It’s important to invest in the upfront creation of compelling, agile content and in the tools to promote it. —Jennifer Paganelli
Brands have become robust content factories, producing videos, images, links, infographics, advertisements, bylined thought-leadership pieces and more. Earned media outreach generates for brands another layer of rich content from mainstream and/or industry press as well as online influencers.
Content, of course, should ladder up to larger business objectives, which could range from tackling reputational issues, strengthening brand affinity or challenging consumer perception.
Once content is out there for stakeholder consumption, by tracking and analyzing various data sets, brands and their agencies can determine the content that is worth amplifying — and why, which is just as crucial to answer. Smart comms strategists can also translate data into actionable strategies to take that content and widen the reach among a desired audience.
Here, experts in PESO (paid, earned, shared and owned) share their best practices as it relates to data-informed message amplification.
Be strategic about the content to amplify
Thomas Bunn, lead of the US consumer marketing practice at Burson Cohn & Wolfe, says “the key to successful amplification is not just waiting to see what is performing and boosting it. Amplification of content is entirely dependent on the rest of the campaign wrapped around it.” Which is to say, a piece of content in a campaign may be performing well with the target market, and perhaps wouldn’t benefit from amplification. But a secondary piece may be gaining some traction and contains really crucial messaging, so resources would be better spent on amplifying it.
The only way to really uncover such insights around velocity or level of social engagement around a piece of content? By having built an efficient data infrastructure for content tracking, including around predictive performance, says Bunn.
Beyond scale, Steve Rubel, chief media ecologist at Edelman, says amplification also helps brands make sure the right audience is seeing the right content in the right context. “News consumption is becoming more and more personalized. People are no longer exposed to the same set of information,” he explains. “Amplifying owned and earned content helps mitigate this.”
Sometimes the data will reveal a completely different insight, like that new content should be created or existing content modified in response to a trending news article.
“If some messages aren’t pulled through in an earned story, supplemental content can be developed and deployed through a client’s owned channels,” says Jennifer Paganelli, practice leader of earned and social media at W2O Group. “That’s the beauty of operating in a media-channel agnostic world where PESO rules the day. It’s all about using the data to inform and orchestrate our audience-first storytelling efforts.”
Earn your amplification
Vikki Willimott, global head of content and publishing at H&K Strategies, calls amplification “the rocket fuel” to driving further success in content marketing. And while paid amplification gets all the screen time because it’s a reliable strategy (see below), leveraging earned can be just as powerful.
She says through branded newsroom structures, where media experts sit alongside content creators, a story can be pitched to a publication based on trending owned or paid content. “Media experts are able to do that because they’ve been involved in the creation,” says Willmott, such as an image gallery to a brand’s Instagram account.
Earned amplification will also be important for political campaigns in 2020, given Twitter has banned paid political messages on its platforms. “Campaigns will need to lean heavier into stakeholder and influencer outreach to break onto Twitter,” she notes.
Reimagine the content for your other owned media channels
An executive thought-leadership post is earning lots of views. Think about how that piece might be amplified by reimagining it for other channels, advises Paganelli. “Companies should consider repurposing their content in creative ways to get more mileage. An executive thought leadership piece on LinkedIn may be the basis for an earned pitch to a certain reporter or inspire video content on owned channels.”
Rubel agrees: “The best way to amplify content is to make it core to all of your communications, rather than just an appendage. Integrate it into your corporate culture, employee communications, event marketing, branding, paid media, social media, media relations and more. In other words, turn it into core code that becomes part of your entire communications operating system.”
Paid media offers amplification and greater measurement benefits
Content can be hyper-targeted at the stakeholders most influential to your business goals as well as scaled up with paid media strategies, pros agree.
“While we can generate intelligence around audiences consuming certain earned outlets, paid media allows us to target certain audiences with greater precision to ensure the right people are experiencing the content,” says Bunn. He notes another important benefit of paid media: “Putting paid dollars behind content also makes it easier to get attributable metrics to demonstrate to clients the value and business impact of the work.”
Paganelli agrees that “it has become increasingly difficult to reach key audiences without the introduction of paid media” and notes “the costs associated are not as high as many would think.” Still, she says the golden rule of content also applies to content amplification: “It’s important to invest in the upfront creation of compelling, agile content and in the tools to promote it.”