The giant brands that once dominated the media landscape—Oprah, the New York Times, NPR, CNN—have seen their monopoly on public attention smashed by the Internet and now find themselves competing with individuals and brands in a sea of micromedia: websites, social media, blogs, podcasts, and more. Ace publicists and marketers Barbara Cave Henricks and Rusty Shelton show that to navigate through this modern terrain, you need to think more like a media executive than a marketer. The key lies in mastering three crucial categories of media—earned, owned, and rented—and knowing how to integrate each for maximum success. By using this proven strategy, you can create a positive feedback loop that will generate massive momentum and grow a large, loyal audience for your message.
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About the Author
Rusty Shelton, cofounder and chairman of Zilker Media, is an active keynote speaker, entrepreneur, and author of several books.
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Mastering the New Media Landscape
Embrace the Micromedia Mindset
By Barbara Cave Henricks, Rusty Shelton
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2016 Barbara Cave Henricks and Rusty Shelton
All rights reserved.
WELCOME TO THE AGE OF MICROMEDIA
DO YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES to master the new media landscape?
Few are aware that they do have what it takes, and, in truth, we didn't either until we embraced a new approach that took us out of our comfort zone and into a brand new approach — a micromedia mindset.
In the coming pages, we're going to explore how we arrived at this new media landscape and what we can learn from lessons of the past as we plan for a future media environment none of us can possibly predict.
What's ironic is that we're not that far removed from a PR environment that, against the backdrop of Periscope and Instagram, feels like the stone age of communications.
We entered our careers in public relations a couple of decades apart. Rusty's first job out of college was with a book publicity agency in Austin, Texas, while Barbara left her editor's desk at NBC Radio in Washington to join Workman Publishing in Manhattan. Although the years we began our careers were 2004 and 1989, respectively, when we crossed paths in 2009, we quickly decided that our viewpoints, skill sets, and even the age gap contributed to making us ideal collaborators. We both had a solid foundation in public relations, but Rusty, a digital native, brought social media expertise and a skill for helping others understand it, while Barbara brought years of New York publishing experience and a journalist's eye for shaping content suitable for both traditional media and micromedia. Since joining forces, we have teamed up on scores of projects, from working with leading brands like IBM, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and Campbell Soup Company to grow their audiences, to launching bestsellers like Strengths-Finder 2.0, The Confidence Code, and The One Thing. We can confidently report that rather than sticking to our core capabilities, we've each created a company of professional communicators who can work across disciplines in today's complex media world.
We began like thousands of other publicists charged with setting up events and getting lots of earned media for every author on our list. We were each handed what was then considered the industry bible, Bacon's Media Directories, a set of dark green encyclopedic directories that housed "up-to-date" listings of the media, organized in volumes — one for newspapers, one for magazines, and a third for broadcast outlets. Three categories. That was it. They arrived annually via standard U.S. postal delivery in a bulky package and were the center of heated exchanges between publicists, as we raced to copy pages needed for each project before relinquishing them to the next person in line. Updates? We used Wite-Out to change contact info when producers, editors, or hosts changed jobs.
It was clearly not just a different era but a different lifetime in almost every way possible for those with a story to tell (and the marketers who help them tell it). In short, everything about the way promotion and marketing are handled has changed.
There have been many causes for these changes, but the chief disruptor has been the Internet, followed by social media, which have made us much more connected to one another (at least in a technological sense) and less connected to media conglomerates that used to dominate the airwaves.
If we look back at the media world of even ten years ago, major media outlets could be described as boulders, encircling the public. These boulders made decisions to let in whatever information they deemed worthy of consumption; and if a book, product, or message wasn't covered by "traditional" media, it was very difficult for us, the general public, to hear about.
Word of mouth existed, but it took a lot longer to take hold because it happened in physical proximity — dinner parties, places of worship, and the like — instead of via social networks that transcend physical connections.
Then came the Internet, followed closely by social media, which took a collective sledgehammer to those boulders, spreading pebbles across the ground and leaving those major media outlets casting a much smaller shadow over the public. As those pebbles scattered, so did our attention, fragmenting the way we consume media.
Thanks to our newfound access to high-quality, niche information, many of us now prefer to pay attention to the more specialized pebbles, which, while small, give us exactly what we want, as opposed to the "traditional" or "legacy" media outlets that often aren't able to — because of less local coverage and an increased reliance on wire services due to shrunken newsrooms.
Stone age analogies aside, the pebbles are still scattering, and they are forming a brand-new media environment.
Welcome to the age of micromedia.
HOW CAN YOU SUCCEED IN THIS ENVIRONMENT?
Success in this new age is largely about embracing a micromedia mindset. If you are open to a new way of thinking about the media environment, you have made the first step toward participating in it. The influence economy has truly arrived, but the main problem is that most are approaching promotion as if boulders of big media and its gatekeepers still ruled the day.
The new media landscape has three types of media — earned media, rented media, and owned media — and you must effectively leverage all three to be successful.
Earned media used to be the only game in town when it came to telling a story or marketing a product. We define earned media as any exposure you get by earning your way onto someone else's platform or stage. This could range from an NPR interview to an op-ed in the New York Times to an interview on Dave Ramsey's EntreLeadership podcast to a tweet from Guy Kawasaki. To obtain earned media, you need permission from whoever owns that platform to give you access to their stage, so to speak. When they do so, it's powerful because not only are you reaching that audience, but you have the implied endorsement of that media outlet as well. The challenge with earned media is that it is extremely difficult to get. You must go through whoever controls the outlet, and you are at the mercy of their decision. Your fate rests in the hands of the gatekeepers who control access to earned media, and it is hard work to capture their attention and ultimately gain access to their stage.
Rented media emerged as a sizeable space with the growth of social media. We define it as a presence and content that you control but that lives on someone else's platform or stage. Rented media includes your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your LinkedIn profile, your Instagram feed, and so forth. We overloaded that sentence with italics because you don't ultimately "own" those channels — you're creating and posting content on a little sliver of real estate owned by someone else. At any time, Facebook can tweak their algorithm, Twitter can shut down your account, LinkedIn can change its rules, and access to your audience on that platform can change forever. This doesn't mean rented media isn't incredibly important — we'll talk plenty about why it is crucial to your success — but it means that to master the new media landscape you can't be content leaving your audience on someone else's real estate.
The final category of media is owned media. Understanding and growing owned media is, in our minds, the crux of embracing the micromedia mindset and the key to mastering the new media landscape. We define owned media as any channel where you fully own the connection to your audience, including your website (assuming it lives on a domain you own), your blog (again, assuming it lives on a domain you own) and your email list. Growing an audience that you own gives you leverage when you have a story to tell, a product to sell, or a message that the world needs to hear. It also gives you the ability to shine a spotlight on others who don't yet have a platform but could benefit your audience.
Put simply, owned media equals ongoing value in this new environment, but utilizing all three kinds of media is a must for a fully integrated strategy. As the figure below shows, each category organically feeds the other but the key to growing your owned media audience is making sure you create a magnet (a call to action) to intentionally and consistently push audiences from earned and rented to owned space.
Each of these three, collectively, add up to define your platform or personal brand. Like nearly everything else in today's world, your platform will be customized based on your goals, passions, message, and audience.
Are you thinking across each of these buckets?
To succeed, a different approach is needed from both marketers, who should be working with their clients to help them grow their own micromedia platform, and individuals, businesses, and other entities who must embrace the opportunity in front of them to grow an audience that they own the connection to.
Some of you will say, "We have already changed; we're building meaningful relationships with bloggers and getting excellent coverage. We have a Twitter account and a Facebook page, and we're getting more active."
Those are good first steps, but it's not enough. It's time to stop chasing access to other people's platforms and take center stage on your own platform.
THINK LIKE A MEDIA OUTLET
We want you to think of your digital platform as if it is your personal media brand — your newspaper. We judge a media outlet by the value of its content and pay attention to those that entertain and inform us. We increasingly put our social media connections through the same filter we use for media based on the options we have (block, unfollow, mute, etc.). We all have friends, family, and other connections that we gloss over when scrolling our Twitter stream or Facebook newsfeed because we don't value their content. We lose interest for an infinite number of reasons that range from constant promotion to an endless stream of baby pictures or political diatribes.
At the same time, we pay particular attention to certain individuals or brands because their content informs and entertains us. We get value from their updates, and, in exchange, we give them something that truly matters in today's environment: our attention.
In this age of micromedia, it doesn't take much for us to change the channel. Because we have more options, we expect more than ever from those we pay attention to. One bad post, one off-target tweet, or one too many promotions and attention wanes or, worse, disappears — often forever. The challenge before you in today's largely democratized space isn't getting attention — it's keeping it.
Think about what kind of newspaper you would value subscribing to. You almost certainly wouldn't subscribe to a newspaper filled with ads, selfies, or me-first content (okay, unless it was really funny or self-deprecating). You also likely wouldn't subscribe to a newspaper that is delivered without any consistency — once or twice a month just wouldn't cut it. We subscribe to newspapers that provide interesting and entertaining content on a consistent, predictable basis. Those that feature interviews, reviews, and other news we can use — the kind of information we can put into practice that day-today make our lives better. You are going to be judged by the same standard we apply to broader media.
FILL YOUR AUDITORIUM
If you are reading this book and want to grow your audience moving forward, it is time to take center stage.
As you get started growing your platform, imagine yourself taking the stage in a huge auditorium. Unless you are already famous or in some way well-known, you are going to be looking out from the stage at a very sparse crowd. Your initial audience will be gathered in the front couple of rows and will likely consist of friends and family there to support you as you launch your blog, podcast, or other content channel.
Before you say anything from the stage, it is important to remember that everything you do in this public arena will either help or hurt you in terms of growing the audience in your auditorium. In the digital environment, which is largely anonymous, people can get up and walk out as quickly as they came in, and they have zero qualms about doing so. If your blog doesn't cut it or you spend too much time "selling" from the stage, the only people left will be those who can't leave — good friends and family (and they're dozing off, rolling their eyes, or muting you).
On the other hand, if you are dynamic with your content and provide entertaining and informative information, you give your initial audience content they can share with their audiences (as micromedia outlets themselves, each of them have their own stage — even if they're just speaking to Facebook friends). When they share your blog post, they stand out in the hall with a big sign and point their audience into your auditorium.
Once their friends arrive, they will make a very quick decision on whether they want to sit down (by subscribing), stand in the back (just reading the post), or head on back out the door. Much of what they do will depend on a combination of the look and feel of the stage, which is the content on your website. Is it professional? Does it provide a clear overview of the value you will provide? Are you giving people a reason to sit down and subscribe via a quiz, free download, or other value proposition? Are you popular right now with the people sitting in the audience? Do they see a lot of commenting and sharing? The quality of the content you are providing from the stage of your website needs to engage, as most will want you to hook them quickly or they will be gone.
Although the audience is judging you on a number of things, they are also doing so very quickly. According to a study done by the Nielsen Norman Group, the longer you can keep someone in your auditorium (your website), the better chance you have that they will sit down:
It's clear from the figure below that the first 10 seconds of the page visit are critical for users' decision to stay or leave. The probability of leaving is very high during these first few seconds because users are extremely skeptical, having suffered countless poorly designed Web pages in the past. People know that most Web pages are useless, and they behave accordingly to avoid wasting more time than absolutely necessary on bad pages.
If the web page survives this first — extremely harsh — ten-second judgment, users will look around a bit. However, they're still highly likely to leave during the subsequent twenty seconds of their visit. Only after people have stayed on a page for about thirty seconds does the curve become relatively flat. People continue to leave every second, but at a much slower rate than during the first thirty seconds. So, if you can convince users to stay on your page for half a minute, there's a fair chance that they'll stay much longer — often two minutes or more, which is an eternity on the Web.
The question you need to ask yourself is this: "Am I giving someone a good, clear reason to stay on my website/blog?" If not, the doors to your auditorium are revolving — you may get a number of people in, but they aren't sticking around.
We'll be discussing ways to fix that problem so you can own the connection to your audience. We will also explore at length how to get people through the doors of your auditorium by building relationships with individual influencers and groups, and effectively using rented and earned media.
Although traditional or earned media, as we will be calling it, is changing, based on syndication, influence, and scarcity, we believe it is more powerful than ever in terms of getting a message out. So while we want you spending plenty of time in your auditorium creating content, interacting with others, and building an audience, we're also going to challenge you to devote more effort to acquire earned media coverage as well by getting on larger stages that you don't own.
Excerpted from Mastering the New Media Landscape by Barbara Cave Henricks, Rusty Shelton. Copyright © 2016 Barbara Cave Henricks and Rusty Shelton. Excerpted by permission of Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents1. Welcome to the Age of Micromedia
2. Technology Gives Rise to New Rules of Communication
3. Understanding the Opportunities in Micromedia
4. Earned, Rented, and OwnedBetter Together
5. Discoverability and the Future of Marketing
6. Online Brand Audit: Getting Your Owned Media Infrastructure in Shape
7. Blogs, Bylines, and Killer Content: What You Can Learn from Traditional Media
8. The Power of Rented Media
9. Getting the Most Out of Rented Media
10. Why Traditional, Earned Media Still Packs a Punch
11. Take the Stage: Launch a Speaking Career
12. Futureproof Your Media Strategy
About the Authors