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How to modernize comms campaigns through earned media management

Brands today demonstrate the value of their comms and PR programs through vanity metrics such as reach, share of voice, or impressions. But as C-suite executives demand to see a direct correlation between PR and real business results, the industry requires a new approach. To become a true business driver, we comms professionals must undergo a complete shift to embrace data as part of the storytelling craft – and the way to do that is taking a systematic and strategic approach to earned media campaigns through earned media management.

Earned media management provides a strong framework that delivers the much-needed tools and resources to tie PR metrics to direct and impactful results. Such a shift will elevate the comms function and give it the true seat it deserves at the marcomms table.

The PR’s industry challenge

Comms knows it needs to change. In a PRWeek survey of more than 400 communications leaders, a staggering 77% of PR pros indicated that comms can do a better job of measuring and proving its impact on business objectives.

The inability to provide data that complements campaigns in owned and paid media has resulted in significant budget decreases in the earned media space. That dip is most apparent in global spend ratios, which are at 95% for paid media, 4.5% for owned media, and only 0.5% for earned media – a drastic budget difference.

Additionally, less than half of PR pros (43%) have data that gives them a strong sense of what people do after they consume content, and only about half (49%) have data that gives them a strong sense of whether there was any real-world behavior driven from the content.

Vanity metrics such as earned media clips and social shares, likes, and followers have some value, but they lack a clear correlation to business impact. Those metrics don’t speak to the common language that executives use to run their business. By comparison, paid and owned channels are able to track nearly every online and offline interaction. The upshot is that budgets are being reallocated to paid and owned media spaces, which provide a clear tie to bottom-line results. Adopting tech advances as part of a larger technology revolution has not yet happened in the comms industry. Instead, we have prioritized our storytelling craft, but that has led to compromises in using research and measurable data to drive campaigns.

Regaining budget

As modern communicators who want to prove business impact, we must adopt a new strategy. Earned media management is a systematic approach that will elevate and modernize the comms function by combining data-driven insights with creative storytelling. Adopting earned media management will help brands modernize their comms functions and combine data-driven insights with the creative storytelling we already do so well.

What is earned media management?

Earned media management combines technology, data, process, and analysis to modernize the comms function, shifting it from an expense to a business driver. The power behind earned media management is it can optimize storytelling abilities and campaign results for the comms industry.

It is a new approach for influencer identification, campaign execution, and measurement that helps our teams attribute business value for the earned media coverage we generate.

There are four tenets that make up the earned media management process:

Influencer graph

Influencer graph provides a complete mapping between influencers, their content, and the actual audience that consumes it. We must first start by profiling the brand’s ideal and targeted audience, and then map out the influencers and the content those influencers create in order to understand graphical overlap. This turns the whole traditional pitch model upside down by focusing on identifying the desired audience first instead of pinpointing journalists and influencers at the outset.

Smart engagement

Smart engagement is an approach to content and communication distribution that values the right mix of reach and relevance for each individual audience member. Smart engagement means that we will need to switch from a generic, episodic press release strategy to one where we are focused on a continuous and targeted approach, much like those our digital counterparts employ to deliver 1:1 communication. Smart engagement also means that brand messages need to focus on providing a more immersive and entertaining experience. It is essential that we holistically consider how to best tell each story to potentially include images, podcasts, interactive, and video content as part of a pitch or release, depending on the targeted journalist and individual influencers.

True measurement

True measurement empowers brands to measure the efficacy of their communications based on the actual reach of a message, the understanding of the demographics and firmographics of the audience consuming the message, and, most important, the specific business outcomes driven by earned media coverage. True measurement is predicated on the idea that measurement should be based on both the quality of the coverage and how that coverage drove specific business outcomes. These outcomes must be able to be attributed back to those campaign efforts with attribution analysis in order for our teams to showcase the effectiveness of their campaigns.

Comms transformation

Comms transformation is the unification of earned media management under one team, one workflow, and one platform, and includes the integration of earned media with marketing’s broader media mix in paid and owned channels.

This approach helps us bring together the right people and human intelligence to transform the function and illustrates what an “always-on” campaign lifecycle approach looks like.

Comms transformation also helps us uncover which technological tools are required and integration considerations must be made in order to best break out of siloed operations and achieve true harmony with paid and owned channel functions and owners.

Earned media management emphasizes how our industry can take the science behind data and apply it to the art of communications. This approach can truly revolutionize the industry and transform the comms and public relations function to no longer be viewed as an expense line but as an imperative business driver. Applying earned media management to earned media campaigns by showcasing real business influence will enable us to regain budget, get a seat across boardrooms, and be included in C-suite conversations.

Download the free Earned Media Management: The Evolution of PR and Comms report.

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