18 Mar 2014

Understanding The Media Cycle for Your Industry

One critical mistake that brands make when it comes to considering the public relations media cycle is many companies don’t begin soon enough. Many believe that advertising and PR function similarly, that you simply turn on the machine, stories happen, and new audiences flock to your door. That perception is incorrect, because the way we consume earned media differs dramatically from how advertisements intentionally disrupt our attention.

In 2011, Google released a paper titled Winning the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) in which they discuss the moment when shoppers realize they have a need and begin to research what they should/want to buy. The impressions on the shopper of their brand choice come in this stage of the buying process – impressions accumulated from earned media sources such as online reviews, articles, news, word of mouth, and organic search.

For example, about 6 months ago, I knew I’d be in the market for a new commuting/travel bag that had to be precisely made with the perfect pockets. The moment I opened my browser window and began my search was my personal ZMOT. However, I didn’t buy at that moment. I did a lot of searches before I finally bought a bag this month.

Let’s take the tech ZMOT research as an example of how this timeline plays out in the tech industry. Google asked 500 shoppers who were the primary and/or shared decision makers who purchased a personal technology item in past 2 months when they first started their research around a new purchase. Examples of technology provided included a computer, laptop, DVD player, Blu-Ray player, digital camera, mobile phone, iPad, TV, video camera, etc.

tech ZMOT

Above, we see that people are influenced by what they find out about potential purchases as far out as 2-3 months before (the bright orange and red areas) with additional influences a few days before. Think about what this means for your media cycle, for your public relations efforts. You have to be in the news, earning media, months in advance of when a consumer is likely to make a purchase.

This isn’t just an imaginative theory. You can see ZMOT in action in your own web analytics data. Let’s consider the purchasing/sales timeframe for one of our consumer tech clients. When we take a look in Google Analytics at the Assisted Conversion Path and the Days Before Conversion data, we get a picture like this:

Assisted Conversions - Days Before Conversion

Note that just prior to 80 days out is when the first searches start happening for this company’s products. People are interested – they want to know more about the technology. They’re visiting to check things out and begin to perform activities that will assist in converting them to paying customers. We see a steady flow of conversions closer and closer to the day of purchase. If you add up the people whose first impression is more than 14 days out, it eclipses the last minute buyers. In this case, public relations and earned media help the brand to be present in the consumer’s mind before the conversion process starts, as far as 80-90 days out.

PR is a longer game than most companies anticipate. Earned media matters much earlier in the consumer’s mind than most assume, whether we’re talking about B2C consumer goods or B2B products and services. Take a look at your own conversion data inside of your chosen analytics program to understand how far out your media cycle and public relations efforts must begin. Use it to consider what you should be doing to reach your audience before they’re willing to invest money in your product. If you’re about to launch a product or service, consider that earned media efforts need to be working for you long in advance of the launch date, and engage your PR team or PR agency as soon as you possibly can.

Chel Wolverton
Account Manager, Marketing Technology

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6 comments
foremski
foremski

Great points. It also highlights the problem that media companies face in that they are essential to purchase decisions yet they last to get the credit. It's usually the last site, such as price comparison sites that get the affiliate credit and the commission. 

CarriBugbee
CarriBugbee

This is one of the best posts I've read in a very long time about how PR works. I've worked in PR for 20+ years and it seems that most startups (and many larger companies) think PR is something you just "turn on" about a week before a product launch. I'll be sharing this far and wide. 

chelpixie
chelpixie moderator

@foremski  Agreed, there's a lot that happens between that first search and that final sale that a lot of companies don't consider before they get ready to launch a new product. You have to give the audience building time to actually engage interest before you shove sales down their throat.


The good news is that analytics tools are getting better at looking at those assisted conversions via different channels to show the effects of everything together.

Latest blog post: Looking Back, Looking Foward

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@CarriBugbee  This is something that drives me absolutely insane. And, no matter how much you educate clients and show them how long it takes from other campaigns, they still expect it to work overnight. I don't know if it's the seemingly overnight success of some startups or where they learn this, but you have to start a good six months - if not longer - in advance.

chelpixie
chelpixie moderator

@CarriBugbee  Why thank you, Carri! We run into this POV often as well, but I'm hopeful the more we can educate why it's important to start early the better this will become. There'll always be those who want results yesterday, but baby steps.

Latest blog post: Looking Back, Looking Foward

chelpixie
chelpixie moderator

@ginidietrich @CarriBugbee  I'd venture to guess given the news cycle that it's growing impatience and the expectation of instant gratification. The internet has changed that in ways I very much dislike.