A look ahead for marcomms in 2019: The technological advances that will hold the key to success

What a year 2018 was. From the early-year challenges of declining trust in all aspects of life, exacerbated by fake news, to the introduction of GDPR all alongside the ever-shifting marcomms sand, it’s been a wild ride.

The thing which really struck me about 2018 is the demonstration of the martech industry’s value through this year’s big acquisitions and mergers. Adobe’s acquisition of Marketo for $4.75bn, following its $1.7bn of Magento. Marlin Equity purchasing Talkwalker. The merger between Brandwatch and Crimson Hexagon.

These are all signs that martech providers are in a very healthy position and becoming ever-more integral to the paid media, owned media and earned media marketing sectors. That is certainly something which gives me cheer as 2018 came to a close.  2019 promises to be a bright one for marcomms in general, and earned media in particular, all because of technology.

The unfulfilled value of earned media

Think of the last time you made a purchase after a recommendation. Was that recommendation from an advert? A brand’s own channels? Or was it after reading a review or speaking to a friend or family member? Chances are it was the latter.

The power of earned has not gone unnoticed, with a study into the value of earned media by Outsell finding that 80% of marketers believe that earned media is more effective than paid.

However, in spite of this research, the reality is vastly different when it comes to budgets. Analysis by Burton Taylor shows that marketing investment by enterprises is split 95%-4.5%-0.5%. Given the value of earned media, you would expect spending to be concentrated there, wouldn’t you?

Wrong. The split actually reads 95% paid, 4.5% owned and 0.5% earned. So in spite of 80% of marketers saying that earned is more effective than paid, paid actually receives 190 times the investment of earned media.

What’s behind this huge discrepancy? Simple: attribution. Paid and owned media practitioners have been able to attribute the effect their campaigns to wider business objectives, such as sales. Meanwhile, earned media practitioners have been able to say that they achieved coverage. While that might be great, it doesn’t demonstrate any value and

In fairness, this is not the fault of comms professionals. The technology to prove value in a similar manner to the best advertisers has not existed.

Until now that is.

New technological developments mean that PRs will now get the opportunity to harness data to attribute value in a similar way to paid and owned practitioners.

However, given that earned media has historically been a less data-driven environment than paid and owned, PR professionals will need to adapt their workflow to take advantage of new technology. This has led to the rise of a new concept of working in the sector: Earned Media Management.

What is earned media management?

Earned media management is the idea that PR and comms professionals can use new technology, data and analysis to help create a way of working which brings results in a language which company leaders understand and can interpret, rather than traditional metrics such as amount of coverage and reach.

By adopting similar principles and processes to those which have revolutionised the paid and owned sectors, communicators will be able to adopt a more targeted approach to their work, systematically identifying available opportunities and executing campaigns to take advantage of these opportunities.

This includes focusing on target audience data and selecting influencers based on that, using personalised, rich multimedia outreach to help these influencers and then measuring the results using metrics which actually matter and are relevant to the C-suite.

By using this data-driven approach, comms professionals will finally be able to show what the impact of their coverage is, so they can finally move away from vanity metrics like reach and share of voice.

Earned media in 2019

This earned media revolution which started in 2018 is set to catch fire in 2019. For too long comms professionals have looked enviously at the opportunity afford to colleagues in paid and owned because of their higher budgets, musing about the brilliant campaigns they could have run if that money had gone to them.

Now that the technology is available and the methodology of earned media management is gaining traction, PR and comms activity can now truly complement advertising and marketing activity by using the same data to create precisely targeted, integrated campaigns.

In the integrated marcomms world, communications is finally ready to ascend to the same playing field as its marketing partner. You heard it here first: 2019 is the year of PR.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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