Here’s the second installment on the rise of earned media and how to integrate it with owned and paid marketing, based on Gorkana’s recent webinar on the subject which you can listen to here.
Last time we looked at why earned media should be united with owned and paid content (read part one here) – this time it’s about how.
There is a simple four step formula which can help build a comprehensive PR-driven content marketing programme.
The first step:
Be clear about the messages you want to communicate through content and how they link to your objectives.
This is of course the basics of any good communications strategy and particularly in the field of media relations. What are we trying to say? Why are we saying it? How will that connect with the audience in the context of current events?
PR expertise is the perfect filter for a broader content marketing programme connecting earned, owned and paid channels. Why so?
Because media relations people are (or should be) experts at analysing what you need to say for your brand, service or business proposition against what is credible and interesting in the context of all that media chatter. Ultimately, that context reflects broader society and, within that, the groups including your customers
So, a simple, credible messaging structure should inform and flow through your programme, informing your KPIs and giving it a reason for being.
The second step:
Task a team with editorial skills to develop content about your business / product (briefed against your messaging) and give them the freedom to develop stuff that is credible and genuinely interesting.
One of the questions asked in the Gorkana seminar was: that’s fine in theory, but what if you face a senior team that can’t see beyond sales language and ideas directly connected with the product?
It’s a tough challenge, but the vast majority of C-suite people do understand the need for credibility and will explore a lateral approach to ideas development. They get the simple principle that content needs to be worth reading or seeing. They also understand that their brand needs to tell a series of stories or project genuine opinions to win an audience.
The process of eliciting those ideas can take the form of interviews or brainstorms across individuals or department teams. How to do this well could almost be the subject of a separate piece.
But make sure both the interviewers and interviewees are fully prepped in terms of the subject territory and the point of the exercise.
If the programme involves research development, be clear about whether earned media is an objective. If it is allow your PR/editorial team to shape the brief with the research company to structure the study so it can deliver stories.
Internal teams can be brilliant, but they must be independent spirits who will not follow your party line by default. External teams come with more objectivity, but they too must be ready and free to question things, think laterally and explore areas that are not immediately obvious.
Don’t forget you can set the rules, but you must give this team the freedom to enquire. If they have journalistic skills, your PR agency or team should lead this process.
The third step:
Create an integrated plan mapping messages against audience groups and connecting media relations with your owned channels and paid output too. That could be native advertising or it could be brand advertising informed by content creation. Make sure PR and advertising partners are linked together.
Consider how the three channel types can amplify each other. Consider how your people should connect with the programme, how many and when.
Consider also how experiential events, speaker platforms and networking should support that activity. Your business development programme should be supported by the exposure you achieve through all three types of media.
A schedule integrating all of these aspects, planned month-by-month but looking ahead in detail for each quarter and more loosely beyond that depending on how much you know, is the best approach.
Remember though that live events can and should influence the programme. Live news directly relevant to your brand can create brilliant earned opportunities, which can then flow into owned and paid work too.
So allow for some flexibility.
At the end of the day great, credible content is fluid – it can work in many forms.
The fourth step:
Curate your content. If I had a pound for every brilliant idea that got forgotten in marketing…
It’s the nature of things that a great ideas get discarded as things move on. But in the content marketing game discarding editorial material (or losing it in an obscure file on your cloud system) after using it just once, puts you at a huge disadvantage.
It’s hugely inefficient.
This is particularly true in thought-leadership-based b2b PR. This is because a lot of the themes you’re developing for media relations or content marketing will stay relevant to your business for months and probably years.
You may find some of your team have ideas that are truly cutting edge, but are based more on theory than evidence.
The evidence may emerge, so the original idea evolves and new stuff will connect or enhance it.
So new life could easily be breathed into an article idea, which achieved earned media coverage say 18 months ago, by new developments and ideas which give it a different spin now.
Likewise ideas and knowledge can snowball. Something that was worth an article last year could have developed into a deeper-wider white paper or report and form the basis for events, video etc.
It’s also the case that your team’s thinking or insights won’t arrive one by one in a manageable flow – more than likely, they’ll come along like busses. So the capability to record, differentiate between content, edit and then curate material in a way that’s flexible and accessible is increasingly important.
In the age social filter bubbles, ad avoidance, fake news and consumer scepticism, it is inevitable earned exposure in media brands people trust, will grow in importance and secure a greater proportion of brand marketing spend.
Technology has created the exciting possibility that every business can operate like a media owner, achieving awareness, interest and understanding in the subjects and messages that matter to it through smart content creation and management. Connecting the dots between earned, owned and paid media has a compelling logic.