July 18, 2019

What Is Merged Media? It’s the Future of PR

by Megha Pai in News

by James Wright, Global CEO of Red Havas; Global Chairman of Havas PR Global Collective

The lines of communications—earned, owned, shared and paid—aren’t just crossing. They’re merging. More than 60 percent of public relations leaders, CEOs and students surveyed in 2019 say that within five years the average person will not be able to make a distinction between paid, earned, shared and owned media when consuming information.

For consumers, it is all one and the same: Multiple platforms and channels form a singular experience, one impression.

Further, many of the channels that once fit neatly into these media silos no longer do. For example, it’s not quite right to continue categorizing social as shared media, as it’s become so massively pay-to-play, with influencer marketing blurring the earned and paid lines.

This merging of media sources mimics the way that we all now consume content across devices and platforms. Fueled by constant access to mobile devices, daily media consumption has increased steadily since 2011. American adults spend more than 11 hours each day listening to, reading, watching or interacting with media. Their voracious appetite for digital content exists alongside a continued fondness for traditional media outlets.

With so much mixing and mingling, what is to become of the earned, owned, shared and paid marketing silos that we were taught about in school? And what does the future of public relations look like as the walls come down?

Redefining public relations with Merged Media

With unprecedented access to data and technology, public relations practitioners are uniquely fit to merge the lines that have divided the types of media for too long. We can help brands interact with today’s consumers across all media sources, presenting themselves within the current landscape in a way that mimics how their audience is behaving. We can help brands tell a channel-agnostic story that covers all of the old media bases—as well as the new and emerging ones.

But first we must evolve deeply the ways we work, while we maintain the heart of our work—the strategic and deliberate management of reputation and the insertion of relevant content into the cultural ethos to drive a desired outcome.

We can no longer start with the channel. We must start with the story.

To do this, we built the new Red Havas agency model. Uniting Havas PR North America, Havas PR Manchester UK and Red Agency Asia-Pacific, with expansion to London, our new Merged Media global micro-network is on a mission to reinvent what PR means, is and does. It was developed to replicate the convergence of consumers’ media consumption—blending traditional and digital publishing, content, social media and data in a way that we believe defines the future of PR as a category.

Merged Media as a concept isn’t new; yet, many practitioners still don’t operate this way. While many PR agencies were still getting their feet wet in the social space, in Australia the Red Agency fully immersed itself within it, using this strategic approach to grow our client base and expand our services. In fact, the agency’s success was built on this platform, and we made a name for ourselves with several social-by-design integrated campaigns, including our integrated work with Toyota and Malaysia Airlines. Over the past six years, Red Agency APAC became the most awarded PR agency in Asia-Pacific, winning more than 150 global and domestic awards.

Red Havas’ Merged Media strategic model has yoked together our content, social media and data capabilities across a global micro-network to create greater value for our clients. Converting a PR agency into a Merged Media agency is no small task. It requires constant innovation, pivoting on a near-daily basis and a hiring strategy that seeks out both well-rounded talent with a much broader set of expertise across the likes of content development, activation, social strategy, insights and optimization as well as specialists such as social-by-design content producers, and insights and optimization managers. We’re feeding this agility with major investments into data, content and bespoke insight, including the listening and predictive analytics platform we’re now developing to layer in a foretelling media capability not seen before within the industry. 

The Red Havas agencies are ushering in a new era for our PR group and for the entire industry. The future for agencies is promised to no one. It is for us to earn and own it.

Watch this space for so much more to come.