Converge and Go Native

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PaulBondsfield - Content Convergence
Paul Bondsfield – Travel PR’s Digital and Marketing Director

is definitely something you should be thinking about.

“What’s this?” I hear you say. “What’s converging with what and where?”

Let me expand. The four key content types, as far as marketing strategy is concerned, have been identified as follows:

  • Owned Content
    • This is anything you create yourself, or commission someone else to create for you. Travel PR can naturally provide such copy, tailored to your exacting requirements.
  • Earned Content
    • This essentially was/is PR – now with a web 2.0 twist: it’s the coverage you achieve as a result of public relations work with media outlets (traditional and social) and also blogger and influencer-relations efforts.
  • Shared Content
    • Overlaps with the other three but revolves around shared posts or tweets, word of mouth, referrals, community-driven content and co-creation, etc. This is an area where both content marketing and social media marketing come into play.
  • Paid Content
    • Advertising and PPC, etc.

The fifth and newest content type is Converged Content. This is where any, or preferably all, of the above four types come together into a single cohesive and focused stream of communications, targeting the customer across multiple touch points.

So whereas currently you may have an advertising agency, or an advertising exec, completely separate from your social media team and your PR people (I appreciate that not everyone has separate teams but it’s the concept I’m trying to get across, rather than the actuality) going forward, you may have a content strategist, or a content marketer. This person – or team if you’re lucky – would ensure that all content (within any particular or specific campaign) is based around a single premise with a single-minded message intended for a specific and identifiable segment of your audience. That content could be made up of product copy, images, headlines, strap-lines, alt-tags (the text that appears behind an image on your site that allows search engines to index your photos and graphics) and H1 and H2 headlines (HTML coded headlines and sub-heads)  on your website, search-ad copy, blogs, social media posts, online advertising…you get the picture.

Back to the future – or forward to the past…?
Now, if that starts to sound all a bit problematical, consider the advertorial for a moment. This marketing device has been used for years in magazines and newspapers as a way of amplifying an advertiser’s message by giving it tacit endorsement from the publisher. Often the publisher will write the advertorial in a house style, or the design would mirror that of the rest of the publication. This is simply converged content – so it turns out that there’s nothing new under the sun. Or is there?

Well, actually there is and there isn’t. The advertorial, in ‘Digiworld’, is now called native advertising. As a marketing form it’s in its infancy and marketers and online publishers are struggling to work out how best to use it. Some advertisers have got into hot water with creative work that is hard to distinguish from editorial content. Only recently, Oreo tripped up when a video it produced as a YouTube ad spot was called out by the BBC for not clearly being identified as a commercial. The Advertising Standards Authority agreed, ensured this wasn’t repeated and now Oreo has tagged the video to make it clear. But, used creatively it could be hugely powerful. You could place an article or video, a game, competition or infographic or maybe just a social media feed – the options are endless.

As an aside, from an SEO perspective it makes sense to ensure any paid-for content placed on third-party websites, whether ads, blogs or product, include ‘nofollow’ links. GoogleBot excludes these links from SEO considerations – so you won’t be penalised by Penguins or Pandas, etc, – as you’re being open about it being a paid-for ad. There is growing evidence that search engines will depend less on links in the future anyway, so nothing is lost in the long term. This is where creating a strategic content plan comes into play: being clear about the reasoning behind each piece of content and what your KPIs are across a balanced campaign.

The benefit of the digital world is of course, that ads can be far more creative and can be designed to be dynamic, interactive and entertaining rather than the static form of the offline advertorial. Programmatic advertising opens up even more doors for convergence. This rapidly growing algorithmic way of buying advertising inventory involves accurately targeting customer types, or individual customers, and dynamically altering copy, images, price-points and product depending on who is watching and the channel they are watching it on – and what and where they have been online before.

How might this work?
Imagine a native ad that takes owned content from your site and repurposes it within an advertorial format on a publisher’s website, clearly identified as a marketing message of course. That message encourages your prospective customer to share it on their social networks in order to take a reward or to win a prize, which then drives people back to your site directly to a product that exactly or closely matches a web search that the person completed earlier that day. All of this, of course, driven by the brand and message recognition gained from, and validated by, offline marketing and PR content they saw a week or so ago.

Recently Google released a report that stated that 56% of online ads are “not viewable” and thus were useless to the advertiser. Although they were talking about technical or physical reasons – browser type, placement on the page, etc – consider how many ads you now simply don’t ‘see’, because you know they are ads and your eye just doesn’t go to them. Native advertising and converged content is a way to grab the attention of your prospective customer through creative execution and the build-up of awareness over time via the same message appearing in multiple places across that period.

Optimise more
The final part of this convergence jigsaw is, of course, SEO. If good optimisation now relies on great content and the promotion thereof, then a converged strategy is set-fair to assist in raising your domain authority and/or PageRank. As your campaign rolls out, making sure that your PR people are fully informed of key messages, keywords and timings will only help if additional earned coverage is gained, linking back to your site. Run out regular, data-driven programmes of good-quality-content campaigns and your SEO will benefit further.

So, think about how you can make your content work harder, improve your SEO and then reap the rewards. A good PR agency (yes, Travel PR can assist) should now be able to help by creating the content upon which a great strategy can succeed – but be sure that your agency understands how convergence can and will affect your campaigns.

Paul Bondsfield


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When I first started out travel writing, twenty years ago, I was writing a weekly round-up for The Independent. The first PR agency I ever tapped into for their clients' holiday ideas was Travel PR; they were always full of great suggestions for the column and responded quickly. Over the years, I've worked with them on many occasions and their close association with AITO has always paid dividends. Nothing has changed; some of the best story ideas I get herald from them, and their response time remains very speedy. They are a pleasure to work with.

Mark Stratton, Freelance Travel Writer

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Travel PR, established 27 years ago, is a leading specialist PR and communications agency specialising in the travel, hotel and lifestyle markets. Want to create a PR strategy for your brand?