in mes­sages but for­get to con­sider the medi­um’s inher­ent media logic.

Learn more: Media Logic is Dead, Long Live Media Logic

💡 Subscribe and get a free ebook on how to get bet­ter PR ideas.

And we, as PR pro­fes­sion­als, must change the way we prioritize.

New PR Rules, New PR Strategies

Today, we need strategies based on what’s rap­idly becom­ing the most valu­able com­mod­ity in the world — atten­tion.

We must adapt because the algorithms dic­tate the rules we get to play by. We need to go bigger.

The PR pro­fes­sion must invent new playbooks. 

Because we know it works to pick an epic fight with a stu­pid majority. 

Because Content Themes work.
Because Surround Strategy works.
Because Iceberg Publishing works.

All are big, ambi­tious, bold, yet focused PR strategies.

Go For Level 5 Content — or Go Home

The key takeaway isn’t that excel­lent com­mu­nic­a­tion works bet­ter than good com­mu­nic­a­tion. We already knew that.

The crit­ic­al point is that good con­tent will steal resources from great con­tent — whatever that may entail in your niche. To para­phrase busi­ness author Jim Collins, “good can be the enemy of great.”

In the age of algorithms, the win­ners take all — or at least most of it. Traffic. Conversions. Engagement. Share of voice. Attention. 

We must be laser-focused on what PR object­ives we pur­sue. And we must aban­don everything that does­n’t qual­i­fy as Level 5 Content.

If this means pro­du­cing less good con­tent to make the occa­sion­al great con­tent — so be it.

Signature - Jerry Silfwer - Doctor Spin

Thanks for read­ing. Please con­sider shar­ing my pub­lic rela­tions blog with oth­er com­mu­nic­a­tion and mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als. If you have ques­tions (or want to retain my PR ser­vices), please con­tact me at jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwerhttps://doctorspin.net/
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at Spin Factory and KIX Communication Index. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo

The cover photo isn't related to public relations; it's just a photo of mine. Think of it as a 'decorative diversion', a subtle reminder that there is more to life than strategic communication.

The cover photo has


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