Today, despite the proliferation of social media, many Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) in Singapore continue to focus their PR efforts on paid advertisements and earned media coverage in the form of stories or features.
While the latter's implicit credibility is notably valuable, it however brings with it the challenges of sustainability. Management's decision to neglect the use of owned media is, in my opinion, a grave mistake as its value far-surpasses that of both paid and earned. Allow me to explain...
Paid Media. Paid media is, as its name implies, paid for. Depending on the type of media and its circulation, paid media can be costly.
Also, even with total control over what is communicated in the advertisement, there is little guarantee that the reader will act on the ad.
In fact, some advertising agencies quote studies showing that it takes between 3 and 27 impressions before the reader takes action. Paid media is therefore expensive and beyond the reach of many SMEs.
Earned Media. Earned media, or free media, is defined as the favorable publicity gained through promotional efforts other than advertising usually gained through editorial influence.
While earned media can be extremely credible, its limitations are that the company has little control over what is said, and that such coverage is difficult to sustain overtime.
While the former may not be a major issue as long as it is favourable, to enable the latter, the company must continually come up with newsworthy stories. Even for the largest of conglomerates, keeping a steady stream of newsworthy stories is challenging to say the least.
Owned Media. The term owned media is relatively new and refers to the channels which companies control directly. Prior to the proliferation of social media, companies could not cost effectively own their own communications platforms.
Today, social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter enable companies to reach out and influence as many people as traditional mediums like newspapers and magazines. The benefit of owning the media is therefore huge.
Firstly, it is within the total control of the company. This in turn allows the company the ability to communicate what it wants, when it wants and however it wants.
Secondly, if the owned media grows in popularity and garners a large fan base, the company which owns the media can monetize it by selling advertising space to non-competing and complementary products and services.
This effectively turns a cost-center into revenue center which provide valuable cash flow to a SME.
So there you have it. The traditional limited focus of Singapore SMEs on paid and earned is longer wise in the new economy.
The high costs of advertisements, low control over editorial content and the inherent difficulty of continually generating newsworthy stories, makes owning your own media the best way forward.
To be fair, building up your own media does not occur overnight. It takes time, efforts and resources.
However, once the proverbial piper has been paid, the return on investment will be many folds. Ironically, while social media is here and now, making the most of it takes a strategic middle to long term perspective.
So forget about paid media and grovelling for editorial scraps. To be successful, Singapore SMEs must own your media.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Justin Fong is the Principal Consultant/ Trainer of CW Fong & Associates