Blogs & Comment

Moving from earned media to earned business

Tom Beckman is ECD and senior partner at Prime. He is president of the PR jury at the Dubai Lynx

“In the past decade PR has become more public. Our discipline has grown in importance, fuelled by the age of transparency. Never before has relations had more of an impact on business and on society as a whole. And complexity has gone through the roof.

In these times we must acknowledge the importance of publicity, also known as earned media, as well as of all other tools and competences that constitute the PR discipline. Because just earning media doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing the right thing, or thinking long-term for that matter. The time has come for the marketing industry as a whole to look beyond the established idea of integrated communication being a mix of owned, bought and earned media. We need to look beyond channels altogether and accept that a stakeholder perspective is the only relevant way to cut the integrated cake. That means that instead of making sure that our communication programmes are implemented in owned, bought and earned media, we must make sure that they resonate with the client’s market, industry and surrounding society.

Because buying a product is no longer a result of identification with a brand but rather a vote on the stand point of the producer, resulting in a growing demand for products and services that not only meet a consumer need, but that equally importantly develop the industry and benefit society. A recent global study carried out by our sister company United Minds concluded that 48 percent of respondents consider consumption a more effective way to change society than politics. And people claiming to participate in buycotting (supporting through buying) have increased from 32 to 47 per cent in the last two years.

This new world is post-commercial by nature. And post-commercialism is a con-sequence of the age of transparency resulting in informed consumers empowered by media to impact businesses and markets. Central to post-commercialism is the question of who deserves to earn your money, and that consumers reward corporations that take stands rather than build brands. Consumers expect to be treated as the citizens they are, rather than as dots on a segmented target group map.

To meet this demand we as an industry must transform ourselves; we must go from creating awareness that generates value to creating value that generates awareness.

But to accomplish this, agencies must build competence within management, sustainability and societal affairs. This is hard to do. Insanely hard. Much harder than catching up on social media. But the upside is that we once again can help our clients seize control over their reputations and images – because like people, companies are judged by their actions, and accordingly, sustainable and responsible businesses do not get bashed as often in social media. At last we can conclude that the mantra from the past five years that you are not in control of you brand anymore is of course merely a sorry excuse for not having the ability to act correctly and think long-term. Sustainability in the full meaning of the word – economic, social and cultural – will dominate marketing in the next five years. And it’s not about being nice – it’s about creating comparative advantages in a post-commercial market.”