Earned Media Relations: Alive and Well — and Driving Influence

By Jennifer Risi is Managing Director, Ogilvy Media Influence; Head of Media Relations, North America at Ogilvy Public Relations

Five years ago — during the height of the social media marketing revolution — many experts predicted the end of earned media — influence gained through non-paid channels.

Fast-forward to today and earned media is more important – far more influential — than ever before for brands — large and small. As we enter the mobile-first age, media is a constant companion for consumers and consumers are increasingly seeking authentic and original sources for news and content. Earned media is what customers tweet about [such as: “The best new product ever”], and it often receives myriad retweets and favorites. In another valuable form, earned media is consumed through tried and true traditional sources such as newspapers, broadcast and magazines read each and every day.

In 2015, social media networks will rapidly decrease the organic reach of a brands’ content — despite the number of fans, followers and engagement. Without an ad-buy, brands will become virtually invisible on these social platforms.

Against this backdrop, earned media is and will remain a key channel to influence others – informing, educating and driving decisions. The concept of “earned” media — however — no longer just applies to traditional media outlets — with a similar “active” approach required in effective social media engagement and content marketing.

Five years ago, Facebook and Twitter were the new vehicles to promote brand stories. In 2015 both channels will become paid publishing platforms — creating the age of Facebook Zero and Twitter Zero. Today, the organic reach of the branded-content published on these platforms will hit zero — making “earned media” more essential than ever.

In addition to driving influence, earned media activities can also help to drive business outcomes on behalf of our clients. But these days it has to work a little harder to make the “sale.” For example, in 1994, it took seven touch points to convert a prospect into a sale. In 2014, it took up to 20 touch points. Today, media relations generates impactful touch points, significantly increasing word of mouth, which is the highest converter of sales/action. Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family are still the most influential, as 84 percent of global respondents across 58 countries to a Nielsen online survey said this source was the most trustworthy.

Today’s modern media relations, defined

Multi-Platform Content is King. Video is the most valuable tool as people process video 60,000 times faster than text. Every media campaign today should focus on a strategic mix of traditional media, social media engagement and content [video, infographics] to drive influence, decisions and desired outcomes.

In conclusion, the more the art of media relations changes — the more it stays the same. Our industry also has become resourceful at mining and converting data into storytelling, and using multi-media content will create more impactful placements. While digital has provided challenges and opportunities for brands, one constant remains: Earned media is alive and well — and driving influence one story at a time.

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Jennifer Risi is Managing Director, Ogilvy Media Influence; Head of Media Relations, North America at Ogilvy Public Relations. As part of her role, she is responsible for building and driving global strategic media relations campaigns for the agency.   She also serves as a senior communications advisor to many of the firm’s clients and oversees overall earned media relations’ strategy across the firm.

Risi is a seasoned communications executive with more than 15 years of experience in strategic global media relations, CEO positioning, executive positioning, crisis communications, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and business-to-business strategy development.

At Ogilvy PR, Risi led the agency’s award-winning global relationship with the government of Mexico, which focused on promoting the country as an investment hub and travel destination of choice. The team worked closely with the Minister of Tourism and the CEO of the Mexico Tourism Board – recording the best year of tourism ever and record FDI in 2012. Risi is an expert in nation branding.  Currently, she works with the countries of Colombia, helping to secure 15% FDI increase and 8% tourism increase in 2013, and the U.S., helping to secure 1.1M incremental 2013 international visitors.

Risi also leads the agency’s relationship with Citizens Financial Group focused on a global media relations campaign to promote the bank’s portfolio and executive team – most recently handling the bank’s IPO [most successful financial services IPO in U.S. history]. Additionally, she is the lead strategist for Nationwide’s new Corporate Social Responsibility effort – Make Safe Happen.

Prior to Ogilvy PR, Risi was with Weber Shandwick where she co-founded the firm’s Global Strategic Media practice, a specialty team focused on driving corporate brand awareness via a mix of media relations, speaking platforms and digital content. Risi also created VOICEBOXX™, a proprietary approach to securing speaking opportunities at global, national, regional and local speaking venues.

Risi has extensive experience working with many leading CEOs – most notably Emilio Lozoya, PEMEX; Ellen Kullman, DuPont; David Novak, YUM! Brands and Jeff Raikes, Gates Foundation.

Risi has won multiple awards including most recently, 2014 SABRE Multimarket Campaign of the Year for government of Colombia and Two 2012 Gold SABREs and was a 2013 Cannes finalist for the government of Mexico. Risi was also named PR Week “40 under 40”.

Risi earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Barnard College, Columbia University. She is also on the Advisory Council for Litworld, a children’s literacy advocacy group, and serves as senior media relations’ advisor to Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director to UN Women.


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