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Powered by Data: Augmented Influence

By Erin Lanuti, Chief Influence Officer, MSL

Influence, the power to affect or change perception and behavior and what we have for 75 years called public relations has grown into a $15 billion dollar business. Today’s influence comes in many forms from journalists and consumers to analysts and experts to celebrities and activists, and it can be delivered across a dizzying array of ever-evolving channels. For all of its promise, the true potential of influence has yet to be realized due to several factors which have plagued its growth – scale, targeting and ROI measurement – for years.

Two years ago Publicis Groupe put a cross functional team together to find a solution that could overcome the barriers between the disciplines, allowing us to finally harness influence’s full potential to drive brand lift and sales. We learned that by borrowing practices from outside of PR, we could effectively address three core areas – data, distribution and impact – and, in fact, achieve our objectives.

Data – Getting it right

Big data today is such a cliché, everyone is talking about it and companies are spending a fortune trying to obtain it and work it. Sadly, most companies have not democratized their data enabling stakeholders to have access across all disciplines. This is a mistake as providing open access garners significantly better insights and actions. But even democratizing the data is a bit of ‘tablestakes’ as the most progressive marketers are developing/have developed unique IDs for their consumers tracking them across devices to better understand their habits and preferences. What this means for influence is that we will be able to identify our actual customers in a far more granular way. Specific media habits, what and when they watch TV and videos, where, when and what they post and what they buy, are just a few of the many things that we will see on a customer level. From here we can identify and segment our actual customers and build influencer maps to determine who the most relevant and engaging will be and across what desired channels and devices.

Whether we pay to secure an influencer to deliver this desired message or pitch and secure organic coverage from influencers or publishers, this data-driven approach ensures the content will have optimal impact.

Big data today is such a cliché, everyone is talking about it and companies are spending a fortune trying to obtain it and work it.

Scale & Targeting Influence

Once we possess relevant, engaging content we now need to work across the marketing eco-system to determine all of the places to utilize it and then build a plan to further scale and target it.

I don’t know about you, but I believe there is a bias in marketing that surrounds public relations and specifically influence. Many marketers believe we need influence and spend money on it, but don’t give it the funding or additional support it needs to reach its business-building potential. Perhaps it’s because the size of traditional PR budgets were always a small percentage of the advertising spend. Or perhaps, old traditions die hard, and marketers still want to utilize traditional approaches to deliver results.

But, our data proves that the game has changed and so has the opportunity. Harnessing influence should be treated like performance content and utilized in creative, owned and shopper channels. We also need to use data-driven media targeting to ensure precision accuracy in getting our message to the right person, at the right time, on the right device, whether this be through programmatic distribution or via other paid media approaches. Once the content is delivered, working in partnership with the paid media and creative teams, we need to ensure that our target customer has properly sequenced messaging. This sequencing needs to cut across all paid platforms as well as owned and shopper. In essence, by leveraging influence in this way, we are helping people we know are already in the consideration mindset for a product or service by providing them with credible and relevant 3rd party content to accelerate their purchase decision.

Influence is more engaging, effective and efficient. Why wouldn’t you include it across all channels?

In the past, we would identify influencers or publishers based on reach and target audience segments. We would then arrange limited amplification many times as one-off buys done via public relations to a target audience segment. Public relations of the future needs to utilize this new data-driven influence model to leverage influence’s impact in an end-to-end model. We need to move beyond simple one-off social or native amplification to an always-on eco-system-wide approach that utilizes big data and is not just connected but integrated into the overall media buy strategy. We now have a mountain of data to show that influence-driven creative yields better brand lift and sales and it delivers improved media efficiency. The bottom line: influence is more engaging, effective and efficient. Why wouldn’t you include it across all channels?

The answer is, it is hard to do. Even the most progressive marketers fall back to tried and true tactics in a system that is heavily driven by performance. Risk-taking, even calculated risk-taking is often frowned upon. To break this cycle, brands need data in their regions and categories to prove without a doubt this will work before investing. Even with the data, it requires a new way of working across paid, creative, data, digital, earned and shopper functions. This is compounded by agencies and their silos. We’ve seen that our partners who lean-in and break down the silos and allow influence to flow freely across their marketing elements are garnering significantly better engagement, brand lift and sales.

Impact and Implications

Impact can be looked at in two ways.

First, impact is about measurement. Through analytics and data metrics commonly used in other communications disciplines, we are now able to measure influence, especially its contributions to sales and brand lift in ways that PR professionals have rarely done.

Secondly, the results of our trials and tests around the world prove without a doubt how important this approach will be to the future of public relations. Data-driven influence is a more effective and efficient.

Earned content ads deliver on average +130%

Around the world, we’ve tested this approach with the world’s largest marketers and have seen:

  • Articles and influencer content consistently delivers 2x the brand lift of brand ads
  • Earned content ads deliver on average +130% more engagement at a double-digit cost per click reduction
  • Using influence on e-commerce platforms yields double digit sales increases as well as clicks

We also explored the science behind this commissioning a neuro-science study to understand:

  • how people engage with online content in real time, in terms of attention and emotion
  • how different types of online content affect people subconsciously
  • how our Conversation2Commerce platforms performs in delivering engagement and subconscious influence

The study examined banner ads, earned content ads, articles, brand videos and influencer videos and revealed that:

  • After browsing people chose to buy items associated with the brand ads 13% of the time compared 26% for a brand video, 70% for an influencer video and 45% for an article
  • People spent 2x the amount of time looking at earned content ads vs. brand ads
  • Our earned content ads were the ONLY content type that consistently improved brand lift for brands that were already liked and worked even better on brands that weren’t
  • Our Conversation2Commerce methodology increased purchase certainty by over 4x

The above data demonstrates beyond a doubt the power of influence to drive brand lift and sales. Even more importantly, it shows that this approach is highly scalable and can be scaled at a media efficiency vs. current approaches. You can see why we strongly believe that public relations in 2020 will be vastly different than it is today utilizing advanced data and measurement and take a position at the heart of the marketing mix.

This article is a part of “PR 2020 The Dawn of the Augmented Influence” published by MSL’s People’s Insights team that covers the latest trends in engagement on both the consumer and corporate side.

With over 20 years’ experience developing and executing integrated campaigns, Erin works across all industry verticals and channels. She is currently managing MSL’s new and revolutionary tool, Conversation to Commerce (C2C), jointly developed with Publicis under the supervision of Arthur Sadoun.

@ErinLanutierin.lanuti@publicisc2c.com

Write to us to start a conversation on how we can help you distill actionable insights and foresights from conversations and communities.

For more information contact Pascal Beucler, SVP & Chief Strategy Officer, Global, MSL and Melanie Joe, Consultant – Research & Insights, MSL