When message matches the medium—how PR is like sailing

by | Feb 16, 2018 | Analysis, Public Relations

In today’s complex world, companies are reaching audiences through an increasing number of channels. Marketing and public relations initiatives are often blended into integrated marketing communications (IMC) campaigns using a combination of paid, earned, shared and owned media channels to deliver maximum impact and ROI.

One integrated communications firm, the Ballast Group, compares the forces used for IMC to those needed for sailing. Like sailing, marketing and PR require the skilled management of many variables at once to take ideas to the next level. The strategy and tactics of planning, executing and measuring initiatives have unpredictable forces to contend with, such as diverse teams, persnickety editors, clients with high standards and unexpected crises—all similar to what Mother Nature can throw at us any day.

Using a balanced approach and reputation management tactics, an integrated approach can act as a boat’s ballast, or relevant weight to balance client needs while keeping goals and objectives moving in the right direction.

When the message matches the medium, PR is like sailing

Planning: Why people will care about your story

Primary and secondary research informs credible storylines that successfully guides campaigns and articulates “why” people will care. In sailing, there are numerous controllable and uncontrollable variables that can affect the outcome of a boat’s course: weather, tides, equipment, boat conditions and team skills. Marketing and PR professionals face their own set of variables: creativity, timely topics, market trends, compelling words, budgets, deadlines and team skills. For successful campaigns, pros must be aware of all variables and formulate a plan to create brilliance from the occasional chaos. The first step is planning.

To best represent a client, use research as a catalyst for understanding leadership perceptions and marketplace perspectives. The Ballast Group believes that secondary research on a client’s competitors and market trends, coupled with identification of third-party stakeholders to speak on behalf of the client always convey unique storylines. Leveraging stories across paid, earned, shared and owned media channels sets the client apart in often-crowded markets.

Manage unpredictable conditions to propel your story to the front

No matter the type of media used, a blend of media types offers greater rewards.

  • Paid media: Depending on the campaign, paid media can be sponsored social media posts, social media advertisements, fan acquisition tactics, commercials and other lead-generation efforts. Choosing the right medium is part of a balanced and blended approach.
  • Earned media: Most people consider earned media when they think of traditional public relations – story telling through journalists. It also encompasses blogger relations, investor relations and influencer relations in the form of print, online, TV or radio coverage.
  • Shared media: Shared media is most often identified as social media strategies applied in channels including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and others. It is measured by its organic reach to users and influencers on their social media platforms.
  • Owned media: With the increasingly popular content marketing, you have full control over your message for what is known as owned media. This includes blogs, websites, email marketing campaigns, webinars and more. Owned media is created to establish a voice and a brand with targeted audiences.

When the message matches the medium, PR is like sailing

Connect the dots to amplify success

To successfully integrate all channels – paid, earned, shared and owned – into one campaign, firms must establish a story and strategy that applies to multiple audiences and that uses each channel to create value that generates leads. The Ballast Group created an integrated campaign to help a Chicago home care agency stand out in a crowded market of more than 720 home care agencies in Illinois. By first focusing on how and why it was solving an industry problem, a storyline highlighted the agency’s differences of its caregivers. As the population of 80+-year-olds increases from 12 million to over 30 million by 2050, an expected caregiver shortage looms with the potential of reaching “crisis” levels, according to a major metropolitan paper.

  • Earned media: A Chicago Tribune front-page business story (video and print) solely focused on the home care agency and one of its 91-year-old clients. The piece reached a Sunday readership of 748,000 (19MM online impressions monthly). Instantly, the agency received awareness among industry leaders, referral sources, existing and potential clients.
  • Paid and shared media: To amplify the impact of the article the week it was published, the Ballast Group shared the article in two sponsored and five organic Facebook posts reaching an additional 3,000 people.
  • Owned media: The Ballast Group broadened the story’s reach by creating unique content in a blog post and two targeted email marketing campaigns to two of the home care agency’s important audiences – referral sources, such as attorneys, estate planners and insurance representatives, and caregivers. The email campaigns reached hundreds more with a successful 26 percent and 52 percent open rate, respectively.
  • Impact: While earned media had the greatest organic reach, the story didn’t stop there. A blended P.E.S.O. approach enabled the home care agency to maximize the magic of a more targeted, integrated approach.

Create the perfect storm to anchor your story

In order to steer a campaign to success through unpredictable winds and cluttered markets, PR and marketing pros need to determine the best course from many options.

Blending variables into an integrated approach maximizes the impact of available channels to meet your client’s targeted audiences with the answers they need to solve the challenges they face.


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