Monday, May 18, 2009

Earned Media VS. Paid Media

Marketing gurus and companies are spending more on PR-public relations. Talk of "earned media" has gone from conference rooms at PR shops to center stage at bigger, more widely attended conferences. Veronis Suhler, a business equity firm, said that U.S. spending on PR rose 7.1% in 2008. WPP noted PR was the fastest-growing discipline, and the holding company was up 17.3% in the discipline in 2008. PR is thought to be underused and underfunded. There are many industries that don't seem to understand the principles or ethics of the discipline. Here are some basic principles to know in order to embrace what few are beginning to realize.

Earned Media is not a paid media. Any media that takes cash for editorial credit is not worth your time and is definitely not credible – unfortunately, with the exception of fashion magazines. What's more, a pay-for-play approach may end up hitting the negative headlines for trying to deceive.

Earned Media requires being interesting and open. Have a great story to tell – must be real, credible, and meaningful so that any fan, consumer, media company, media member, blogger or tech-empowered person will think it is worth listening to and sharing.

Listen to the people you hired to help you. It does not make sense to hire a marketing or PR person or agency only to ignore them when they tell you that the story you're presenting is either too boring, a lie or, even worse, a lie that'll get found out. PR people are prone to saying "yes, I know it's bullshit, but it's what they wanted to say." Not only is going against their advice a waste of your money, but it undermines your PR people's credibility and therefore your ability to earn media when you do have something to say.

You can't control the message. Despite the popular tabloid moniker, PR is not a doctor service and shouldn't be spinning. PR helps you communicate something demonstrably true. If you need to know how the message will look when it is shared with the public, stick to ads. When it doesn't come out quite like you'd imagined, don't scream at the PR person or the journalist or blogger in question. You'll just make influential enemies. If your message does come out exactly as you hoped, make a note that the journalist in question has no integrity and will soon have no readers, or thank your stars that you got lucky.

PR is NOT cheaper than advertising, or more expensive, just different. PR agencies have done little to dispel this common misconception, for obvious reasons. But its like saying that watching a concert on TV is the same as actually being at the concert.

PR will never replace advertising. You often need one, and then the other. Ideally, they both should be operating in harmony, orchestrated by the same conductor. Without advertising, there'd be no editorial opportunity. Advertising boasts what you can do. PR will show what you’ve done. Take for example a new band trying to break into music. Marketing companies and labels do their best to advertise them thru shopping their songs and getting their faces everywhere. It’s the job of PR to review their music, their shows, their activities off the stage, or their contributions to community. Without advertising, no one will ever know who you are. Without PR, no one will ever know what you’re about.

The idea of media isn't to cheer for you, your brand, your company, your music or even your sound. The media's job isn't to be positive or negative. It's main focus should be provoking thoughts about you, your brand, music, or to issues of the day. Think about how much more you would be "googled", clicked on, read about, or viewed if you, your brand, your music, or sound caught the curiosities of the public. People DON'T conduct searches for you because they know you, they conduct searches because they want to know more about you.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Radio Does Not Make THE HITS, Radio Plays THE HITS

With record sales falling and musicians frequently finding themselves dropped from major labels, there are artists out there that surpass expectations. Take for example a most recent case study – rap’s very own Jadakiss. With his latest Island Def Jam debut, The Last Kiss, Jadakiss managed to sell over 130,000 copies during its first week, a more than commendable number for a project that had little publicity. The album is Jadakiss’s first release since a 5 year hiatus after leaving Interscope.

An issue of marketing magazine, Advertising Age, explored Jadakiss’s methods for promoting his album. The magazine states that as "advertising dollars have dried up at radio stations over the years, programmers have been under pressure to play hit records more frequently and playlists have shrunk. Ten years ago, many stations' highest-played records were 45 plays a week, or six plays a day. Today it's common for stations to play top records over 100 times a week, which allows less room for records to make it onto playlists." Programming directors have been pressured to cut down on playlists, leaving less room for records and giving hit singles more spins. Rapper Flo Rida saw his huge radio single “Right Round” sell over 2.5 million singles, while his album R.O.O.T.S. sold only 55,000 copies in its first week—less than half of what Jadakiss sold.

Jadakiss did many things to control the destiny of his album by connecting with his fans/audience despite the lack of radio play for his album. Take the time to explore the circumstances and the work of a marketing team that led up to Jadakiss' release and launch of his album and you may be able to highlight insights to learn from his and his marketing team's "not so obvious" initiatives. Jadakiss played to what he knew best. Throughout his long career, he has protected his reputation and authenticity, in part by passing up short-term successes and not becoming a puppet to the pressure of making quick-hit radio records. He knew the limitations of radio, and, much like brands today that may no longer be able to create a huge presence on TV and out-of-home, he invested in his core -- Jadakiss got creative.

First, he went into the places where his core lifestyle fans lived and became very accessible to them. He went on the road for seven weeks prior to releasing his album, visiting clubs every night, sometimes performing, and other times just being there as part of the scene. He visited malls. He also had daily discussions and exchanges with fans through blogs and hip-hop sites on the web. He had radio talk segments and hosted tastemakers, DJs and programmers at clubs and played his music through a sponsorship deal with Ciroc Vodka. He showed up and performed for Reebok's 10-year anniversary event for basketball superstar Allen Iverson at the NBA All-Star Game in Arizona. He performed in Austin at the Levi's FADER Fort (a Cornerstone event) in front of a primarily alternative rock and hipster audience. He released videos on Youtube; not just music videos, but also funny, behind-the-scenes videos that showed his lifestyle and authenticity, which his core fanbase found entertaining. All of this was done to build anticipation for his album -- always feeding his core yet adapting to new market conditions. Instead of a top-down national approach, Jadakiss took to the streets to connect to a lot of DJ’s, travel city to city, and build a story to tell.

“I ain’t know what to expect now with the way the game is,” ‘Kiss said in an interview with XXL earlier this month. “But I know I got a core fanbase. I don’t think Def Jam expected that, so now we gotta get on the same page. I will say that’s a great number for the climate and the way the music industry is right now and that’s without a big hit at radio…I got longevity, that’s why I got legs…It’s always good when you can say I told you so. It’s always good when you get the last laugh. But I’m just happy to be embraced after all these years, ’cause Hip Hop fans’ ears change hourly. I’ma be here for a while.”