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Ogilvy Survey: Social and Earned Media Are Inseparable

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This week, another new survey attempts to answer the question at the heart of the public relations discipline in our digital era: how has social media changed the behavior of journalists and the PR teams that interact with them every day?

The survey, released today by Ogilvy PR’s Media Influence unit after conducting interviews with 75 US-based reporters, editors and producers, brought both expected and surprising conclusions. In short: despite certain misconceptions, social has only enhanced the value of earned media. The two are inseparable.

We spoke to friend of the site Jennifer Risi, managing director of Ogilvy Media Influence and head of North American media relations, for conclusions and lessons learned after the jump.

First, some numbers:

  • 90% of journalists think that the success of any story depends greatly on the reaction it receives in the social sphere
  • 53% see a “strong” connection between earned coverage and social influence; 44% see at least “some” connection

Most importantly, a majority of journalists now see social amplification as a variable that’s just as important in measuring the overall success of a story as coverage of that story in other media outlets.

At the same time, 88% believe that social’s rapid-fire nature has either “significantly” or “somewhat” impacted the basic integrity of the stories themselves. As another study told us several weeks ago, this almost certainly means more crowdsourcing and less fact-checking.

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Jennifer Risi elaborated on the findings:

What jumps out most from this survey?

Two things: first, the co-dependent relationship between mainstream and social media is here to stay. There’s lots of conversation about “social” and “content” like they’re shiny new toys, but social is still a massive driver of influence…the most savvy brands know how to blend the two.

Sometimes this conversation pushes traditional earned media to the back burner, but it should be at the epicenter of everything all businesses do in PR. What has changed is impact: social helps validate stories and determines how much influence they will have, so a successful strategy will involve the two working together. Social validates earned media.

In terms of “shareability” and social influence, it almost seems as if the strategies of journalists and PR now resemble one other more closely than ever before. What do you think?

The survey shows us that a story today can start anywhere: a newsroom, a blogger, etc. People are more accessible than ever, and in our world that means a greater power to ask, “What does the reporter want to know, what does our client want to say, and how can we connect the two?”

Reporters can cross multiple platforms [cable, print, social], and the most influential journalists transcend channel and publication.

Yet “earned media” as covered by top journalists remains some of the most influential media in the world. There is still a circle of 20 publications in which every client wants to appear.

Your influence is dependent upon how many channels you transcend. This trend stems from an era of cutbacks in which more journos have to cross multiple platforms, channels and beats.

What do these findings mean for PR, strategically speaking?

There was a time when everyone in our industry said it’s all about social, but you can’t lose sight of earned, which is where the most influential conversations start.

At Ogilvy, we need to stay the course. The biggest stories still start as earned media, and those stories need to be spread out on every available platform: TV, radio, corporate websites, social media.

These findings prove that earned is more important than some companies think…but the best brands think about all of it.

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We were surprised to learn that only 8 percent of participating journalists had considered working in a different field like PR–especially when we get more reports about “hack turned flack” every day.

The new media environment is exciting and lots of reporters do have an open platform, so many want to stay in the field.

Some still eventually want to go into PR or advisory roles, but most enjoy playing the part of messenger.

Another surprising finding: 27 percent of journalists say celebrities drive the news while only 13 percent say business leaders do so. What does this mean for thought leadership efforts?

It shows us that thought leadership has to have a big earned media component with the right social to amplify its influence. It points to the fact that brands need to have a diverse communications strategy to be successful–particularly in making the most of the connection between earned and social.

We do live in a celebrity-driven society, and the fact that brands consider turning to celebrity influencers says that they need to develop very strategic communications programs encapsulating owned, earned and paid.

How would you summarize the survey?

To reach the right influencers, you have to be where they live and converse every day (social, blogs) and in the most influential outlets that the most influential people read.

Earned media is here to stay: most truly successful stories involve some variation of social and earned media working together.

Do we agree with Risi?

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