Selecting Media Venues

When you are considering media outlets to deploy a story, there are so many choices. How do you know which digital and traditional media venues are the right ones, and how do you prioritize them? The following is a short primer providing a method to select media venues to distribute content in an outreach campaign or a larger initiative. It is based off a presentation I gave last week at the International PRSA Conference.

First, let’s assume you have a message, and that your customers or intended audience will actually care about it. Let’s say the media is unlikely to pick up the story or concept, at least until the market validates it. So your organization elects to use its own content to communicate the concept with customers.

You need to determine your primary distribution point. It’s critical to have a focus. Too many people make the mistake of using every media possible to publish a major piece of content.

Every group of customers have a primary venue or medium they prefer to receive content. Hopefully, your customer data is deep enough to help easily determine your customers’ primary media channels. Using analytics, you can identify those channels and determine what type of content will work.

Your website is unlikely to be that choice, particularly if you are not an actual media company (Red Bull aside). Instead, your website is home base and it should include owned content, but it is unlikely to be the primary communications point that your customers frequent.

Let’s consider Star as an example. extends an incredible media universe, as you can see from the many options on their site.

However, we know that movies are the primary Star Wars vehicle. Every other media property dovetails back to the movies, and the movies drive interest in the other media properties. No other Star Wars media property is viewed by as many people as the movies are.

Dovetailing Back to the Primary Asset


Some people choose to post their media across different properties. But more and more brands are looking to differentiate content across media channels by extending their story. They use secondary media choices to amplify and extend the experience. This is called transmedia storytelling in academic circles.

Consider the above chart and how Star Wars uses its many secondary outlets to continue the story. The Star Wars franchise supports itself between movies with unique stories that offer its most enthusiastic customers an extended experience. Each piece can stand alone, but in the end the work around the narrative proposed in the movies.

Disney manages the Star Wars narrative closely so there are no conflicts. In fact, Leland Chee, the Keeper of the Holocron, is an employee whose sole job is to maintain story integrity.

Disney invests in the media platforms that are most likely to be used. You can see the website promotes all of these properties.

In areas that are not as well viewed or consumed, Disney allows third parties like Lego and publishers/novel writers to license the brand, and extend it. While not directly promoted on the Star Wars home page, these properties are also managed by Leland Chee and fit in the master narrative.

This is distributed storytelling at its finest, creating a cascading effect across a wide variety of media.

Applied to Corporate Content

Brian Solis Keynote

The same principles used by Star Wars franchise can be applied to any serious content initiative. Of course, none of them will have the budget of Star Wars, but even a small campaign can make use of transmedia channel selection methods.

Consider the recent Vocus (now Cision) Brian Solis/Gapingvoid eBook my company helped produce and promote. What If PR Stood for People and Relationships was distributed on SlideShare as the primary medium.

Secondary choices included select social networks, a live event at Google HQ that extended the SlideShare presentation, blogs that extended the book’s logic, and native ads. These were the channels that Cision/Vocus customers usually interact on. Each of these content choices featured different takes on the book, from analysis and live commentary to quotes.


Tertiary choices included a fantastic Canva user -enerated contest that had more than 60 entries. I had my doubts about this, but Cision Community Manager Adrienne Sheares stuck to her guns, and this turned out to be a very good content extension. I included this and influencer blogs as tertiary as they were content pieces that were beyond our control.

Tertiary media choices are tough. You don’t know what you will get, but investing them is important. Many times they can take an effort to a new level. At the same time, if unsuccessful tertiary efforts can just burn resources. I like to use tertiary choices as acknowledged risks and to experiment, as Cision/Vocus did with its successful Canva effort.

It’s important to experiment. You learn what your true brand advocates enjoy. Test new media and see how they can benefit your relationships and overall storytelling capabilities.

How do you approach media selection?

You may also like “Transmedia Writing” and “Transmedia: Multichannel Storytelling Transcends Platforms.”

Getting Lost In Tech Again

Tenacity5 Media’s client Vocus and Cision released a new eBook, “What If PR Stood for People and Relationships” authored by Brian Solis and GapingVoid. The primary gist is to stop getting lost in technology, or suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome.

Shiny Object Syndrome has been an issue ever since blogs and social networks took over the Internet. Today, you can see it manifest itself in the way marketers and communicators talk about data, social tools, and mobile technology.

Let us consider data. More than ever before we see how our actions inspire people to act. Data is fantastic, and it can inform our every step. Yet, when we let the outcomes manifested as precision results drive every action, our outreach can become lifeless.

Just look at the current iterations of ad retargeting. Marketers realize people have visited us and if we offer them something worthwhile or a coupon, x % will become customers. We engage in campaigns to yield this percentage, and in doing so we sacrifice good will with a much greater population of potential customers, because they are annoyed with cheap ads and tricks.

As Brian says in the book, we need to make relationships the guiding principle in our communications, no matter how powerful the technology may be. In the case of ad retargeting, offering additional quality content with real value for a limited period of time after a visit (like three days) would be a significant change in approach. Data is great if it is used wisely.

I hope you will check out the book. It’s a fantastic read with great illustrations. The Tenacity5 team was thrilled to have worked on the project, and hope it makes a great impact on the PR business.

Liveblogging the FTC Workshop on Native Advertising

12:29 p.m. Sound Bites from Panel 1 on Sponsored Content in Digital Publications

This is the last update for me from the Blurred Lines workshop on native advertising. You can follow others’ updates using the #nativeads hashtag on Twitter.

Publishers cannot tell readers what to tweet, so disclosure can get lost. To resolve that Mashable focuses on disclosure on its site, said Adam Ostrow. Sharing is an activity that they don’t have control over. Hearst’s Todd Haskell argued that the publisher does have control over the default tweet. Th Huffington Post’s Tessa Gould concurred.

P&G has an internal guideline set approved by legal for native advertising and sponsored content. Every touch is reviewed by legal. If [the native advertising] is not transparent and clear to the customer, the ROI will be low and we won’t invest in it.

The publishers (and their marketing partners) with the best most trustowrthy language on disclosure will have a competitive advantage, said Steve Rubel.

Outbrain needs to work with a multitude of publishers, and has to customize its offering and disclosure of advertisements for each publishers’ unique needs. Adiant is less customized, using a basic code (which can be somewhat customized). Some publishers are more flexible than others, says Adiant. The default setting for Adiant says advertisement AND sponsored content.

Transaprency dialogue highlighted a wide range of terms used to disclose advertisers; sponsors, partners, presenters, etc. There is no standard for presentation of advertising. Hearst’s Haskell said with thousands of publishers, they each should have flexibility to do what’s right for them. The Huffington Post’s Gould agreed. Needs differ by property; e.g. news, lifestyle or a content sharing widget.

Edelman built an ethical framework for their account executies to ask the right questions of publications and technology companies.

The Huffington Post sees transparency as a given. Reader feedback and engagement is a form of feedback that drives the Huffington Post’s approach to the offering.

Edelman believes trust and transparency are inherently tied together. Companies, publishers/journalists and the audience have a complex triangulated relationship. The U.S. population is the one party of the three that doesn’t get asked or have a voice in the native advertising conversation, offered Edelman’s Steve Rubel.

Hearst’s readers have been very epressive about love and hate, said Todd Haskell. Ultimately readers vote with their eyeballs.

11:53 a.m. Sound Bites from Panel 1 on Sponsored Content in Digital Publications

Outbrain believes that click-throughs are based on content consumption. The difference between the landing page that is a solicitation versus content is the critical point. Native ads must feature content.

Adiant CEO Ash Nashed said disclosure is absolutely critical. If content is not stated as advertisements, click-throughs will be higher, but it hurts on the back end, and creates a much more difficult situation.

If transparency isn’t done right, you lose trust, and you’ll hurt your brand long term (P&G’s Laird). You want to link your brand to the content, and you want that brand present in everyway that it is shared across the network.

It’s incumbent on the publisher to exercise discretion in judgment for content partners (Hearst’s Haskell).

Mashable sees more engagement on branded content long-term than news content. It’s evergreen, and more enjoyable, than news. Paid content gets shared as much as traditional content.

Native advertising offers greater eyeballs, which is a huge opportunity for the Huffington Post. Plus sponsored content allows you to target and track by reader with a much more customized offering. Finally, it offers a more real time opportunity for brands.

Hearst sees native advertising as a great scaling mechanism. With an ecosystem of 20 sites, we can now cross promote and scale on a much greater level than before hand. Working with third parties, such as Outbrain, we can bring in partners from outside of our ecosystem. Readers can share and extend the ecosystem, too.

11:37 a.m. Marketers from Panel 1 on Sponsored Content in Digital Publications

Steve Rubel spoke for Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm. Edelman sees the blending of owned content and advertising — native ads — as a hybrid or traditional media company offering that they can deploy as part of a PR campaign. They call it paid amplification. In no way should native ads replace earned media, but the two can sit well together.

Procter & Gamble was represented by Chris Laird. They insist on branding their paid content. Branding is the raison d’etre for P&G to buy online media. In many respects, native advertising is much more shareable than traditional ads, said Laird. Secret, Pantene and Tide were featured brands highlighted by Laird.

11:22 a.m. Media from Panel 1 on Sponsored Content in Digital Publications

Todd Haskell represented legacy publishers via Hearst Corporation. Hearst brands believe trust is first with publications. They ground their offerings on reader trust first. Anything that violates trust is not considered. Harper’s Bazaar did a campaign with Ugg and Nordstroms showing a “sponsored by Ugg” series of articles and Pinterest boards. The sponsored by was presented first before content. When native advertising is done well, it’s good for everyone. It shouldn’t suck, said Haskell.

Teresa Gould spoke on behalf of the Huffington Post. The Huffington Post has several media properties it offers to advertisers, including journalist created content, and are clearly distinguished as sponsored ads using a colored pill bos that says “Presented by”. The Huffington Post notes sponsored content in Tweets using the @huffpostpartner handle.

Adam Ostrow represented Mashable on their branded content offering, Native Advertising has always been a part of the site. They often create specialized content columns for advertisers, which are sponsored by the brand (AMEX, Qualcomm, etc.). Mashable uses several text boxes and ads highighting sponsorship. The series are five articles or larger. Mobile content and native ads are clearly distinguished as sponsored before other text begins.

10:58 a.m.

Nicholas Lemann, professor of journalism, Columbia University, spoke next on the history of advertising and journalism. Advertising has always been considered a corrupting factor in journalism, dating back to the 19th century. It should be understood that payment secures the ad and nothing more, said early critics.

Both the advertising and media industries tried to self-regulate at first. However, it was not enough.

There have been many names to separate the two, church and state, chinese walls. Traditionally in news organizations, these separations were considered absolute, partly out of vanity and partly from self-interest and the need to build trust.

In recent years, Columbia changed its rules. Today journalists need to know about advertising, including shield laws and government media policy. News organizations have seen alarming declines in advertising, devaluing the mastheads. This has compromised the legacy news organization. Consider that the Washington Post sold its building for almost as much as it sold its newspaper to Jeff Bezos.

Advertisers want to see real results. They want to buy niche segments, and social networks are offering highly targeted ads. News organizations and journalists are forced to remake their relationships with advertisers. These are evolutions mothered by necessity, said Lemann.

10:36 a.m.

The Commission came to a settlement with the first electric vacuum cleaner for false native advertising back in 1917, says Lesley Fair, staff attorney. The standard for FTC action is “unfair or deceptible acts or practices.” The FTC looks at the entire mosaic of the ad, which includes a visual evaluation to make sure the ad clearly looks like an ad.

The FTC looks for “masquerads,” ads that act like traditional media, from mail to online. This has spanned several decades, and most recently included the infomercial era.

When Congress passed the CAN-SPAM act, one of the primary concerns was false headers which deceptively tricked consumers with false senders and topics. This is a fineable offense.

Today, the FTC is going after false news sites that publish information about their products as news infomration, based on reporter testimonials. The FTC is clear on endorsement guidelines that material connections between an advertiser and endorser should always be disclosed. These were updated in 2009 by the Commission. The FTC prosecuted a PR firm for posting false reviews in the iTune Store in 2010 based on this update.

Lesley Fair highlighted the need for search engines to demonstrate that paid search results were clearly delineated. Letters were sent to search engines in 2002, and again in 2013 to reaffirm the rules, including niche and specialized search networks. Paid search ads must be easily distinguishable from a natural result. Thi is the starting point for our conversation today.

10:17 a.m.

FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez noted that “Native Adveritising” as a concept is not new, it’s just digital. But with the new media, consumers are having a hard time distinguishing genuine editorial content and social network updates from ads.

Native adveritising is becoming more popular because marketers are finding it more effective, and it lets them capitalize on the power of their mastheads. Critics argue that this exploits consumers trust in the media.

Native advertising has to be done lawfully. Engagement is an important goal, but it is equally important that advertising doesn’t mislead consumers, said Ramirez.


Posted at 7 a.m.

The FTC’s Workshop on native advertising “Blurred Lines: Advertising or Content” will be held today in Washington, DC. To help spread the conversation to a larger community, I will liveblog the sessions this morning via this blog post, and post shorter updates on Twitter.

The sessions begin at 10:00 a.m. EST. To get us started I have re-posted a native advertising ethics piece that ran on the Vocus blog a month ago. Cheers, and please add your thoughts on the ethics of native advertising in the comments section.

Native Advertising: Don’t Deceive – Disclose!

Last October at BlogWell Boston, Author and CEO of Andy Sernovitz gave a speech on ethics as they relate to social media marketing on the web. He focused on recent trends and developments, especially as they relate to native advertising.

As more and more brands come to rely on native advertising to overcome engagement shortfalls, we are seeing ethical transgressions with disclosure. According to Andy, this will create numerous issues because native advertising is often deceiving and not clearly stated as sponsored content. Here is an accounting of Andy’s session.

Any marketer can buy media. A social media marketer is supposed to work on getting people to retweet, like and share information. That revolves around trust, so people feel good about working with the brand.

The difference between honesty and sleazery? Disclosure, said Andy.

Disclosure is a federal law. In 1914, the FTC was empowered with a law that stated that advertisers cannot deceive consumers.

This year, New York State just prosecuted 19 companies at more than $350,000 in fines for failing to disclose sponsorship of online media.

To avoid trouble, companies should:

1. Disclose and be truthful in social media.
2. Monitor the conversation and correct misstatements.
3. Create policies and training.
4. Don’t pay for it!

These are magic words for employees: “I work for x, and this is my personal opinion.” This creates a culture of disclosure. People need to disclose who they are, were they paid, and if it is an honest opinion based on a real experience.

In 2013, the FTC published examples of brands faking engagement online, and issued a significant warning about disclosure. Just because you don’t know how to tweet in a disclosed fashion, it’s still illegal.

Customers are unhappy, and we should expect enforcement from FTC on a large scale. The FTC has warned brands that the agency or consultant cannot be held accountable; instead, the hiring company is responsible.

Native advertising needs to be disclosed from the very beginning. Many forms of native advertising are in violation of the FTC’s disclosure rules, and may cause problems later on, concluded Andy.

What do you think?

Image by Quinn Evans.

The Dog Bowl of Big Data

Big data continues to confound the average marketer. The issue surrounds comprehending the data that matters.

Marketers need to understand how to use the technology. Big data has no value unless you can mine information sets to achieve better business outcomes.

Which data sets make for richer relationships with prospects and customers? How will it impact business? What should a marketer look for?

Go back to key performance indicators (KPIs). One worthwhile KPI might be return customers. Let’s apply that to both a hypothetical B2C and a B2B scenario.

If you are a retailer, instead of examining the immense amount of data produced from web site and social interactions, intentionally predetermine what will matter to your company. One thing we know about social media is that People Love Pets! They post pet pics, talk about them incessantly, and like everyone else’s pet pics.
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9 Videos on the Digital Future

Happy April Fool’s Day! We now resume our regular programming…


Five weeks ago at xPotomac, nine speakers and one emcee delivered speeches and conversation starters that sparked 25-30 minutes of questions and answers each. The following nine videos are listed in the order of presentation.

Special thanks to my client Vocus for providing videography services. Vocus is hosting the Demand Success 2013 conference in Washington, DC this June 20-21. The event focuses on marketing best practices for converging media, and includes speakers like Arianna Huffington, Content Marketing Institute Founder Joe Pulizzi, digital journalism expert Jay Rosen, and many more. Check it out.

Please feel free to leave comments and feedback about the conference here. We’re listening!

xPotomac Introduced: BlogPotomac Legacy and Future Vision

DC’s very own Shana Glickfield (Beekeeper Group) provides the introduction to very first xPotomac. xPotomac is where the digital media future meets businesses. This groundbreaking conference features seven media technologies most likely to impact businesses and marketers in the immediate future.

This smaller intimate conference features limited attendance to ensure maximum learning and networking. Speakers will present in a tight setting with the stage centered in the round or in a horseshoe formation. Each session features a gladiator like format with 15 minutes dedicated to speaking and 30 minutes of question and answer from the audience.

Opening Keynote: Voice Search Changes the Game

The opening keynote at xPotomac was provided by Vanessa Fox. Given how much of the current web — social and content marketing included — revolves around search, voice search represents a game changer, especially given mobile use with Siri and Google Voice Search.
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How Social Empowers Journalists

Image by Denver University

Journalists Report on the Presidential Debate, by Denver University

Pew released its annual State of the New Media report highlighting a continued decline in all forms of journalism except online. Yet online reporting has come with an increase in journalists using social media.

My client Vocus issued its fourth State of the Media report last month, revealing a strong synergy between traditional and social media.

What was once viewed as an either or choice is now irrevocably intertwined as a powerful synergy of content and fan engagement. Traditional media outlets from newspapers and magazine to broadcast use social media to distribute news and engage their readers.

For example, a vast majority of reporters use social media to report and to promote. Over half of respondents use social media primarily for content promotion: linking to content online or previewing upcoming news reports and features. Forty three percent are using it for research alone, and 31 percent use it for both.

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