Maximizing Return on News™️
By Sean Cassidy, President
Very early in my career, a New York newspaper columnist pulled me aside at one of those long-gone, East Side watering holes frequented by tabloid journalists. He said: “Buddy, for the low, low price of a beer, I will give you the key to being great at your job.”
I took the deal.
A few sips into a Miller Lite he launched in: “The great PR person is 50 percent marketer and 50 percent editor. Obviously, your clients are paying you; so you need to have the acumen to understand their business and their business objectives. That’s marketing — and it’s not my problem. But making great PR happen means a guy like me eventually has to come into the picture. Since I spend my day chasing everyone from CEOs to cops around, I don’t care how many magic gumballs your client wants to sell to college graduates in Manhattan. You will only make me care by translating these magic gumballs into news, something my editors and — more importantly — my readers care about and will talk about. The payoff for your client is that…if you can make me care, what I write will probably make customers care.”
He swilled the beer, got up and looked me in the eye. “Fortunately for you, 90 percent of people in your business don’t think that way. They all think we’ll run a press release, they’ll call with easy stuff when one company buys another or try to feed us some kind of safe promotional narrative. We won’t run the promotional stuff and, nobody would really care about that kind of story anyway.”
This little conversation was the first in a series of lucky breaks I had early on in my career. The discussion shaped an ethos I have had ever since — an ethos Dan Klores, the founder of DKC has been unwavering on for decades. News — not simply storytelling, but creating news — around any marketing initiative makes that program exponentially more impactful.
News means excitement. News means urgency. News drives conversation. News prompts action. News means right now. In an environment where brands struggle to break through an increasingly fragmented and changing media landscape, the importance and impact of creating news has never been more important.
Storytelling — articulating the client’s narrative — is a big word in public relations these days. But it’s purely a fundamental — a table stake that is all too often served up in low to middle return social media-only campaigns. If you can’t tell your client’s story, this is the wrong business for you. The strategic imperative is making the story matter or, as the columnist said, making people care. That is where news comes in. News is the locomotive that pulls a brand’s story.
We have built our business on News…
Not long ago a wonderful global airline we represent wanted to force reconsideration of their inflight product. The passenger experience was great and they weren’t quite getting the credit they deserved. After several meetings with their marketing team, we recommended they create a temporary restaurant that only served the food and drinks the airline offered on its flights.
This sounded crazy at the time — not to mention risky. But given what people thought of the typical inflight culinary experience, we knew the irony of an airline being so proud of its menu they would serve it in a restaurant would make news.
It did make news — so much that our little restaurant had regular lines and even got reviewed. Not only did this draw positive third party validation of their new product offerings, stimulated conversation and forced reconsideration of the brand, but it was massively proliferated across social media, driving conversation and engagement online. Moreover, it addressed a massive strategic challenge: getting target customers, influencers and media to experience the airline during their lunch hours as opposed to making a trip to the airport.
We have made global news around being single in America by utilizing data from online dating platforms. We have helped international superstars change the conversation around their image through partnerships that made news in unexpected places. We created a partnership between a storied children’s brand and the United Nations in order to make the brand relevant to a new generation and raise its social currency through a multi-touchpoint platform around global citizenship and diversity. And the list goes on…
Over the last five years, DKC has exponentially expanded our client-facing offerings. We have launched an extraordinarily robust, proprietary data analytics platform, incorporating analytics and measurement into everything we do. While building our national footprint across six offices, we built new creative and experiential practices that specialize in everything from product design and the production of short and long-form digital content to global immersion events built solely around influencers.
At the center of everything we do across every one of these business is News. How can we ensure the product we are designing is not only going to appeal to the target customer but also make news, thus catching the interest of reporters, influencers and producers? Is that social program we are creating newsworthy enough to jump over to mainstream media, creating a coveted owned-earned media feedback loop where conversation on one platform drives another?
Mind you, this isn’t a plea for a throwback to typewriters, 4:00 pm deadlines and cigarettes. This is an extraordinarily sophisticated forward-looking operation that can build custom audiences and measure programmatic impact down to a person. My point is, contrary to what many believe, the role of news in today’s PR business is greater than it ever has been.
To illustrate this point, our analytics team looked at the impact of brand marketing campaigns using owned content pushed out to target audience cohorts via paid social vs paid news-driven earned content pushed to these same audiences. Across metrics such as length of engagement, social sharing and purchase, news-driven earned media — a story in a credible publication — significantly out-performed every time. This is not to say owned content isn’t important. We’ve invested heavily in building out our creative and digital teams for a reason. But I’ve also never been as bullish on our agency’s news-driven philosophy as I am today.
This week, DKC is rolling out a new corporate brand positioning: “Maximizing Return On News.” This is our first foray into branding in the 28-year history of the company. I believe it not only captures the single most important value a communications firm can provide — strategic communications rooted in the creation of news — but a North Star that has guided our company through nearly three decades of change and evolution.
This effort was led by Brett Shevack — founder of Brand Initiatives Group, a marketing and brand consultancy, and a friend of DKC for over 25 years — and was a result of a months long collaborative effort across the agency. This positioning defines our promise and our purpose, and reinforces our commitment to making News central to everything we do. We are persuaders, influencers and opinion makers, writers, content creators and experience producers. We remain laser focused on helping our clients achieve their business objectives by strategically shaping and impacting conversations across all forms of media. That is our DNA and makes us who we are.