Harness the power of news

Time of article published Dec 18, 2012

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Susanne Verdonk

Two top British marketers have challenged the current conventional wisdom which holds that online marketing or marketing via social media are best for transmitting marketing or brand marketing messages... they believe the most important media vehicles for transmitting their brand marketing messages are traditional media, and specifically television and newspapers.

Sir Richard Branson of the Virgin Group and Timo Lumme, Director of Marketing Services at the International Olympic Committee (IOC), both indicated that the use of social media is an essential tool for keeping in touch and interacting with existing clients (Virgin) or existing fans and supporters (IOC); and they acknowledge use of online advertising to be an important facet of a holistic marketing package. But they do not consider social media or online advertising to be a competitor to traditional media in terms of reach or credibility at this stage.

This view was also shared by the late Steve Jobs of Apple, who always ensured that as wide a pool of traditional media (TV and newspapers) representatives were invited to all of his product launches, and were the first to receive his press releases.

A recent industry survey conducted worldwide by the Nielsen Group seems to confirm these views, with the majority of people placing newspaper and television advertising far above online or social media advertising in terms of credibility.

Both Branson and Lume of the IOC said they regarded the art of obtaining brand exposure on television and in newspapers through editorial coverage as one of the most important and invaluable forms of marketing.

Although paid advertising in these media is good, there is no substitute for widespread genuine editorial coverage in the traditional media, which generates very high brand awareness at little to no cost to a company, which can mean funds available for brand and company development which would otherwise have been spent on advertising.

Branson has himself carried out daring, exciting or unusual events and while Jobs delivered slick, professional and well-organised product launches, they both make themselves the voice and face of their company.

To do so, a person must have absolute faith and confidence in his or her brand, product or service; not to forget the ability to personally and competently manage questions from the media at such events.

Proving the effectiveness of these principles in action, a definitive case study on the most successful marketing event to date shows how all of these principles were applied.

The Webtel.mobi Intercontinental Challenge, a marketing event by global telecoms company Webtel.mobi in 2009 achieved the widest broadcast and coverage of any event in history.

The Challenge could be followed on several thousand television stations in almost every country and language worldwide – much of it broadcast live for almost an hour by all the international news channels.

The Associated Press said that it was seen by up to half of the world’s population on the day of broadcast. The next day, articles that featured The Challenge were published in more than 20 000 international, national, regional and local newspapers. The value of the exposure ran into billions of dollars… for less than the cost of 30-second advertisements on channels like prime time US TV.

While Webtel.mobi live-streamed the event worldwide over the internet – and its Twitter site became the first ever to lead an international news broadcast (on Sky News worldwide) – the company used social media and the internet to drive viewers to the television broadcast.

So the principles that successful marketers focus on worldwide underline the use of traditional media as the primary vehicles for transmitting the brand message and keeping company costs low by organising an event or doing something extraordinary that will interest the international media.

The media and journalists are not easy partners to any business. To get them to cover an event, you first have to build up credibility with them.

Any event has to be newsworthy enough that a media outlet or journalist will want to cover it. The event needs to capture the imagination of the media and of their readers or viewers.

It needs to represent some form of change to make it to print or broadcast.

Finally, the event has to be very well planned and executed.

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