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It’s Time To Redefine Communications’ Worth

Snezna Kerekovic

Business Director

PPR ANZ

Snezna.Kerekovic@ppr.com.au

Making it count

It’s Time To Redefine Communications’ Worth

At a time when consumer trust in media is down yet consumption is on the rise, the time for redefining media communications’ value is now.  

In our rapidly expanding media ecosystem, comms professionals have never had access to more channels in which to seed content. The barriers to entry into traditional media, social media, and influencers is low, and branded content is proliferating faster than a politician’s expense account.

While the evolving channel mix has made placing content easy, marketers are realising that feeding the sales funnel has never been more difficult. Recent scandals relating to Cambridge Analytica, fake news and the Banking Royal Commission have rendered these channels “damaged goods”.

The extent of this damage is widespread and serious. According to The Digital News Report: Australia 2018, 73 percent of Australian news consumers have encountered fake news, while separate Roy Morgan research reveals that around half don’t trust social media.

For marketing and comms players, this makes for bleak reading and begs the question: are brands better off just remaining silent?

Absolutely not.

The latest Deloitte Media Consumer Survey finds the number of people using social media as their sole source of news has increased over the past year, up from 14 percent to 17 percent, and newspaper subscriptions are also up, from 16 percent to 17 percent. Importantly, 58 percent of consumers use smartphones while watching TV, meaning the majority of us are consuming content at around twice the rate of 20 years ago, despite consumers’ lack of confidence in media.

The increase in media consumption, combined with access to consumer data, presents the communications industry with unheralded opportunities to redefine its worth.

Our biggest opportunity is in demonstrating our value by making an impact on business outcomes. For decades, PR value has been evaluated as part of an arbitrary equation related to Advertising Value Equivalent. Thankfully we have moved on from this metric, but not far enough.

The change we need is to move from impressions and reach metrics to the impact on business metrics. Today.

This means a departure from the traditional view of communications and our role in the mix.

Transparency and collaboration between clients and media companies, at the most micro of levels, is required to track, measure, analyse and optimise our influence in real time. This is especially true in the influencer space, where a proper “look under the hood” is essential to determine true reach and influence. After all, a US-based make-up brand might be interested to learn that over 33 million of Kim Kardashian’s fans are men, and just 25 percent are based in the US … suddenly, she’s not the bullet-proof commercial proposition she appeared when solely looking at raw numbers.    

On a day-to-day operational level, this analytical approach comes to life by overlaying first, second and third-party data sources in real time. This means searching for correlations between media coverage, social engagement, ad performance, message penetration and volume of mentions across digital conversations, to website traffic, in-store traffic and consumers’ onsite behaviour. This tells us a story that helps communications teams pinpoint their influence in an omnichannel world.

Did our media stories coincide with a spike in search traffic? Did our influencer stories coincide with a barrage of negative comments on a company’s Facebook page? Did our blog stories lead to a white paper download?

By monitoring and analysing the impact of our communications by the day (or at least the week) rather than at the end of a campaign, communications professionals can refine their approach in order to achieve optimal results by dialling up what is working, eliminating what isn’t, and altering what isn’t quite hitting the mark. Our first question to clients at a work-in-progress meeting should not relate to a communications function; it must always be “how is business?”

By understanding how our communications data integrates with sales and other campaign data, clients and marketing communications agencies can effectively demonstrate the true value of influence and how it works with each part of the marketing mix – not in a silo.

You may not trust Facebook to keep your data safe, but marketing communications, when properly applied, can act as a genuine sales tool.  We are only beginning to scratch the surface of what is possible.