There’s no disputing that communications strategies, including marketing and public relations, have changed significantly over the past several years. Recently, the majority of marketing investment has been allocated to media and platform investments in paid and owned media due to the direct attribution of business impact most companies demand from marketing investments. However, there are some warning signs that the investment in paid and social channels may be changing.
The declining value of paid media, as well as social and privacy issues emerging from the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal opens the door for earned media to grow in importance and investment. But in order for this happen, we need to look back and learn what made investments in paid and owned media so successful for organizations.
The biggest challenge for communicators is changing their methodologies. Most communicators still use old tools and techniques in their day-to-day operations, and don’t adopt strategies to integrate their earned media campaigns with their paid and owned counterparts. The clear and accurate data needed for true campaign measurement and business attribution is not available to most communicators, so these people often do not have the ability to invest more heavily in campaigns that drive business results and pull back on ineffective efforts.
In this fourth article of the How to Become the Best Modern Communicator series, Steve Arentzoff, Cision VP of digital marketing, and Nick Bell, Cision VP of marketing communications, offer their insights on where communications stand today and discuss what strategies marketers can use to truly become modern communicators.
Do your research
Bell: Many communicators start at the whiteboard. They hold a creative meeting and brainstorm with their agency on the next big story idea. However, the next generation of PR pros is learning that coming to the table without research is a big mistake. Today, I expect my comms and content teams to use our own media monitoring tools to understand our market position better, uncover trending topics in our industry, and identify opportunities where we might be able to start, or jump into, a timely conversation our audience is having.
Arentzoff: Communicators should build their campaign planning with the same approach that digital marketers use. Start with a clear understanding of the audience you are trying to reach, document the key message you want to deliver, identify the delivery channels that will reach the audience you are trying to reach in a relevant a credible context, and define the objectives you want to accomplish from your campaign. This approach ensures that the campaign plans and tactics are completely aligned with the objectives.
In addition, it is critical to assess the information you have access to from prior campaigns. For example, communicators should start with deep media monitoring statistics to understand where their brand is covered, which coverage is positive or negative, and where there are gaps they want to close. Google Alerts won’t cut it for any organization larger than a small business. You need to understand what people are saying about your brand on TV, radio, print, online, and social media before the comms team starts planning. Budgeting and having the right monitoring tools in your toolkit for this should be every comms pro’s number one priority before he or she even thinks about creating a strategy.
Bell: This also helps us be more proactive when it comes to crisis prevention and management.
When you have intuitive analytics and measurement dashboards, you can see exactly how your earned, paid, and owned campaigns are doing. Not only does this make the executive team extremely happy when they can see a visible ROI, but you also conserve your comms budget for those channels that deliver the best results. There’s no waste.
Arentzoff: Forward-looking marketers are taking advantage of opportunities to combine the data and methodologies from paid, owned, and earned media campaigns. For example, my team integrates data from paid, owned, and earned sources. We use media monitoring tools to inform our paid campaigns by identifying terms, distribution outlets, and content areas where we are strong and that we can leverage, and areas where we are weak and that we know we need to invest in, to build up and reinforce. We can better rank for SEO terms, and increase our site traffic and conversions once we’ve collaborated with the marcomms team on messaging.
An integrated approach is key
Bell: Another thing I think PR pros struggle with is when they still use the batch process mentality for campaigns. They push communications infrequently, like when they have a press release-worthy news announcement or send an eblast. The modern communicator understands he or she needs a continuous campaign model to constantly stay in front of his or her audience in a relevant way.
Arentzoff: Right, and if you’re integrating those communications into multimedia campaigns, you’ll have plenty of opportunity for continuous campaigning across paid, owned, and earned. When you amplify, for example, a media mention or press release using email, your blog, and social media, you see even better results than what that single piece of communication can deliver.
But in order to work together to build integrated workflows that support one another across channels, you need to have integrated marketing teams instead of those that have traditionally operated in silos. While this is essential, it does take some groundwork to set up. To me, though, it’s a no-brainer, because as this becomes the norm for how communications work for brands, communicators that balk at the change will be left behind.
Bell: When you have intuitive analytics and measurement dashboards, you can see exactly how your earned, paid, and owned campaigns are doing. Not only does this make the executive team extremely happy when they can see a visible ROI, but you also conserve your communications budget for those channels that really deliver the best results. There’s no waste.
You need to understand what people are saying about your brand on TV, radio, print, online, and social media before the comms team starts planning. Budgeting and having the right monitoring tools in your toolkit for this should be every comms pro’s number one priority before he or she even thinks about creating a strategy.
Arentzoff: You can also use integrated data to make smart decisions for future campaigns. If a social media ad is getting views but not clicks to your website, you can reallocate that budget into, say, creating video content that better engages. Those tools give you the ability to make changes quickly, to improve results or respond instantly.
Bell: Steve, you touched on those “often disparate marketing disciplines” a minute ago, and that’s another area the modern communicator really gets: he or she knows that communications are often not relegated to just marketing and PR teams. Sometimes customer service or even sales teams need to get involved to ensure the messaging is on point in relaying the brand’s objective.
Seven qualities of the modern communicator
- Be willing to embrace technology and tools that can assist you
- Invest in media monitoring before you start comms and content strategies
- Aim for a continuous – not sporadic – flow of communications
- Leverage analytics to make informed decisions about future campaigns
- Use a multichannel communications approach for maximum impact
- Involve other departments to avoid silos
- Constantly update your communications strategy to reflect changing needs