The New Bias In Media Placement

These days your advertising works harder and harder at messaging an even mildly willing consumer. There are so many factors at work with the American consumer:

  • They don't believe anything you pitch
  • They don't want to be sold
  • Their loyalty lasts as long as the battery life
  • They desire credibility over longevity
  • They judge you by the company you keep

The last of these points is critical. "Media Bias" in journalism is defined as: "... the bias or perceived bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media in the selection of events and stories that are reported and how they are covered. The term "media bias" implies a pervasive or widespread bias contravening the standards of journalism, rather than the perspective of an individual journalist or article. The direction and degree of media bias in various countries is widely disputed."

The reason that this is important? Well, channels, networks and even advertisers within those syndicates are now perceived (if even mildly) to align themselves with their positions.

Think "FOX NEWS" ... for many the first thing that comes to mind is FOX News, the GOP and by extension their conservative political positions. And yet the FOX owns FS1 which draws popularity from extreme sports and shock-jock personalities.

Think "The Weather Channel" ... for many they think a channel that you click over to, to see if you're about to be killed by a tornado or find out if will rain on your trip to Cancun. That said it's also a consortium made up of The Blackstone Group, Bain Capital, and NBCUniversal and produces an array of original content and positioning types.

Think "Lifetime" ... for many husbands you think "oh no, another movie about a crappy fiancé that meets the perfect match who moves in on the same street!" But did you also know that this channel now owns the rights to the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL)? Therefore, if you're a marketing professional the same channel you may have thought of as a square peg in a round hole might be the perfect match given the alignment.

This is all part of your media mix and for those of you who manage this placement you realize matching the correct show(s) and timing to best match the interests of your consumer demographic and buying propensities. What you MIGHT NOT be taking into consideration is the perceived bias, media and or otherwise, that might hang around the neck of that channel. More and more people are simply cutting cable altogether. That mentality makes those that DO still have it even more discerning about the content that they watch. Therefore, if you're trying to sync up with that perfect fit for your consumer, ask yourself "would they skip this channel altogether based on the collective PERCIEVED bias of content?"

Many reading this will fight me that buying during Wheel of Fortune will close in on a boomer demo or ESPN on males from blah-to-blah age. I'm not saying that's horseshit. I'm saying that with an on-demand world, there's no reason to settle. Therefore, if you feel that your product or service might not be in lockstep with the PERCEPTION of a channel, perceptions such as:

  • Political positioning
  • Content ratings
  • Predominance of content/show style
  • Female vs. Male domination of content
  • Language propensity (Spanish, English and or European)
  • Race, Religion or Theology

Take all of these into consideration before making a hefty investment into a media segment. 

RECOMMENDATION:

Buy online within the network and channel. Seed your brand, product or messaging and see if you begin to move the needle. This way your media spend is exponentially fractionalized and provides a solid test bed for a television purchase. The last point, if you're using a media buyer/placement firm, insist that they take you through the schedule and connect the dots to your end consumer. If they can't, you need to cut the cord or make them go back to the drawing board.

"Punchy Content" - Fast, fresh and easy test!

If you don't have a huge marketing budget, one of the hardest things to do is determine where you need to place your money. When I taught advertising for the UCF's Nicholson School of Communications I would tell my students ...

"I don't care what you would do with a global brand and 50 million dollars. Show me what you can do with $5000 for a small local company no one's ever heard of. If you can't make compelling on the cheap — you're in trouble."

There's nothing in the rule book that doesn't say you can drop something into your campaign mix that unassociated with your broader marketing plan. I call these nuggets "punchy content", you didn't see them coming and they might just spark interest in a fading audience.

Try some quick video — give it a tagline, #hashtag or an alternative CTA (call to action). Make sure that you do a few; one a week for a month; see if it moves the needle for you. If you get no traction from it, it's ok too. You didn't spend much and you brought in something different to appeal, perhaps, to your audience or a new group.

Example — A sports entertainment network that I created called QueensCast. We need some new content about soccer but didn't want to rest on just talking about our local teams the Orlando Pride and the Orlando City SC. Therefore, we decide to take on gear reviews. Not only did we create a new venue for content, we also began a subset brand eco-system called "Geared Up."

Scoring Strong with Email Marketing

Email marketing is still viable. Social media consultants, gurus, and (even me included) have spent the past decade telling you it’s all about the social networks. And there continues to be a LOT of value in those channels. However, the truth is that through it all, I have never abandoned the email channel.

In an effort to explain this email I'm an avid fan of the Orlando City Soccer Club (MLS) and the Orlando Pride (NWSL); I'm also and insatiable fan of great marketing. Weird, I know. Therefore, when I saw opportunities for future marketing success I thought to share it with everyone, not simply the team's outline. That said, read the following email looking through the lens of how best to market to some of the greatest fans in the MLS and NWSL.

Here are some suggestions and best practices for successful email campaigns:

All content must be responsive:

  • Desktop
  • Tablet
  • Mobile
  • Wearable (tiny screen)

Create an email marketing SOP that aligns with your brand standard manuals for all scenarios. This manual will be a biblical introduction to the next point:

Modular template environments

Modular Template Environments – Type 1: Like any publication, you need to create an environment where different departments and calls to action (CTAs) can be represented, categorized, and moved based on need and action.

Modular Template Environments – Type 2: Ads are getting overlooked or confused with real content because sizes for each are the same. Therefore a user will skim an email and not know what’s an ad or an article. So you must change sizes and locations. Example: header, 50/50, 1/3, 1/4, panels, etc., assigning a character count or word count for each.

Modular Template Environments – Type 3: Sizing and layout options. This way, assets will be consistent when you’re collecting and assembling them from various vendors or departments.

Rewarding VIP Status

When creating a revised email programming campaign for SeaWorld, the first item on the list was a newsletter/email for “Pass Holders” and “Non-Pass Holders.” It’s essential for retention efforts that the park offers exclusivity to those with annual passes.

Here is how we could apply that philosophy Orlando City Soccer Club season ticket holder and fan emails. This action should be replicated for Orlando Pride as well.

Contextual emails: Invite users to update their email account to give them a more personalized experience. Right now you only talk about yourself and it plays thin and will eventually work to your detriment. 

Suggestions might be:

  • "Club & Country” – emails about OCSC/OP and all MLS
  • OCSC/OP – calendar alerts
  • “This day in Soccer” – random history and trivia
  • Player Spotlights
  • Soccer EDU – history, trivia etc.
  • Gear Head – product reviews that piggyback merchandise and e–commerce efforts
  • Social Roundup – fans not only love social media, they love to read what they might have missed from other fans. Create a BuzzFeed-like weekly email that highlights 12 great posts from around Central Florida. This is a great “social proof” area as well “70% of people that read the article on our last game agreed that the red card was understandable”

These emails should be designed (in color, voice, and contextual directive) and sub-branded uniquely to avoid confusion with other segmented emails.

Hearing your email subscribers is key confirmation and welcome messages are a must.

Length: With more email options you’ll be able to cut down on your copy. Your current footprint is trying to be all things to all people and it comes off as noise.

Deployment consistency: You need to drop an email on every “X” day. It’s fine if you want to run alternate days for special categories or quick alerts. Just don’t overdo it.

Custom iconography: Create a series of icons that can be subtended throughout all your emails to indicate sales, events, recent news, coming soon and alerts!

Add motion: GIFs and click–throughs to video are eye-catching and a way to repurpose your efforts with channels like Giphy.com.

There are NO ASCII links in your email: This is a HUGE red flag. More people will click on a hyperlinked word than they will an image.

Heat mapping: Run heat mapping on your best and worst emails and find out where/what people did or did not engage with.

Spam scoring: Run all email wording through a spam scoring algorithm. I prefer Apache Spam Assassin – this procedure will lessen the blow on some email servers that might blacklist your content due to trigger words or perceived illegal formatting.

Subject lines: Run “split testing” on outgoing emails to see what a small percentage of our lists will open the most. Once activated, deploy the highest-testing subject line to your audience for maximum results.

Test email launch variables:

  • Subject line
  • Copy amount
  • Image amount
  • Offer/CTA
  • Time of day of send
  • Placement of the CTA
  • Personalization variations
  • More ads, less ads etc.

Create age–specific content: If you intend on cleaning the list (going back and asking your audience to confirm receipt of emails and allow for further customization of content), this is a perfect time to profile your user in basic terms: age, race, family, and other bits of basic demographic granularity will allow you to serve up better content for their needs.

Add native advertising in your written content: Allow brands to pitch association to teams within content outside of events, and make the association within the content as well. “After the game, the club was treated to a BBQ dinner from [sponsor] followed by a night on the town at [sponsor].” etc.

More contests for fans: T-shirt designs, shout-outs, video programs, etc.

Add buttons: Your emails are currently only using the images as linking mechanisms. Keep it simple in for folks to connecting to additional content and offers.

Squeeze emails and quit to reengage: With inactive email accounts, send out a series of emails stating that you’ll be unsubscribing them giving that they’ve not opened their emails in “X” # of days/weeks/months. This allows you to clean your list, as well as “poke” inactive recipients into reconnecting or disconnecting.

Cheat sheets: Send more PDFs and infographics to facilitate deeper learning and understanding of the game and allow them further interest in team members. For instance, offer things such as a “game day” lineup and so on.

Feedback emails: Send a minimum of two emails per season asking fans what they want from their email. This email is an excellent way for them to simply reply or for you to link them to a survey.

Humanize your brands: In player spotlights for example, create content that connects fans in a personal way with causes or groups that players are passionate about. This galvanizes fans to subject matter that they will then positively associate with the teams.

Encourage activity: Create email content where you TELL fans what do. Step-by-step; FYI; DIY and tour-based content works well in this format.

Use social and cultural trends: Connect to current trends by using tools like https://www.google.com/trends/ leverage topical positions that incentivize participation in programs.

Thank you emails: Announce and reply to fans regarding successes and participation in events and programs.

Use the "Inverted Pyramid Method: It drives users to a CTA or actionable button.

 

Journalism Marketing (Part 2.): Church and State

I've crafted a career on persuasive messaging to tap into want, desire, fear, love, or any other points of note that hold importance to you. However, there have been very few instances that I've done it for companies that have puritanically lied, and in all cases, I don't think I knew it with any certainty.

I think the time is now; we need to separate journalism/content creation from marketing/native advertising. We need to construct the following:

  • Fact-check content through online browsers, tools, email and all mobile devices as part of the operating systems (a user can choose to manually turn off this feature).
  • All content must meet certain criteria for marketing articles, as well, articles that might not be considered as marketing.
  • All monitoring algorithms must be progressively optimized by both the content creator as well as the readership's ability to flag content for review from both the creator and an independent party must be progressively optimized by both the content creator as well as the readership's ability to flag content for review from both the creator and an independent party.
  • Content creators, bloggers, videographers, photographers and others must all meet various criteria in an effort to seek compensation from viewership or advertorial partners.
  • Ongoing tools, metrics, and transparencies of ALL content (streaming, hosted, archived or otherwise) that is deemed "public" will be required to index it in a fashion to inform users as to the nature of the content.
  • Lastly, the onus needs to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the social channels themselves. As we're ONLY NOW seeing with Facebook in a step towards minimizing this trend with the ability to "flag" content as false or misleading. Is it enough, probably not yet, but that remains to be seen.

A tall order? Yes. But so was the idea of the Internet 20 years ago.