In late-October, I had the great privilege of attending the PRSA International Conference in Indianapolis. Not only was it my first as the CEO of Cision, we also introduced a game changing new platform for communication professionals — the Cision Communication Cloud™. Throughout those few days at PRSA, I had the chance to speak with many industry professionals including Chief Communications Officers at some of the world’s largest and most innovative brands, and could go on and on about the countless positive discussions that took place: I heard explanations of how data and technology can help transform the PR and Communications functions, leadership teams increasingly embracing the power of earned media, and how they are focused on measuring its true impact.
While paid and owned media have been favored in recent years in terms of focus and budget, based on everything I heard and saw at PRSA, one thing is clear: earned media is ready to regain its seat at the table in 2017. With the new year just months away, you’d be remiss if your 2017 communication strategy doesn’t reflect that.
A Matter of Trust
There’s a reason 81 percent of senior marketers believe earned media is more or equally as effective when compared against paid media. Consumers are becoming increasingly choosy about the messages they want to receive – some simply aren’t clicking ads while many have gone as far as enabling ad blockers. Same with owned. The 300th email or 200th SMS message just isn’t going to get the job done. But by contrast, they are extremely trusting of reviews from online subject matter experts, friends, family and colleagues.
Simply put, organic word-of-mouth content from audiences your customers trust…journalists, academics, thought leaders, influencers, community leaders…is viewed as more authentic and trustworthy than paid or owned content. If you can get influencers speaking positively about your brand, their followers will take note and be that much more likely to engage with you themselves (and/or try the product or service). As you develop your communication strategy for 2017, “trust” is going to be a key component in driving purchasing behavior. Trust me.
The Right Targets
Connecting with influencers and customers takes work (that’s why they call it earned media). Reaching these individuals doesn’t mean “send a press release to every reporter in the state” or “pepper Twitter feeds with irrelevant messages.” You’ll need to be precise and targeted in your communications. Leading brands will use data to create audiences and will send highly targeted, relevant content to dozens of discrete audiences in every other media – banner ads, social ads, email, website personalization…everything EXCEPT their marcomm. That has to change. There’s no need to fit a square peg in a round hole. While finding the right targets does require some digging, advancements in data and technology are making the process simpler and more effective than ever before.
By using data-driven insights to listen to prospects and influencers, you can understand what content will be most appealing and map out a strategy that offers valuable information at each step of the way. But this isn’t something you do once and then cross off the to-do list; it’s a dynamic, evolving process that requires real-time information. Be aware of what’s being said in your industry, across all channels, at all times, so that you can identify opportunities to adapt your content strategy. In doing so, you will see your earned media ROI soar in 2017.
Identifying targets, and the right type of content, is only part of the battle. Your mission from there will be to wow them with compelling messages, often enhanced by multimedia elements such as images, videos, infographics, etc. In fact, PR Newswire conducted an analysis in 2015 that found video content increased views 280 percent, while images increased views by 140 percent.
Earned media will play a huge role in your marketing mix because of its power to help amplify content. With our own content at Cision, we’ve found that press releases can increase content downloads by 250 percent – proving that earned media, just as paid and owned, shouldn’t stand alone – and is best used when interwoven with paid and owned activations to maximize the impact of brand interactions.
This is where earned media’s future really shines brightest. It’s always been a powerful piece of a marketer’s toolbox, but has lacked the analytics and attribution power that benefit its paid and owned counterparts. With advancements in technology, we are now able to more accurately measure the ROI of earned media. As such, earned media is back in the picture in a big way – and helping to break down silos between departments and communications strategies.
As your organization undergoes 2017 planning, make sure that you’re taking a multichannel approach with everyone working in tandem, embracing the full communication lifecycle. With earned media acting to inform and amplify your content, you will reap the benefits across your entire communication ecosystem – and drive meaningful business results.
Kevin Akeroyd is the CEO of Cision, where he manages the executive management team across operations globally. He has more than 25 years of experience in reshaping modern digital, social and mobile marketing globally. Prior to Cision he was general manager and senior vice president at Oracle Marketing Cloud. Akeroyd and Oracle created the Enterprise Marketing Platform category and led it from the onset. Prior to Oracle, he held senior leadership positions at several companies, including Data.com, Salesforce.com, RR Donnelley, and Jigsaw.