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In public relations, earned media – content created by a third-party source that is not paid – is often at the crux of outreach plans and campaigns; it’s a PR pro’s bread and butter. While earned media is a valuable tactic for increasing brand awareness in a credible, authentic way, amplifying your earned media strategy with the addition of owned and paid media as part of an integrated outreach campaign allows you to hit your target audience at multiple touchpoints, increasing overall exposure and impact. But, to be successful, strategy and value must be considered in each step of the campaign to ensure your plans align and push you toward achieving your end goal.
Earned vs. Owned vs. Paid
We’ve already talked about the role of earned media, the PR darling. Owned media is anything under a company’s direct control, like a newsletter, blog or website content. Paid media is content a company or brand pays for, such as advertising or sponsored content. Earned, owned and paid media all have their own benefits and each can complement the others to create a holistic outcome.
Meet your audience where they are
Before spending your time and money on ads and content creation for paid media, take a step back to figure out who your target audience is and where they spend their time. Are you trying to hit a younger demographic? Maybe consider some paid social media advertising. Is your target audience often on the road? Or are you wanting to get your message out to people traveling to a certain destination? A billboard could give you the best bang for your buck. Does your target audience gravitate toward a certain type of music? Radio ads could be your go-to. Each of these tactics are valuable on their own, but should be executed with careful consideration of what will resonate most with your target audience.
Keep the campaign cohesive
Once you nail down which mediums you want your campaign to have a presence on, you must ensure each piece of content for earned, owned and paid media has cohesive messaging and branding. Varying your materials and messages too much runs the risk of decreased brand recognition and lower message recall. You want your audience to take away specific messages from your campaign, so keep your visual materials similar and make sure all written and audio components hone in on 1-2 key messages that your target audience can easily digest and remember.
A well thought out integrated communications plan should be organized with careful consideration around the timing of each piece. Particularly with advertising buys, space can fill up months in advance and often cost more if you secure your space with tight turnarounds. It’s important to take into account production times when planning to allow for revisions, approvals and sometimes in the worst-case scenario – heading back to the drawing board. All earned, owned and paid media timing should also take into account the news cycle and any upcoming anniversaries or holidays that may not be appropriate to run your campaign alongside. Whether you kick off your campaign with earned media and sustain with paid and owned media or are ad-heavy in the beginning and finish off the campaign with your earned media push, each component should be timed and created with a strategy in mind and looked at through the lens of the bigger picture.