Richard Cook, Founder and Managing Director, Champion Communications, discusses the power of earned media in comms.
At Champion Communications our core focus is to help our technology clients sell more. We do this through earned media. Our approach always starts with understanding the business objectives of the CEO and then taking in a range of perspectives from the executive leadership team including those responsible for delivering business impact. Often this is chief sales officer, chief revenue officer, head of sales or channel partner director. There is a point where the rubber hits the road and commercial objectives become results. We seek out this point in our client’s business and see this as a source of direction for the PR strategy. It will not be the only direction, but if we can help our clients sell more, then we should.
To us this seems really logical, but we come up against some really interesting and robust objections to this approach. Recently we were challenged by a senior marketing executive who described their own sales team as being “coin-operated” and therefore not in a position to provide a brief. The assumption was that sales teams would only be interested in stuff that helped them sell and not in longer term, brand-building activity.
This logic does a disservice to the insight and sophistication of the sales professionals that we regularly collaborate with. They know the value of brand, credibility, awareness, and trust. They are profoundly affected by these things every day.
This logic also ignores the value that increased market share has on a brand’s perceived value. Particularly, in the case of B2B tech, which is our own focus, there is not much more valuable to brand and corporate comms than a great case study, customer testimonial, or client win.
Earned media is often associated with brand building and positioning, and in such circumstances a share of voice or number of clippings metric (shockingly) may be deployed, as the goal of awareness and message delivery is paramount. This approach may have been relevant when tech, trade, and business media was in print and was easier to measure in terms of readership, but in a digital media landscape brand-building for a tech company using earned media is like trying to run in quicksand. This is even more true if the business is listed in the US and we are talking about a UK earned media campaign, as is so often the case for B2B tech PR.
All communications, including PR and earned media, should project and be consistent with a brand’s values. Earned media needs to do more than that, partly because it cannot have much impact as a brand building tool, and more importantly, because it can have a greater impact when used to support demand generation.