Content marketing is no passing fad. Structural changes in the way we create and consume media have seen to that. So, it’s no surprise that tons of attention has been lavished on how brands need to create rich, relevant content for owned and paid media channels. While it’s essential for to brands to produce interesting, entertaining, thought-provoking ideas on social channels and in traditional advertising, it’s more important than ever to consider a similar, content-based engagement strategy for earned media as well.
The line between digital and traditional media continues to blur as the media ranks shrink. Fewer journalists are responsible for more work—work which is displayed on multiple platforms. But no matter the format and the changes, media exposure is just as potent as ever. It can establish up-and-comers, transform existing perceptions and rebuild tarnished brands—and politicians (see Mark Sanford and Anthony Weiner). As more companies realize the correlation among media relations, reputation and business impact, they are turning to public relations agencies for the compass to navigate the cluttered and confusing media landscape today.
In turn, the agencies on the receiving end of frantic client calls need to up the ante in terms of the media strategy and approach we provide to attract and retain business. Our job is no longer about racking up as many impressions (the number of readers an outlet receives each month) as possible without purpose. As the head of media relations for a global communications agency, I find myself educating people in and out of the PR industry on how smart, tailored media relations doesn’t just build "buzz," it builds business.
Ad equivalency was once used as a key measure of a PR campaign’s success—helping marketers compare the value of earned or owned media versus paid advertising. Developing a formula to justify budget spend makes sense in theory, but without a reliable industry standard to benchmark the work, ad equivalency is an ambiguous and pointless formula. Instead, I believe our job is to help clients develop smart communications plans that tie back to core business objectives. Here are three key tips to keep in mind to maximize your PR impact in the age of content creation:
- Measure what Matters: Impressions and ad equivalency are moot points if your media efforts aren’t impacting your company’s bottom line.
- Re-Think Media Placements: In the past, an "online only" piece of media coverage might be considered a second-rate story. Yes, it’s nice to hang a framed article on your office wall, but due to easy social sharing, ".com" articles often drive conversation better than print coverage.
- Adopt a Channel-Agnostic Approach: Focus on the best possible way to meet and exceed a company’s business goals and objectives, regardless of the channel. By connecting content across earned, owned and paid media, brands can tell a cohesive story that resonates with discerning consumers today.
The return on investment for media relations has never been greater. A brand’s portrayal in the media has the ability to make or break the brand’s reputation. Relegating PR to a marketing add-on without linking it to measurable business objectives is nonsense. Most CEOs, CFOs and COOs wouldn’t think of a continuity plan or legal team as "nice to have" expenses but rather as essential business imperatives. Given the role media relation plays in driving reputation and business today, perhaps it’s worth taking another look at the PR line item in your budget. Used wisely, PR can help brands move from pushers of press releases to storytellers. That’s where the opportunity lies.
Jennifer Risi is the Executive Vice President for Ogilvy Media Influence and Director, Content Creation for Ogilvy Public Relations.
[Bee Illustration: Hein Nouwens via Shutterstock]