Contribution by Dr Ralf Leinemann

Ralf spent about 18 years with Hewlett-Packard before joining Matchcode in 2007. He has published 11 books on marketing and communication related topics such as media relations measurement, industry analyst relations and social media marketing. They were translated into several languages including English, German, Russian, Chinese and others. Ralf has recently focused on business development maximizing the impact of channel marketing.

It is now ten years ago that I published my first book. Inspired by my profession in marketing and communications, I discussed “the value of PR to your company’s success” with a focus on media relations measurement*.

Maybe triggered by the anniversary this year, the thought crossed my mind several times recently, what I would change if I wrote it today. Is the content I focused on a decade ago still relevant or has marketing changed so much that it can be considered outdated?

Looking backwards, it is obvious that a lot has changed in marketing and the various marketing mix elements like PR. Just like so many professions, marketing has been affected by technological advances. Industry trends such as business optimization, specialization, globalization, and the emergence of digital marketing have left significant impacts on marketing.

In addition, several new “fashions” in marketing sprang up from time to time – and they disappeared again as quickly as they popped up. Second Life is just one example. Companies who invested into marketing in Second Life will probably never see a return on their investment.

But, we also observed developments that prevailed – and ultimately changed the industry. For example, the entire media landscape has changed. PR departments had to adapt to the fact that the influence of new online media has become as important as traditional media – or even surpassed them. Bloggers, who were unknown some ten or so years ago, are more influential than university professors, market researchers or industry analysts. The border between professional journalism and blogging enthusiasts is blurred. As a result, media evaluation had to adapt. Old-fashioned media analysis based on press clippings from the print media does not provide a true picture anymore of what is going on. The evaluation of online media and of social media in particular became mandatory quite some time ago already.

Social media continue to have a significant impact on marketing and communication. Their existence require companies to re-think their communication strategies and their communication guidelines to their employees.

Digital marketing has created new opportunities. Marketing professionals with new skills are in demand. In the past, marketeers had to be able to bridge the gap to sales. Today, they need to have a reasonable business AND technical understanding to optimize the use of digital marketing techniques.

Optimization has become a significant driver for many changes in marketing. New digital marketing techniques not only allow us to communicate in different ways, but also help to improve marketing measurement and ROI calculations. In other words, we get closer to answering Henry Ford’s question he articulated quite some time ago already: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Well, we may still not have the final answer, but we are getting close – and not just for advertising, but for marketing overall.

Indeed, many things have changed in marketing. What is often overlooked, though, is the fact that the reason for marketing continues to be the same as ten or even a hundred years ago: We want to communicate the value of a product, service or brand to customers to create awareness, generate demand and ultimately stimulate sales. Thus, digital marketing certainly requires us to introduce new tactical measures to individual marketing mix elements, but the basic measurement criteria continue to be the same as before – now even with the additional advantage to have a better understanding of ROI than ever before.

Back to my initial question: What would I change if I wrote that ten-year-old marketing book today? Actually, it would be less than one may think. New tools in the marketing toolbox such as marketing automation and social media marketing complement previous tools. They require some adaptations on a tactical level. On a strategic level, two new aspects need to be paid attention to, when measuring PR and marketing:

  • Traditionally, marketing campaigns were measured on output, outgrowth and outcome levels. As mentioned before, digital marketing offers significant improvements measuring on outcome level, including determining the ROI of campaigns.
  • The factor time has become more relevant. Again, digital marketing has paved the way to see results faster – and to act faster. Social media evaluation, marketing dashboards and cockpits provide instant updates on an ongoing basis providing decision support for a more agile marketing.

*Media Relations Measurement – Determining the Value of PR to Your Company’s Success, Gower Publishing Ltd (2004), ISBN 0-566-08650-6