Home » OPINION » Columns » TODD SMITH — Earned media (PR pickup) is dominating branding campaigns

TODD SMITH — Earned media (PR pickup) is dominating branding campaigns

In our fast-paced, increasingly digital-driven world, one of the ageless measurement tools of PR success – earned media – continues to dominate campaigns.

Earned media is publicity or PR gained through an unsolicited third party (mass media outlet such as newspaper, TV, radio and the Internet). Unearned media is paid media (marketing and advertising).

Earned media is at the center of an increasing number of branding campaigns, according to PRWeek, whether they are orchestrated by, advertising or digital firms.

Consider the work honored each June at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Very few big ideas evolve around traditional TV spots or paid media, most rely on earned media, according to PRWeek.

In 2017, State Street’s Fearless Girl became the most awarded campaign in Cannes’ history, including the PR Grand Prix. Fearless Girl faced off against the Charging Bull sculpture on Wall Street as a push for gender equality in business leadership roles. It was created by Interpublic Group ad agency McCann New York.

McCann also created the previous most-honored Cannes campaign from its Melbourne office. Dumb Ways To Die was a public service announcement – one of the most established PR tools – to stop kids playing on railway tracks.

There’s also Unilever’s Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, named Best Campaign of the Past 20 Years at the PRWeek U.S. 20th Anniversary Awards in March. The creative idea came from Ogilvy, but Edelman handled PR for the long-running activation.

These diverse campaigns illustrate the complex nature of today’s communications. All three were created by ad agencies, yet all three had PR at their heart. This is the environment in which PR firms operate – and brands are increasingly using PR as go-to tools!

PRWeek’s 2019 Agency Business Report shows overall global agency revenue rose 5 percent in 2018, to $11.9 billion, up 1% from 2017. The U.S. number was slightly less, up 4 percent to $5.64 billion, but double the jump of the previous 12 months. The top 20 firms lagged the overall market, up 3 percent and 2 percent respectively.

One definite trend in 2018 was clients taking services in-house, such as media buying, ad production and content creation. They’re not necessarily spending less money on marketing, just less with agencies.

Misspelled popular hashtags on the rise

Two weeks ago, HBO fantasy epic Game of Thrones returned with the premiere of its eighth and final season. Aside from dominating social conversations, it was the most-tweeted-about episode of the show ever, topping the 5-million mark.

However, non-fans who keep track of trending topics may have thought there was a new sensation called Game of Thornes. One out of every 101 hashtags about the show was misspelled on Twitter, according to social media monitoring company Brandwatch.

In the last month, the hashtag #GameofThrones was mentioned more than 6.1 million times, while #GameofThornes got more than 61,000 mentions, according to the firm.

Sloppy spelling does not just happen in GOT. #AvengersEndgame received more than 5 million mentions in the past month, while #AvangersEndgame notched nearly 55,000 mentions. Fully one out of every 94 hashtags that tried to join the conversation was foiled by typos.

There’s a simple explanation: the more an event is mentioned on Twitter, the more a hashtag is misspelled. The night of Game of Thrones’ season eight premiere, one of every 87 mentions was a typo, but on Monday, April 22, the day after episode two of season eight, one of every 50 tweets was incorrect.

It’s getting worse. Data from 2013 indicates typos occurred in one of every 400 hashtags six years ago, according to Brandwatch.

To avoid these spelling pitfalls, Brandwatch recommends a common sense approach: make sure it’s simple, obvious and under 10 characters, such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #TeamCoco and #Oscars.

Grounded Mic | Boeing knew about cockpit safety problem, didn’t initially tell the FAA

Just when we thought the Boeing brand was going to come out of its nightmarish tailspin, we find out the airplane builder did not share information about a problem with a cockpit safety alert for about a year before the issue drew attention with the crash of a 737 MAX jet in Indonesia.

Even then Boeing gave some airlines and pilots partial and inconsistent explanations, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The company did not publicly disclose the software error behind the problem for another six weeks, leaving the public and the agency’s acting chief in the dark.

Officials are increasingly questioning the transparency of the Chicago-based aerospace leader regarding problems with cockpit warnings, according to The Wall Street Journal.

A House Transportation Committee is also probing why the FAA and Boeing failed to publicly distribute information about the nonfunctioning sensors.

This new cloud could bring additional challenges to Boeing’s efforts to strengthen confidence in the 737 MAX, solicit regulatory support worldwide and get the MAXes, grounded after the second crash, flying again.

Boeing said company engineers identified the alerts weren’t operating as intended due to a software error in 2017. Boeing said at the time it relied on standard internal procedures and conducted an internal review by engineers and managers that determined the problem didn’t impact airplane safety. Top Boeing leaders didn’t learn about the issue until after the Oct. 29, 2018, Lion Air crash, the company told The Journal.

At the company’s annual shareholder meeting last month, CEO Dennis Muilenburg reaffirmed the company was focused on safety, and the plane maker is seeking ways to improve the development of airplanes.

With the latest misstep, Boeing has a long runway before it’s reputation takes flight.

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» TODD SMITH is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

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