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By Lucy Siegel | June 2, 2020

The universal goal of public relations is to get through to your target audience with your company’s (or client’s) story as you want it to be heard, in a way that will generate both awareness and engagement. However, the tools for doing this have been changing rapidly in recent years.

Earlier this year, we published a PR Boutiques International (PRBI) blog post that defined the PESO model of public relations, a blend of different communications approaches. PESO stands for PAID media (advertising and other paid content), EARNED media (media outreach to journalists), SHARED media (sharing of content via social media) and OWNED media (content your company or brand creates and distributes on your own online platforms, such as your website, blog, newsletters, bylined articles, videos, podcasts and white papers). The recipe for public relations success in the digital era includes a mix of paid, earned, shared and owned media. They reinforce and magnify each other.

“With the global media’s continued focus on tying every current event and issue to COVID-19, companies must now consider how to effectively reach their target audiences through a variety of methods,” says  Mary Shank Rockman, principal and CEO, MSR Communications in San Francisco. “Earned media has traditionally been the most effective way to accomplish this. Especially in the current coronavirus era, journalists may not have the time nor ability to capture specific brand messages in their coverage. Owned media now plays an even more important and integral role in ensuring clients’ messages will be received when and how they are meant to.” In other words, it gives the company total control over the storytelling.

Owned content has grown exponentially in recent years because it can be very effective when it’s credible. It has the ability to drive traffic and create customer loyalty and engagement. It can also attract earned media coverage. Owned content when done well becomes more than just a communication channel, it can be an entire marketing communications platform.

The biggest and most frequent mistake marketers make with owned media is developing content that’s too promotional, revolving around their companies instead of their customers and potential customers. With a huge universe of content to choose from, people will not choose to spend their time on self-serving and promotional material. When content is helpful, engaging or provocative, however, it gets consumed, passed on to others, and sometimes even saved to refer to again.

That’s the result Lee Weinstein has seen from his agency’s emailed newsletter. Notes Weinstein, president of Weinstein PR in Portland, OR, “My firm’s quarterly e-newsletter has been vital for keeping in touch with people we have developed relationships with over the last 13 years. Our goal is to give them an idea that will help in their work, and briefly show them some of our recent work. Some people save our e-newsletters, and we sometimes get calls about them later – once it was seven years later! One of my favorite meetings was with a port director who received one of our newsletters from a friend and had one of the articles taped to a whiteboard in his office. We ended up doing business together and still have a relationship.”

Rockman points to trade media as an excellent vehicle for bylined articles, a way to accomplish storytelling in the traditional media while keeping control of it. “Trade media outlets are designed to help educate people with industry knowledge and information about products and services specifically geared toward the markets they serve,” Rockman adds. “These are typically niche publications where staffing budgets are limited, and they often seek contributed pieces from relevant brands. This type of owned media coverage can be leveraged across clients’ other owned digital channels, such as social media and blog posts.”

Rockman describes how her agency has used owned content for its client The Myers-Briggs Company. Says Rockman, “The company targets a variety of audiences that each benefits from using its assessment tools–from academia, executive leadership and human resources, to team and professional development as well as consumer understanding. The Myers-Briggs may be applied to personal situations that give people insights into their individual preferences, leadership styles and relationships. Given this wide set of targets, MSR and The Myers-Briggs team developed a range of topics relevant to each audience and applies them monthly to current happenings and trends. For example, the COVID-19 outbreak was the ideal opportunity to create owned content to help people better understand how they operate under duress and provide helpful tips to manage stress. Here are links to examples of a series we created which demonstrates impactful content aimed at consumers and HR professionals.”

Video content has many uses

Online video content keeps surging as a marketing format. A 2020 survey done by video producer Wyzowl demonstrates the growth of video marketing, with 92% of marketers who use video saying it is an important part of their marketing strategy. That’s up from 78% five years ago. Wyzowl’s survey showed the most popular ways videos are being used in marketing are, in the order below:

  • “Explainer videos,” short animated videos used to explain a concept
  • Presentation videos, made of PowerPoint slides
  • Testimonial videos
  • Sales videos
  • Video ads

Videos can be used not only on a company’s website, but also posted to video sites such as YouTube. Links to videos can be shared on social media and used in email marketing.

WordWrite Communications, a PRBI member firm in Pittsburgh, worked with Foothold Studios to develop and deploy a business-to-business video for WordWrite client New Pig Corporation. The video was the cornerstone of a plan to introduce a New Pig product, Grippy Mat, the world’s first adhesive-backed floor mat. The video was introduced during National Safety Month. It targeted end users and insurers with a story about one of New Pig’s customers, a grocery chain, that sharply decreased slip-and-fall accidents by using the mat.  “We used traditional trade and business media outreach as well as social media to tell the story and link to the video,” notes Wordwrite President and Chief Storyteller Paul Furiga. “This strategy generated more than 15.5 impressions.”

The examples in this post highlight several key points about using owned media:

  • Its success depends on the quality and credibility of the content and its value to the target audience.
  • It is cost-effective because it can (and should) be used across several owned communications channels. It may also stimulate interest from journalists, leading to earned media.
  • PR has evolved into an integrated communications mix and owned content is a key component. In the COVID-19 era, when the media have little time to cover anything not related to the virus, it has become an even more important tool.