According to Altimiter Group’s Rebecca Lieb, who addressed Future M conference attendees recently, today’s media environment is a “virtual Times Square; an environment of screens.” As consumers, she noted, we are bouncing from device to device and message to message. We are “tuning out the noise and too distracted to concentrate.” This is an environment that makes it even harder for brands to capture the attention of their audiences.
Her analogy is a good one. Your first experience on New York’s bustling midtown streets can be exhilarating – amazed by the bright lights, flashing billboards, and bustling crowds. You may try to soak it all in, capture the moments on camera and embrace the chaos. The third or fourth time, however, might not be quite the same. Anymore, when I think about Times Square, I consider the quickest exit strategy; the detour I can take to get around the dizzying lights and crowded streets to my final destination. Something has to be quite intriguing to capture my attention there, and therein is the challenge for brands today.
So how should brands tackle this challenge? By being ubiquitous. By being visible across all media channels and creating a dynamic and consistent story in paid, owned and earned media spaces. By creating “branded surround sound,” as Lieb puts it, and implementing an integrated strategy in which all channels work in concert to amplify one another and ultimately maximize the impact of the overall strategy. Consumers are simply looking for the most relevant and engaging information – in the instant that they need it and in the channel they are seeking it, and to remain relevant, a brand message must be wherever they are.
This informed and active consumer, along with the emergence of new social platforms where they have the power to share and play a brand message forward, has caused a shift in the scales of paid, owned and earned media. It has spurred a transfer of influence from traditional marketing to this new, evolved converged media where earned media, more commonly known as PR, is taking the crown as King. Owned media, too, is rising in influence, helping sustain the buzz of a brand generated by earned media, in turn, posing a challenge to paid media. Still a necessary component, there is a growing opportunity for paid media to leverage owned media & earned media to stay relevant.
The new playing field requires communications professionals to reimagine their strategies of the past. They must create more holistic programs, programs driven by engaging content, constantly streaming from brand to consumer. Marketers are using enhanced PR tools to cost-effectively communicate with their audiences through multimedia content. PR pros are doing more than managing brand reputation, but are evolving their role as storytellers to influence consumer behavior and drive demand through earned media. The convergence, while it opens up the door to more opportunities for a brand, also requires willingness to adapt, an integration and collaboration among departments, a strategy that aligns across departments, as well as to the overall business goals, and the ability to act with agility. Understanding the impact of the converged media landscape gives you an edge in the virtual Times Square within which we are living.
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Author Meryl Serouya is a marketing communciations associate with PR Newswire.