Language Supply Chains, Networking Keys to Leveraging ‘Owned Media’

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Bob Pearson

The new definition of owned media is simple: If we create and approve content, it’s owned. It wasn’t long ago when owned media simply was the content on our website. Today owned media has moved from being a site to becoming how a customer experiences the brand’s voice.

The paradigm has changed so dramatically that we as PR pros are required to meet customers and prospects at their favorite online hangouts. We can and must share the same content found on our website on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and with key bloggers. After all, we are in the business of storytelling and story distribution. Facebook, bloggers and other platforms consistently reach more potential customers than our website. The good news in all this is that our voice has become portable. Good and bad news: we control the official, but often not the initial, experience with our brands. On the positive side, our websites can do almost anything. They can serve as a company store or teach consumers about an issue, a technology or disease. The aim itself hasn’t changed too much really. We still want to take the company’s story and share our version of the truth directly with customers in the locations they prefer to hear from us.

Timing has become more important, though. It’s critical to reach customers throughout their precommerce journey, while they are learning, sharing or just having fun. Waiting until they visit our website compromises our ability to influence the final outcome. It’s imperative that we touch the majority of conversations, buying decisions and search behavior occurring outside of our official company channel well before final decisions are made about a purchase or even our reputation.

Customers today learn about a new product via search, explore what others believe about it in forums, ask friends on Facebook about it and visit a company website to confirm what’s already been learned. After all that, the customer who decides to buy the product will usually do so at a site offering the best terms.

How effectively we use owned media defines its success and proves our value. Here are five key examples of how to optimize the new version of owned media.

1. Supply chain of language. Normally there are 15 keywords or phrases that the majority of customers search for to find your story or a related topic. It’s more important than ever that you develop a supply chain of language, so that you use the same keywords on your website and social channels, as tags for new content and in press releases and statements. If you coordinate across the owned media supply chain, you’ll greatly increase search engine optimization results.

Communicators are becoming the new search experts by necessity. Telling a good story is only as helpful as a potential customer’s ability to find it.

2. Network coordination. Are you sharing the same messages and a similar story across your website, social channels and via spokespeople? How do you offer different content by channel to match that platform’s audience and the customer’s journey? We must become experts in how customers choose to learn about our brands so we can develop the right network strategy. We need to work as one team.

3. Understand the role of each media channel. Are we teaching customers and prospects via YouTube, answering questions on forums and posting an interactive contest on Facebook? What is the role of each channel? Can we imagine the customer journey, document what really happens online and ensure that what we provide matches the customer’s needs?

4. Ensure visits are customized. When we shake hands, we are connecting with another person. Customers search for certain keywords that lead them to our site. It’s a digital handshake. This little bit of information enables us to provide the exact content they want when they visit our site.

Are you doing this? Imagine having 10 experiences available to match up with different keywords, so if you are looking for a job, you get the job site right away because you were searching for “company x, engineer of abc.”

5. Focus on the customer experience. Are we consistently monitoring all media we own to ensure the consumer’s experience is consistent? How do we know? When I think of doing this effectively I recall advice from Gayle Fuguitt, president-CEO of The Advertising Research Foundation, who said, “Brands are built in the brain.”

Customer’s brains involve ten channels of online media, plus mainstream media, ranging from audio to search to video (see PR News, May 26, 2014). Are we building brands in the brain or are we simply sharing content and hoping for the best?

Sidebar: 3 Ways Owned Media Saves Money

Here are a few ways I’ve learned to save money via effective use of owned media:

1. Use ads strategically to drive earned and shared media. Don’t saturate your audience. Use ads strategically to drive your owned media story to the right people. Facebook ad buys are a great example. Remember what Daina Middleton, head of global business marketing at Twitter, said: “Marketing through persuasion is over. Marketing through participation is here to stay.” Make it easy to find content you want your audience to participate in.

2. Responsive experience improves conversion. When you provide the right content the first time via a website, conversion is far higher. Dramatically. Create libraries of content tailored to the type of person who will visit your site. Use targeting expertise to match visitors with the right experience.

3. Content ‘capsules’ can replace Websites. You now can embed the equivalent of a portable website in any social channel, for example, via Business Wire’s news capsule. If you take your best content for a story and create this type of portable website, it costs a fraction of what you normally pay to drive people to your site. — B.P.

CONTACT: Bob Pearson is president of W20 Group and author of “Pre-Commerce: How Companies and Customers are Transforming Business Together” (John Wiley & Sons, 2011). He can be reached at bpearson@w2ogroup.com; follow him on Twitter, @bobpearson1845

This article originally appeared in the June 1, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.