Today, brands 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, the comms profession must undergo a complete shift to embrace data as part of its storytelling craft. The answer lies in 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 at the table it deserves.
Today’s PR Industry Challenge
Comms knows it needs to change. In a survey with PRWeek of 400+ communications leaders, a staggering 77 per cent of indicated that comms can do a better job at measuring and proving its impact on business objectives (2018 Global Comms Report).
The inability to provide data that compliments peers on owned and paid media has resulted in significant budget decreases in the earned media space along with comms professionals being excluded from C-suite conversations. This significant decrease is clearly seen when global paid media spend ratios are currently at 95 per cent, 4.5 per cent for owned media and only 0.5 per cent for earned media — a drastic budget difference.
Additionally, less than half of PR pros (43 per cent) have data that gives them a strong sense of what people do after they consume content and only about half (49 per cent) have data that gives them a strong sense of whether or not there was any real-world behaviour 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. These metrics don’t speak to the common language that executives run their business against. By comparison, paid and owned channels have almost every online and even offline transition being trackable. As a result, budgets are being relocated 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, PR professionals have prioritized their storytelling craft, but this has compromised using research and measurable data to drive campaigns.
Regaining Budget through Earned Media Management
Modern communicators who want to prove business impact must adopt a new approach: Earned Media Management. This systematic approach will elevate and modernize the comms function by combining data-driven insights with creative storytelling. Adopting earned media management will help you modernize your comms function and help you combine data-driven insights with the creative storytelling you already do so well.
What is Earned Media Management?
By definition, Earned Media Management combines technology, data, processes, and analysis to modernize the comms function from an expense into a business driver. The power behind Earned Media Management is that it can optimize storytelling abilities and campaign results for the comms industry.
It develops a new approach for influencer identification, campaign execution, and measurement that helps comms attribute business value for the earned media coverage it generates.
There are four tenets that make up the Earned Media Management process:
1. Influencer Graph
Influencer graph provides a complete mapping between an influencer, their content, and the actual audience that consumes it. This means that as a modern communicator, you must first start by profiling your ideal and targeted audience and then map out the influencers and the content those influencers create in order to understand graphical overlap. This approach turns the whole traditional pitch model upside down by focusing on identifying the desired audience first, instead of identifying journalists and influencers first.
2. Smart Engagement
Smart engagement is an approach to content and communication distribution that values a proper mix of both reach and relevance for each individual audience member. Smart engagement means that communicators will need to switch from a generic, episodic press release strategy to one where they are focused on a continuous and targeted approach much like those digital counterparts employ in order 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 PR pros holistically consider how to best tell each story by potentially including images, podcasts, interactive and video content as part of a pitch or release, depending on the targeted journalist and individual influencers.
3. 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 importantly, 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 coverage, as well as 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 PR and comms teams to showcase the effectiveness of their campaigns.
4. 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 PR pros bring together the right people and human intelligence to transform the function and illustrates what an “always-on” campaign lifecycle approach looks like to best optimize processes.
Comms transformation also helps communicators uncover what technological tools are required and integration considerations that 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 the comms 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 instead as an imperative business driver. Applying Earned Media Management to earned media campaigns will enable comms professionals to regain budget, get a seat across boardrooms and be included in c-suite conversations by showcasing real business influence.