Over the past few years, a paradigm of thinking about media forms has surfaced, and a "magic formula" has evolved.
POEM = Paid + Owned + Earned Media.
Okay, maybe it's not so magic…and it isn't very much of a formula either. But it is an incredibly effective framework for how to visualize and plan your brand's marketing efforts to get the most out of what you put in.
And integration is key. Today, given the exponentially increasing complexity of media planning and buying, an unprecedented need for collaboration among traditional and digital experts demands insight on a fundamental strategic level. Where's the leverage in the POEM mix, and how do we know where to put our limited dollars to achieve maximum bang for the client's buck? Then, how do we connect each media form to its counterparts?
A quick overview of what each of these are and their relative strengths and weaknesses…
Paid media is your traffic driver. Its major strength is in providing some level of control over the message and timing: what you say, and where and when you say it, in order to get somebody to do something or go someplace. It's relatively easy to measure, evaluate and optimize. Its weakness is that it can be damn expensive, regardless of whether we're using traditional or digital media, to obtain meaningful reach and frequency. Creative is still big idea driven, though we now have less attention and more noise to break through. An effective Paid media program remains a function of the Paid media mix where selection and budget assignment among an increasingly expanding universe of outlets is quickly evolving into programmatic buying.
This is your house. Your playground. Your party. It might be your website, your voice within a social channel, or even your brick and mortar retail outlet (yes, you should absolutely be thinking about your physical locations as an owned communication channel) Once again, its strengths lie in total message control and timing, but the marketing costs in driving traffic to your Owned media can make an effective program an expensive proposition with SEO and SEM costs soaring. Also, keeping Owned media fresh is a time and productivity challenge. Whatever it is that you're going to do here, you've got to stay focused on creating an environment that people want to visit… repeatedly. You've got tell great stories and continually offer "stuff" to engage and interact with. And interaction is key as this is where you can convert consumers into evangelists.
Most of what you do with the Paid and Owned parts of your plan is so that consumers walk away from their brand experience feeling good about "meeting you." In fact, with Earned reach and frequency through social media, consumers have now become "re-marketers" of your brand. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, Pintrest, Vine, Google+ and millions of personal blogs represent an increasingly dizzying array of new outlets. A major strength of Earned media is that it appears to be inexpensive (though we do pay for PR time costs), but a weakness is that it is very risky in that we lose control of brand messaging. Your brand message is re-sent in text, in pictures, in links, in video, in badges, in content, in conversation without having to pay for each future impression of that message. Yes, they share within their circles of family and friends, but they also are now empowered to share with perfect strangers…anyone who'll listen. While there's been much talk regarding "fanification," what's often overlooked is the fact that, as we know from PR, negative experiences are shared 5-7 times more than positive ones.
Here's where some magic comes into play. Paid, Owned, and Earned have to work together. There's got to be a clear baton hand-off between them at strategically planned touch points so that you can tell the story that you brand wants to tell. By not accounting for one of the three in your plan you run a very high risk of not being able to get the most out of your campaign efforts. There's a clear missed opportunity if you've put a great deal of time and energy into creating and launching a paid media campaign to drive people to a thoroughly thought-thru owned online destination, only to find that you haven't setup an intuitive and tactical plan (contributors standing by) for how to capitalize on the social conversation that your efforts may have spurred. Even worse, you make a sizeable investment in the creation of your new website to facilitate ongoing social conversation by way of great content, but then you shirked on the media spend, including SEO/SEM, to drive people to your virtual oasis of engagement.
Another example: Some marketers, particularly luxury brands, eschew Earned media as their level of brand equity must be protected at all costs, and it wouldn't do to have imaging and messaging unleashed among the masses. In a case like this, where Paid and Owned media programs are paramount, something like a PR Preparedness plan is put into place to immediately nip errant social media streams in the bud. It's integrating a "what we don't want to see happen" component that guarantees the strategy.
Just as critical to any POEM formula is your brand's voice. Whether it be imagery, copy tone, or user experience design, consistency and familiarity are critical here. Baton passing doesn't occur between different voices…it's always you (your brand). You're guiding people through the different components of your brand's story. And consistency of voice is critical in keeping the user engaged, and becoming more familiar with your brand's tone and personality. You can't build frequency if the impressions aren't identical. You're already up against a multitude of varying perceptions and interpretations from your multi-faceted, multi-personality, multi-everything audience. What you can depend on is that you gave the user a familiar, honest, and intuitive path to follow in the engagement of your brand.
Throughout the planning process, take a step back and look at your brand's overall marketing strategy. If the P, the O, and the E aren't working in conjunction with each other - with a consistent brand voice across all communications - then it's not likely you're going to get as much out of your campaign as you hope to. Consumers have the freedom to move about the universe of information and communication as they please – to create their own consumer journey…not yours. The very best that you can do is provide them a clear path worth following. Making sure that the P, O, and E are ready to grab the baton from one another is your best bet in allowing the user an unfettered trip that they actually want to take.
The good news is that given the fact that media strategies today are more organic and evolve day-to-day rather than statically adhere to a plan engraved in stone, POEM tactics can be quickly adjusted. So, while the rapid changes in the media landscape have created many new challenges in media planning, these same changes provide opportunities for quick fixes if your POEM doesn't rhyme.
Aaron Dubois - VP Digital Production
This post originally appeared in iMedia Connection on 11/19/2013