The Converged Media Imperative

Recommendations on managing today’s media in a new report from the Altimeter Group

Altimeter’s new report, “The Converged Media Imperative: How Brands Must Combine Paid, Owned and Earned Media” by Rebecca Lieb and Jeremiah Owyang is very good read. I’ll summarise it with this quote highlighting three obvious and simple words that will not do the report justice:

“Ensure that you break down silos between traditional (paid), digital and earned media.”

Don’t let that summary put you off, since being comfortable with it doesn’t mean you’re doing it or even motivated to do it, nor that your marketing partners or agencies are ready to help you do it either…

The Convergence of Paid, Owned & Earned Media

Organise around the customer experience

The report speaks to marketers and their agency partners – urging that they must converge their media efforts by combining social, corporate content, and advertising reach – or risk a lack of connection with the fleeting customer. It’s true since whilst consumers don’t distinguish between marketing channels, the marketers remain specialised somehow and often stuck somewhere in a particular medium – often at the expense of the others. The report suggests that:

“Rather than allow campaigns to be driven by paid media, marketers must now develop scale and expertise in owned and earned media to drive effectiveness, cultivate creative ideas, assess customer needs, cultivate influencers, develop reach, achieve authenticity and cut through clutter.”

If we put this simply: Orientate around the customer and their experience, not around what you/your team understand about marketing. And, isn’t that somehow empowering in a really simple way? To see this as an opportunity to reorient your perspective, rather than “oh my god I need to integrate all this stuff.”

Converged workflow over a campaign mindset

The report suggests that there are still way too many agencies that are stuck in the “campaign mindset,” the traditional, above-the-line marketers remit. I agree with the report that where we saw the splintering of digital from above the line, and traditional agencies rightly claimed that digital agencies lacked perspective on the brand, we now see social specialisms splintering off from digital, and before the “SEO” specialisms, again arguably creating different perspectives all different to that of the customer.

I think the diagram below is an obvious and simple illustration of modern marketing workflow – except that in my mind it’s the customer (personas) that are in the centre, somehow along with goals/KPIs. The tie of “content” being across disciplines (direct, paid, digital) starts to illustrate the point well, I feel. The idea of “always on” marketing doesn’t negate the need for campaigns, it’s simply that those campaigns need integrating.

Converged Media Workflow

Marketing teams are as fragmented as agency disciplines

The idea in the report is that agencies tend to fall back on single-channel expertise, and it’s hard to disagree with, though is that a bad thing anyway, so long as the buyer of those services knows what they’re doing in regards to integration? It’s here that I feel the report identifies the root cause:

“Internally, brands are organized in marketing sub-groups that are territorial, competitive, and political.”

It’s the statement above, that I think is where the problems start since it’s the agencies that serve the brand’s requirements. And, it’s not just about the discipline-orientated departments (PR, brand, media, events etc) it’s that those people, departments and teams tend to speak a totally different language to each other and even worse, use varying and often unrelated KPIs. I’ve asked before – enough of the tacticians, where are the marketers!

“Preparing for Paid, Owned and Earned integration is not just a demand of present reality, but an inevitable necessity of the future of marketing, advertising, and communications.” Lieb & Owyang

Converged Media Lab: Top Success Criteria

Report weaknesses?

The report is very good, I need to stress that as I don’t want to find weaknesses for the sake of it. My only grudge is that the four case studies in the report, are for brands that have executed strategies combining two or more types of POE media, but are a little “social” and lacking in the idea of hard ROI for commercial marketers. For brand orientated marketers with softer KPIs then this wouldn’t matter, though my sense is that marketing doesn’t get the respect, investment and support needed without being tied to the bottom line. It has to be anchored to the commercial bottom line. Just as the report is weighted to a social bias, so to digital, it doesn’t really highlight the opportunity for offline events or research, for example, yet these are things that need to be thought about as well.

So, what’s the fix for marketers?

There’s an irony here, since executing what you need to do fundamentally requires cross-department (and agency) collaboration, the lack of which is one of the primary problems in the first place. Dammit. That sounds a huge ask despite it being obvious? So how could you kick things off in the right direction?

Help your team(s) all face the same way:

  • Supplement your team with external marketers, not tacticians. For example, have a strong, small group of agency partners to help bridge those internal teams. Give those trusted marketing partners an impartial (as possible) voice in decision-making. There is no point having multiple agencies that pile on further fragmentation and incompatibility. Make sure agency selection processes include considerations for deep marketing capabilities and not just high-level strategy, creative, social or paid media tactics.
  • Own and plan using data. I’d suggest that planning and data mining should be an in-house function and not left to an agency. In fact, it’s really the most important take-away. Modern marketing requires the use of disparate tools, and there’s got to be a means to collate the insight so that it can be used. A set of dashboards and weekly/monthly process that enable them to be used and any insight actioned as necessary. Data is highly effective at unifying teams and cutting through hear-say.
  • Do the basics. Network and encourage a whole team spirit. We’re all people at the end of the day and we need you to be the leader, educator and collaborator. Effective teams are always greater than the sum of their parts because they work together, have focus and processes.

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Digital Impact 2014

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