Communications Week Recap: The Role of Paid, Earned and Owned in Public Relations

October 24, 2014

By Joe Curro, Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire

This past Monday, Business Wire’s New York team was proud to partner with Communications Week 2014 for our State of the Union: Living in Times of Media Disruption breakfast panel.  Attendees joined us at Thomson Reuters’ beautiful conference space overlooking Times Square to hear from an elite panel of communications professionals: Chanel Cathey (Director of Corporate Communications, Viacom), Ben Trounson (Director of North American Communications, Tata Consultancy Services), Jordan Fischler (SVP Technology and Digital Media, Allison+Partners), Nelson Freitas (Chief Strategy Officer, Wunderman), and our moderator, Steve Rubel (Chief Content Strategist, Edelman).

Panelist 1

(Panelists left to right: Chanel Cathey, Nelson Freitas, Jordan Fischler, Steve Rubel, Ben Trounson)

Built as an active and lively conversation between the participants, the event provided insight into a wide range of topics from the balance between owned, earned, and paid media, to navigating the opportunities and pitfalls of real-time communications, to the questions on the horizon that we’ll all be talking about in the coming months.

Here are a few of the insights that were shared:

Rethinking measurement?
The volume of available measurement data is overwhelming.  How do communications teams make good decisions based on the available data?  How do you decide what data is relevant?  The goal of your data collection should not be the quantity of information gathered, and decisions should not be made on numbers in a vacuum.  The data you collect may be the response to a question, but it’s not the end of the conversation.  Talk about your findings, use the data to inform how you interact with your influencers, and keep them engaged and giving their feedback.

Risks of paid content?
There is an eternal danger to relying on paid content – of damaging the trust you’ve established with your consumers – so how do brands make the most of this amplification option?  By always staying active in the communities that are discussing the brand.  Paid content, for all its dangers, allows for a greater degree of control.  The more control you have over your message, the more responsive you can be to anything unexpected.

Managing the flood of content?
Consumers are bombarded by a constant flow of content.  We have access to immeasurably more content than we’ll ever be able to consume.  So how do brands compete for valuable attention?  By being a curator of its own content, a brand can keep conversations on topic.  Engage with your audiences, and commit to creating original content of your own.

Real-time responses?
Perhaps one of the most terrifying prospects to communicators is the real-time fumble.  With great risk comes great reward, right?  But while the successes are some of the industry’s holy grails (Oreo in the dark, Arby’s and the hat, etc.), the failures can make anyone shy away from the very idea.  So what’s the answer?  Trust and an honest voice.  Traditional publications are competing with individual creators for the public’s attention, but your brand can empower its own creators with solid and responsible training, multiple voices participating, and open lines of communication between all parts of the team.

Panelist 2(Panelists left to right: Nelson Freitas, Jordan Fischler, Ben Trounson, Chanel Cathey, Steve Rubel)

As you can see from the above, the answers to the questions on communicators’ minds are increasingly interrelated – useful data leads to relevant content leads to managing your voice leads to learning from an engaged audience.  With the goal of activating and influencing audience behavior, this feedback loop supports an increasing trend towards more innovation and more connection between creators and consumers.

Ease of content creation, enhancements and new tools for targeted distribution are on the rise.  Available reaction times are falling, and smaller teams are being tasked with greater and greater responsibilities.  Each of our amazing panelists touched on solutions for the future.  The ultimate answer, as our Moderator Steve Rubel said, is making “constellations – not just putting stars in the sky, but connecting them.”  When all parts of the communications team are working together toward a clear goal, the combined whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Panelist 3(Moderator, Steve Rubel, Chief Content Strategist, Edelman)

Photo credits: Ingrid Ramos/Triangle Below Canal


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