Jackie Cox Battles, New York Consumer Brand Practice Lead and North America Consumer Brand Practice Growth Lead at Weber Shandwick, explains the importance of earned media as more consumers feel disconnected from brands. Jackie describes valuable approaches she uses with clients such as “story doing” and more. Jackie also shares key data from the ‘Earned Effect Study’.
DOUG: Jackie, it’s always great to talk with you. And can you start out by explaining what earned first thinking is?
JACKIE: Yeah, of course. And first off, thank you so much for having me today. Doug, this is such a pleasure and I appreciate your time and having us sit down and talk about something that I’m super passionate about, which is earned first thinking. So, at Weber Shandwick, we believe what is most valued and most enduring isn’t simply given or bought, it’s earned. And when it comes to brands and corporations, that’s no different. So, when you think about the world today being complex and converged, media fragmented and there being overall apathy really earned value, in order to get that, you have to contribute value, right? So earned first thinking is just that. It’s earning value by contributing value.
DOUG: Yeah. And you’ve touched on this, but that seems to be extra important now in this current media and business environment.
JACKIE: Yeah, it really is. So, let’s, we’re going to get real for a minute, Doug. So, you probably woke up this morning thinking about brands. I did, too. Shocker. That’s what we’re getting paid to do. But the reality is that most people are not, they’re not wondering what their favorite brand is up to. Right? And there are countless studies out there that actually show that the Harvard Business Review in 2022 actually claimed that 77% of consumers have absolutely no relationship with brands. So that means we’ve got a lot of work to do. Um, and culture is also being really shaped and converged with society and policy, media and technology and our clients really, they no longer have the option of picking a lane. Everything’s coming together and it’s really hard to tell different parts apart. Our global creative officer, Tom Beckman, says, we used to listen to our politicians and laugh at our comedians, and now we do the exact opposite.
DOUG: That’s a great quote.
JACKIE: It is a good one, isn’t it? Tom’s full of them. He’s pretty amazing. Here’s another stat for you. Um, and I’m a visual learner, so I’ll give you an image. The average person scrolls through about 300ft of content a day. So that’s two Statue of Liberty’s or one Big Ben. So, every day we are scrolling through Big Ben, and that’s just the Big Ben that we want to be scrolling through. That doesn’t count all of the other content that we’ve blocked out. That is really important to understand because people are opting out of being tracked. They’re opting out of being marketed to. They’re getting really smart about filtering their content and, you know, paid targeting based on media personalities is just not as effective on its own. You really, you can’t do it alone.
DOUG: Yeah. And that’s logical as we’ve even seen, you know, the dramatic growth of about 70 to 80% in our satellite media tour business over the last four years with stations telling us that they want to actually hear from the people who work at the organizations, not the third-party experts. So, bring value is so important. So, what’s the solution? What do we need to be doing and thinking about?
JACKIE: Well, this is really where earn comes into play. I mean, there’s really only one way to connect in an environment like this one, and that’s earned. And of course, you’re going to say, well, Jackie, you work at a PR agency and you’re a PR person, of course that’s what you’re going to say. But we actually did some research in partnership with the IPA. We actually examined a decade worth of hundreds of award-winning cases and created two research groups, one that was around work that was designed to earn conversation and the other, what we were calling culturally salient, and the other was work that was designed not to do that. And spoiler alert, the work that was designed to earn conversation outperformed and we’re not talking about outperformed a little bit, Doug. We’re talking about 50% more likely to drive larger business effects and almost, you know, half as more likely to drive larger profit growth. So that’s pretty staggering.
DOUG: Yeah, it’s huge. And we’re actually anecdotally seeing that in some of the media towards satellite tours portion of our business where you can tell like the better conceived piece, we have sometimes, I was just sharing this with the client, where stations let the segments go longer was because the content was of interest, and they felt it was important to their viewers. So, you really do have to be bringing that earned mindset. And along with having that earned mindset that people want to engage with, communicate, adds value. Is that the key to getting the attention of consumers when there’s so much competition?
JACKIE: I think what you just said anecdotally is so true because what you’re doing is essentially what we’re talking about here, which is earning value. You have to contribute value and that means brands have to participate, they have to do something, they have to add value to culture or to their audiences or to conversation or to society, you know, or to an overall experience. Right? That’s really what this is all about. And value can mean a lot of different things and can come in a lot of different forms. It could be like a sense of street cred. It could be talk value, it could be social impact, right? It could be big or small. It could be super earnest or like really lighthearted and just like give someone, you know, a good break or a laugh during the day. But it must be real. And that is like that is the big kind of underline. It has to be. It has to be real, true, and authentic.
DOUG: Yeah. And you mentioned the authenticity word that we just found out, you know, from recent surveys, that’s created a swing where TV producers actually are more inclined to want to interview someone with a brand with a nonprofit than a third-party expert. What you also related to is important because it seems like we need to be going beyond just telling stories.
JACKIE: Yeah, I’m so glad you said that. We really believe that there is a shift from storytelling, which is, in other words, like a one-way dissemination of a message to an audience, right to what we’re calling at Weber, Story Doing. And that’s very intentional because that’s Story Doing is a participation in culture, right? It’s a commitment to action and to impacting the communities that we’re looking to reach.
DOUG: Yeah. So is the story doing creating sort of a two-way exchange between brands and consumers and maybe some tips on how to do that the best way.
JACKIE: We call it here a move, right? How to make a move. And really that’s doing something that matters to those who matter to you, right? So, making a move, whether it’s for your consumers, whether it’s your employees, whether it’s your shareholders or your communities. And there’s a lot of different ways that you can identify the right moves to make. But it really starts with that mindset and really understanding the importance of adding value to own value.
DOUG: And that has to tie in with how your team is counseling clients to help them engage in this type of communication program. What are some of the ways you’re doing that? Because I would think each organization brings different challenges to the table. Is it a one size fits all or do you have some specific ways that you try and approach it to help the client figure out the best way to proceed?
JACKIE: Yeah, Doug, that’s a great question. So, I think it’s done differently, right? But it really, it’s, it’s about making it into briefs. It’s about workshopping together as agency client teams. We also have products, we have algorithms and AI models that help our clients really, you know, identify what their move is in culture, but also doing that with precision. So, there’s a few different ways to get a bite at the apple. But yes, all kind of customizable based on the overall goal and the community that we’re looking to reach.
DOUG: The fact that there’s some economic uncertainty out there about where the economy is going is that making this sort of earned first mentality even more important.
JACKIE: Yeah, that’s great that you asked that because we actually found in our earned effect study that during times of economic instability, the first that culturally salient work actually performed even better. So, this is really a model that’s built for the time that we’re in in now, and that’s proven to work great.
DOUG: Well, you’ve clearly earned the attention of the audience with the things you’ve had to say in this piece. Any final thoughts that you want to bring to their attention? Just lean into emphasizing more.
JACKIE: The final thought is just really about looking at consumers, as you know, as that relationship about, you know, adding value means you have to contribute value that two-way street. And if that’s the only thing you take away from this conversation, that that will mean this time has been spent well.
DOUG: That’s really great. Really enjoyed talking with you, as always do. Thanks so much for your time and wisdom.
JACKIE: Thanks for having me. Doug. This was such a pleasure.