As a marketer, if you weren’t already increasing your efforts and investment in digital, after the global events of the last year, you almost certainly have now. One of the great advantages of digital marketing, is that analytics and KPIs are so accessible and, in turn, calculating ROI on your marketing activities becomes almost trivial. For some, this will be the first time they have regularly and consistently tracked KPIs and measured ROI on their campaigns, but once you’re in that “data driven” mindset, thoughts quickly turn to other, more “traditional” marketing tactics where the “value” may be less tangible.
One such tactic is working with industry publications – which will also be the topic of an upcoming MLC event. Not that long ago, this typically meant placing a print advertisement in an issue of said publication but as publishers have adopted their own digital, or multi-platform strategies, this could now be anything from a sponsored “advertorial” to a targeted email campaign or even (wherever and whenever restrictions allow) a curated event. But whatever the activity, the question remains on ROI and what the added value is. That question was put to a handful of publishers, and here’s what they thought.
A recurring theme in all the responses was around trust and credibility and that, being independent, any views or opinions presented by the publication are without bias. It’s probably fair to say that even the most casual of reader would know when they’re reading an advertorial or sponsored article and be aware that such text is not entirely “neutral”. However, there is a strong argument that whether the content is “paid-for”, contributed editorial or Q&A, when contextualized alongside competitive positions or simply other industry topics, there is great potential for your message to make an impression.
Equally compelling is the assertion that, for the majority of publications, the audience will be far more engaged, having made a conscious decision to pick up that magazine or go to that website, than an audience targeted by digital marketing. Similarly, there’s the potential for an element of serendipity that could open up new audiences outside of a targeted campaign.
Depending on the publication and the nature of the partnership with that publication, the engagement may result in rude, but nonetheless necessary, awakening. Digital marketing can enable a “closed loop” in generating, evaluating and evolving messaging, but the best performing bullsh*t is still bullsh*t. Working with a publisher who is closely connected with a broader audience can provide that required “fresh set of eyes” and enable content marketers to step out of the “echo chamber” and filter out the company lingo.
There are other reasons why working with publications may bring additional value to your business – different platforms, expediting content creation or tapping into their knowledge and resource to target potential customers. Whatever the reason, there needs to be some measurement for success.
What KPIs are used are going to depend significantly on the goals of the campaign and platforms involved and those metrics are significantly more varied nowadays than the “global distribution” figures that were touted as benchmarks in the past.
That said, there are a surprising number of industry publications that only offer distribution as a metric though claimed distribution numbers are far more modest since one particular publication was quite brazenly and very publicly caught massively over-inflating theirs. At the same time, auditing distribution is costly and time consuming and many of those publications will openly admit that they have no desire to push that cost onto advertisers and as such their distribution has not been audited at all recently. They may also argue, not without merit, that too much importance is attributed to quantitative KPIs that don’t provide any indication of the “quality” of that engagement or the benefit in associating your brand with that of the publisher.
At the other end of the scale, many of the multi-platform (print, digital, event) publishers, will share as many KPIs and as much data as relevant privacy regulations, such as GDPR, allow them to. In a shift that echo’s other advertising markets, many publishers are working with their sponsors/advertisers to ensure that the desired KPI targets are achievable and in some cases run performance-based or guaranteed-result campaigns.
Looking to the future things looked equally split. Some publishers see little change going forward, the market being quite comfortable where it is and your typical “full page” ad still being an effective way to get brands in front of eyeballs. Others see much closer collaboration between the publishers and their clients, the need for creativity in creating “hybrid” proposals that cover multiple platforms and mediums., further growth in the value of native content and a continuing increase in the focus on KPIs.
What’s your experience? Do publications really add value over digital marketing tactics that connect you directly to your audience? How would you like to see engagements with publishers change in the future?
Join our next members-only Coffee Circle session on 15th April 2021 where we will be discussing “Working with Publications” and giving you the opportunity to hear from others and share your own thoughts.