The silver bullet—the one campaign that will instantly transform someone or something from an unknown to the latest sensation--is a large urban legend in marketing and public relations.
The painful truth is that a hit or two, even in highly coveted media outlets key to your customer demographic, almost never translate to lasting success. Viral fame, a goal of many of today’s campaigns, also tends to be the standard, fleeting, 15-minute variety. Remaining ever-present and relevant to today’s customer over the long term is a daunting challenge.
So what works in the new media landscape? The current environment calls for a marketing strategy centered not on impressing a consumer once via an initial touch point, but instead building a long-term connection that keeps the consumer's attention. To achieve this, marketers must start to think of themselves (and their brands) as media outlets by embracing a “micromedia mindset.” In today’s world, all individuals, businesses, and organizations are media outlets, whether they know it or not. Individuals and brands who are ahead of the game recognized this shift years ago and began to focus less on the immediate sale and more on the long-term subscription.
Although many reading this article may feel like they or their brand are behind in this media arms race, the fact is that any brand with a smart content strategy can begin today, pick a format (text, audio, or video), and have access to a fairly level playing field to capture the attention of the audience.
The first step is leaving behind dated categories or labels for marketing and promotion. Media shouldn’t be categorized as traditional versus digital or PR versus social. Instead, we encourage you to break your marketing strategy into three categories of media: earned, owned, and rented.
Earned space is the domain where marketers and public relations professionals spend much of their time, clamoring for coverage by appealing to the gatekeepers of traditional media as well as the vast number of online outlets that have swiftly gained clout and credibility over the past decade. Earned media provides huge credibility because of the implicit endorsement provided by those who invite you on the air because of the perception (and, thankfully, often reality) that you can’t buy that kind of visibility, but it’s a dangerous thing for brands to put all of their promotional eggs in this basket because it’s so unpredictable.
Rented media includes social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, and others--anyplace, in effect, where you largely control the profile and content but they are parked in space owned by another company. Rented media also includes most forms of advertising and online review sites like Yelp and Google Places.
Owned media includes all media an individual or brand fully owns, including a website, email list, physical newsletter, or other media that is controlled by the brand behind it.
Using any one of these categories will raise awareness, but it will not rival the effect that results when they are used in concert. Earned, owned, and rented media are inextricably woven together and brands must focus on all three, but we believe marketers need to be very intentional about utilizing earned and rented media to drive subscriptions (that connection we discussed earlier) via owned media because of the leverage it provides over the long term.
Consider the playing field and your target audience before you devote your resources to all three spaces. Be democratic, but with a dash of customization tailored to your client. Regardless of the specific mix of earned, rented, and owned, a number of practical pieces should be put in place.
• Be discoverable: The reality is that the first impression most people will have of you and your brand will happen online--via your website, page one of Google, or your social media channels. On top of hundreds of millions of websites, within social media, about 347 million people have a LinkedIn account, 19% of all adults in the United States use Twitter, and Facebook has 1.23 billion monthly users. We encourage you to do a quick online brand audit to get a clear sense of your discoverability and then, from there, use these spaces to spread the word about your brand and create that long-term connection. Make sure your accounts are in the best possible shape. Update them often; post frequently; be scrupulous about grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
• Include your current offerings on social media: Tell the world who you are, be compelling and clear about your company and its offerings, and make sure the messages you showcase in the digital world mirror those you want amplified. All marketing materials, particularly the short descriptions on social media profiles, should mention the product or promotion that is the focus of the current campaign. Confusion carries a high pricetag in this arena, as customers simply move on when they can’t easily discern if something matches their needs.
• Feed the digital content beast: A 2014 study titled “The Growth in Digital Reporting” confirms that digital outlets were, and still are, frantically working to fill the gaps in their online coverage and offerings. From niche topics to international news, these tightly staffed, agile organizations have an unlimited amount of space to fill with quality material. The door of opportunity is open wide to companies with the ability to create timely, newsworthy, and credible content. Tell stories about your product and promotion and work for editorial placements in the earned media space. Think outside the box. Video, for instance, is offered far less often than print content, so be bold and create something in a format that might capture the attention of a budget-conscious editor.
• Capture the audience on owned space: Successful marketers can and should be capturing new clients, customers, and fans and moving them from a rented or earned media to owned space. View every campaign as an opportunity not only to be heard by the audience of a single outlet, but to move that audience over to your company website where you can capture their email addresses and keep their attention. Make sure your marketing efforts include a strong incentive--a giveaway, a contest, a quiz, a discount, additional photos or video content--to encourage customers to follow you over to media real estate you own. By paying attention to these conversions, you will give yourself an incentive to work harder at stimulating people to connect and you will give yourself long-term leverage.
Your company and its products are constantly being vetted by customers consuming media in the earned, owned, and rented space. Make sure your campaign stretches across all three categories and embrace the micromedia mindset that is the key to success in the new media landscape.