By Zachary Weiner, CEO, Emerging Insider Communications
There is a giant discrepancy between what people believe is the work of a communications/PR firm and what the work actually entails. This is never more true than the idealized opinions of startups versus the (often brave) firms and agencies that represent them. The common belief seems to hold that a few calls, and a couple of pitches to media friendlies means your startup will be featured the next day on every top-tier publication and outlet that exists. The truth is that the countless hours, days and weeks of planning, strategy and executions to follow are rarely seen, but there is a great equalizer. For startups that actually have the foresight to go through the months it really takes to execute a killer PR plan, they may be in for results they couldn’t have ever dreamed of.
Recently our firm, Emerging Insider took on the largest of startup challenges. A small EU innovator called Ticketbis, wanted to break into the U.S. market and make a massive splash with a key position for their initiatives. Sounds like any other Tuesday right? Not so fast. This startup had zero budget to invest into any other marketing initiatives. Eliminate Ads, eliminate marketing partnerships, eliminate a shiny new app, paid content distribution, events, launch parties, and any grassroots endeavors whatsoever. Equally uphill, the ticket reseller had no true product within the U.S. and was hoping to attract event goers that were attending events around the globe. What they were willing to invest was patience AND openness, to testing out an entirely new set of strategies.
It required some intensive strategy that leverages the ways audiences are now consuming content and how media personnel are viewing how to best tell a story.
Branded content is far more powerful earned then it is via paid distribution:
We can base the above on several key factors:
- The media is busier today than they have ever been. Digital editions mean that far more content must be produced, with overall profits being lower then print due to oversaturation and commoditization. The key point is that publishers need far greater levels of exceptional content.
- For consumers, the selling point for branded content is that they would prefer editorial then ads.
- For brands, the distribution of branded material usually stops within their owned media or where they can pay to distribute it without application to either of these trends. Earning branded content can be a win for publishers, consumers and especially the brand.
The media has newfound material to make their own content and profit from it. The brand can achieve strong exposure, third party credibility for their views and lack of being bucketed to some sketchy bottom page recommended links. This was an easy to prove concept in the case of Ticketbis. From generating reports about everything an American might want to know about soccer, to creating highly visual “Hottest Rugby stars” to data reports on trending news about travel, sports and concerts worldwide, we had the media eagerly awaiting every piece of branded content that Ticketbis could come provide them with. Earned: The exposure across everyone from Elite Daily to the Washington Post, Bustle to Skift and countless others, far overpowered most paid distribution campaigns, were syndicated like wildfire and the social shares went through the roof.
Data can be used far more effectively when it is used to earn media, rather than simply gleaning insights:
It is no secret that most organizations can utilize their own data to glean intensive marketing insights. These range from audience demographics and behaviors to mapping out a customer journey. Less utilized is when an organization’s data is also used to directly identify trends, and tell stories in entirely new ways. For Ticketbis this meant, analyzing data to dissect how event-goers were reacting to the Zika virus, the death of EDM or how sporting fans chose to travel to matches or not. The data in other words wasn’t used in an indirect fashion, but were very directly brought to the media’s attention to create countless stories. From niche pubs, to Mashable and Vice, the media couldn’t get their hands on enough data.
The two strategies alone elicited a media response that went above and beyond far more funded campaigns. It required little to no spend, and positioned Ticketbis as a massive competitor to market incumbents. When incumbents are threatened their initial move is to buy up their far smaller competitor. The greater story is that only the smartest of startups have what it takes to realize that PR doesn’t happen overnight, it’s often a far better equalizer then any amount of paid orchestrations.
Zachary Weiner is the CEO of Emerging Insider Communications, a boutique communications and content relations organization changing the face of PR. He is a frequent lecturer and speaker across the marketing, digital video and IOT landscape.