The Holy Grail of Earned Media

Ask the average media creative type to explain the difference between paid, owned and earned media and you might be surprised how many make a complete hash of it or confess their ignorance.  Added to which, the three distinctions don’t live in their own hermetically sealed bubbles but overlap like one of those venn diagrams that inspire terror in maths students. Yet – what client or agency doesn’t want to discover the Holy Grail of Earned Media – the ability to convince others to sell your story free of charge.

Before embarking on the quest for the grail, let’s recap what paid, owned and earned actually mean. Admit it, some of you out there would struggle to define them if the requisite gun was put to your head. But it’s simple when you know. Paid is what it says – paid for advertising on banners, in cinemas, on TV, direct mail and in-store media. Most of it would be recognisable to the cast of Mad Men.

Owned is promotion through channels that you own. That can include brochures, company websites, microsites, apps, Facebook fan pages and so on. Then earned is essentially all the social media that you don’t own and that can encompass Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, etc.  Earned can also include good old fashioned word-of-mouth and so long as human interaction continues, that will still count for something.

Owned media tends to be focused on your existing customers while earned is about building a fan base.  Every marketing agency now claims it can grow earned media via social media marketing but as Business Insider recent reported, there are still of wrong-headed approaches out there that will ensure the Holy Grail remains out of reach. Depressingly, social media marketing is still tacked on to the end of paid media campaigns “as if its only purpose was to squeeze out a few hundred thousand ‘free’ impressions”.  Without a life of its own, the earned media campaign can be contrived and cynical and for those of us who live and breathe social media, we know that’s not going to fly. Bloggers, Tweeters and Facebook updaters can smell a rat at fifty paces.

An underlying concern that can stymie earned media via social media campaigns is that corporates baulk at the underlying cost of this activity.  Basically, you still need a strategy and people to implement it – and this doesn’t come free of charge. For some companies, a social media marketing campaign may cost as much as a conventional paid for campaign. However, you have to ask yourself what is having the greater impact on your business and where are your customers interacting? As people find it easier to screen out paid for advertising on TV and put greater value on the views of their peer group on social media, the quest for the grail is not an option.

Over half of brands recognise that they need the Holy Grail of earned media badly.  The resistance tends to come from those who fear that social media is like a mischievous genie.  Once you let it out of the bottle, it may stop obeying you.  Next thing, your social media campaign with its lovely positive messages will blow back in your face as a user generated typhoon of negative snarking. That risk is unfortunately inherent but that means getting your messaging and allied content bang on the nail.

A recent Econsultancy and Adobe survey found that 90% of businesses believed earned through social would be significant to them by 2015 – so whatever the misgivings, the quest for the Holy Grail is on!



Can future behaviour be predicted through Twitter?

What digital media strategist wouldn’t want to be able to predict the future behaviour of corporate stakeholders by analysing what they do on Twitter – or any social media channel?  In an article on the MIT Technology Review blog, the challenge is posed how Twitter can reveal buying habits, movie tastes and even what stock market shares users might buy. Well, researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara think they might have a clue – it’s in your genes.

More specifically, your “social media genotype” as they term it.  This is a fixed set of interests that determines how you will behave on Twitter. This is evidenced by the hashtags you prefer or even create and the areas of interest you follow. Meanwhile, down the road at the IBM Almaden Research Centre in San Jose, California – they’re looking at psychological factors that could predict behaviour on Twitter. Demographics and buying habits don’t tell you much, they argue, what you have to look at is “deep psychological profiles”.

The Economist has reported on this research which takes as its starting point the five main categories of personality: extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openess to experience. So what kind of language from corporates would these people react to on Twitter?  The boffins argue that extroverts choose Coca-Cola while the agreeable would opt for Pepsi.  An extrovert would react positively to promotions for mobile phones if they promised excitement as opposed to convenience.  Neurotics picked up on words like “awful” and “depressing” – hardly surprising but not exactly a gift to a marketeer.

CTN Communications appointed by the FCO to help stage the G8 Summit 2013


CTN appointed for G8 Summit

CTN Communications has been appointed by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, to help stage this month’s G8 Summit at Lough Erne, in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, on 17/18 June 2013.

The United Kingdom currently holds the presidency of the G8. The Summit, to be hosted by the Prime Minister, will be an opportunity for G8 leaders to have frank and open discussions about the important global issues of the day, especially how we can drive global economic growth.

CTN will manage all production aspects of delivering the Summit at the Lough Erne Resort – accommodating the leaders, their delegations and accredited media.   CTN will also provide the conference and media filing facilities for the Summit.  It will act as host broadcaster, providing pooled television pictures and the facilities necessary to help UK and international broadcasters cover the event.

CTN is a leading UK corporate communications and events agency, based in London. It has more than 20 years’ experience working with global businesses and brands, including more than fifteen FTSE 100 companies. CTN has extensive experience working with Government and is currently engaged by the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office on separate assignments. The CTN team delivering the G8 also produced the Thames River Pageant last year as part of the celebrations to mark The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Bringing the G8 to Lough Erne will showcase to the world a modern Northern Ireland with huge potential for investment and tourism. CTN will work with more than twenty-five Northern Ireland based SMEs to help source the people and services necessary to stage the Summit.

Stephen Watson, Chief Executive of CTN Communications said;

‘CTN is delighted and honoured to have been asked to help produce the G8 Summit. This is a hugely important and high profile undertaking, which needs to be delivered to a very high standard, on time and within budget. Lough Erne is one of the most beautiful locations in the UK. It will be our task to help create a Summit that has an intimate feel in this breath taking location, while accommodating the people, facilities and infrastructure necessary for an event of this nature.’

 The G8 (Group of 8) is made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the USA and the UK. The EU is represented by the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council.

For more information contact:

 Anita Hamilton, PR Director

+44(0) 7768 778 772


Desmond Tutu received the Templeton Prize – CTN captured it

Last week at the Guildhall in London, Archbishop Desmond Tutu received the Templeton Prize.  CTN worked on the logistics for this ambitious event attended by hundreds of dignitaries, politicians, business people and celebrities.  It was a huge success for the Templeton Foundation and thoroughly inspiring and enjoyable for everybody present.

Over half of employers are using social media for internal comms

You can either be shocked at how few or amazed by how many employers are now using social media to build a community among their employees. It’ll no doubt depend on how much or how little you use social media in your private life. A new survey from Towers Watson has revealed that globally, just over 50% of bosses are connecting to the workforce through a variety of social media tools including instant messaging.

However, there seems to be little consensus on what the best tools are and there’s a sense that employers are still feeling their way down a dark corridor. Only 30% to 40%, according to how you read the data, saw most of the tools as being highly effective while just 40% could say with confidence that it was cost effective.  However, these are still high enough percentages and suggest the trend is upward. It’s hard to believe that companies will be able to put the social media genie back in the bottle now that it’s out.

Kathryn Yates and Towers Watson explained:

As today’s workforce evolves, we know from our research that the growing number of remote workers are looking for clear communication, to be treated with integrity, and want coaching and support from afar. For employers to effectively engage and retain remote workers, they will need to connect them with their leaders, managers and colleagues. We think social media tools can be a real help in making this connection

Instant messaging and streaming video were seen as most effective by those who use those tools while out of the 53% that use social networks – only 29% could state that it was effective. Interestingly both leadership and employee blogs were used by half of those surveyed with about a third saying they made an impact.

Mentoring and board engagement – top weaknesses of CEOs

Directors of North American companies were asked by Stanford University to identify the top weaknesses of CEOs.  The two weaknesses that tied for top place were mentoring skills and board engagement. Some of those surveyed were CEOs themselves so there’s an element of self-criticism here. The primary concern that this raises is the ability or willingness of CEOs to nurture the talent that will follow them.

Thankfully for CEOs, these “non-financial” areas are not given huge weighting in the boardroom. They’re identified as being a minus for many CEOs – but not a big minus. Talent development and succession planning got only a 5% weighting and employee satisfaction chalked up a measly 2.5% weighting.

CEOs were rated high in decision making and low in people management. As for “listening” and “conflict management” – they barely registered a blip among the directors surveyed.  The same can be said for areas like customer service and innovation.  What counted above all else were the financial performance metrics with non-financial qualities hardly valued.

Professor David Larcker at Stanford warns companies that this could store up problems in the future:

Amid growing calls for integrating reporting and corporate social responsibility, companies are still behind the times when it comes to developing reliable and valid measures of nonfinancial performance metrics

To get full details of the report – click HERE

Unilever CEO Paul Polman on the way forward to eradicate global poverty

Governments need to create conditions in which businesses can flourish if poverty is to be rolled back – Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever wrote this week in an article you can read HERE.  We are fast approaching the 2015 deadline previously set by the United Nations to meet tough Millennium Development Goals. These included big social targets on hunger, water, health and education. Assuming that we’ll arrive in 2015 and find that there’s still a way to go, Polman advocates some new approaches – particularly around the role of the private sector.

So the new agenda must place a strong incentive on governments to create the right conditions for business to flourish. It must engage the private sector not just in setting but in delivering the agenda. Increased pressure on public sector finances makes it unwise to rely too much on overseas development assistance funding to tackle all the issues that matter within the time available.

He also calls for good governance and properly functioning institutions:

Ultimately, it is well-governed and accountable institutions which ensure peace and security, enforce the rule of law, deliver effective public administration and tax collection, guard against corruption and provide transparent markets. Without these, governments cannot serve their citizens, business will not have the confidence to invest, and conflict-affected and fragile states will have no chance of escaping the poverty trap.

Polman calls for a new global partnership for development that as 2015 sails past will succeed where other approaches singularly have not.