How to Manage Earned Media When the Lines Are Blurring

How to Manage Earned Media When the Lines Are Blurring

Chris Lynch, Chief Marketing Officer at Cision, joins the Content Experience Show to discuss the evolution of earned media in the social media landscape.

In This Episode:

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Full Episode Details

Managing a Consistent Voice

One of the most powerful boosts a business can gain is word of mouth, or as it’s referred to in the content world, earned media. As Chris Lynch defines it, earned media is when someone talks about your brand without being paid for it.

Someone talking about your brand just because they want to goes a long way in building trust with your customers. As more and more people gain a voice and influence through the internet and social media, the issue for businesses becomes maintaining a consistent message and voice.

What Chris and his team at Cision have done is create a new position, a Vice President of Earned Media Management. He believes this is the next step in the evolution of earned media and that many more businesses will be following suit in the near future. Maintaining a consistent message for your brand is absolutely crucial, and if your business frequently works with earned media, it may be time to consider if you could benefit from this type of position.

In This Episode

  • How Cision manages content during acquisitions.
  • Why the lines are blurring between earned media and paid media.
  • Who should be responsible for maintaining a consistent voice with earned media.
  • Why Cision is hiring a VP of Earned Media Management.
  • When you should launch a press release.

Quotes From This Episode

“The key is starting with a very repeatable project plan when you do acquisitions.” — @cglynch

Earned media is media that is mentioning a brand, being generated by someone who's not in the employ of the brand. Click To Tweet

“The role of CMO is to help the company acquire, engage, and retain customers across all three of the main media channels, being paid, owned, and earned.” — @cglynch


Content Experience Lightning Round

If you were to create a podcast about any kind of personal interest, what would it be?

The show would be about amateur boating! Chris recently split the cost of a boat with his brother and has been learning how to sail, so he would love to talk about the process and answer questions for others who are learning.

See you next week!

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Episode Transcript

Anna Hrach: Hey everybody. Welcome to the Content Experience Show Podcast. I am Anna Hrach from Convince and Convert. I'm here with the always amazing Randy Frisch from Uberflip. This week we have a fantastic guest. We had Chris Lynch, who is CMO of Cision. Now we got to talk about a lot of cool stuff on this show, but one of the big things that we got the inside scoop on was how Cision is handling these massive, major, game-changing acquisitions that have happened recently. Randy, you especially being a CMO as well, had to have had a really sort of interesting perspective talking to Chris, because he had a lot of really good sort of process and procedures, and just wondering what your take on it was from a CMO? Randy Frisch: Yeah, first off, I think you nailed it with inside scoop. I feel like we are the E Hollywood Access, Insider, whatever you follow your gossip on. We are that for acquisitions right now, because we got them the day after they announced this $250 million plus acquisition of Turnpike. Anna Hrach: I feel like we need the extra intro, like extra, extra. Randy Frisch: Yes, absolutely. Let's pause and whoever's editing, go for it. No pressure. Go for it. Okay. Anna Hrach: Probably not going to happen. All right. Randy Frisch: Not going to happen. But no, this was really cool. What I really like and I think you'll like listening to Chris is there's just a calm, cool, collected way about him where he's been there, done that. He's done this before in Oracle Marketing Cloud where they were quite inquisitive. So he's seen this all before. I think that also speaks just to that you complimented him on how well they've communicated, but that's what this podcast ultimately is all about. It's about communication today, and it's about how we get our messages out through earned media and the ways that we have to rethink our organization to get those messages out effectively. I personally took a lot out of that, because that as a CMO, but that's a lot of what my role needs to be is how do we communicate to every channel we're trying to hit every day? That's a lot to take, no matter what stage you come here at. Anna Hrach: Yeah. No, you would expect them to have amazing communication as a PR suite platform, but yeah, they've done an excellent job of communicating. My favorite part of the podcast in an ironic twist of fate is we once again somehow unknowingly touched on your boat incident. Everybody's going to have to stick around to the end to hear how that comes into play. Randy, you brought Chris in. What do you say we hear what he has to say? Randy Frisch: Hey, Chris, thanks so much for joining us on the Content Show here. I am really excited to dig in and hear all about Cision and crazy changes happening lately. But let's set the stage with who you are. Kind of give us the Chris in a nutshell, elevator pitch, if you will. What's your career look like and what are you doing these days? Chris Lynch: Sure. Hi, everyone. Chris Lynch. I'm the chief marketing officer at Cision. We are the leader in earned media management. I've been in the world of martech probably for almost 10 years now. Prior to coming to Cision, I ran global product marketing for the marketing cloud business unit over at Oracle. I've been in and involved in the marketing function, both as a practitioner running marketing teams, but also on the vendor side as a provider of technologies, data, and other types of solutions that are aimed at helping the marketer go digital and provide a better customer experience. I've been at that for a while, and that's been my journey. Randy Frisch: Amazing. I should have asked you this before we recorded, but I'll ask now and we'll adjust from the answer. Would you have overlapped with my previous podcast co-host, Chris Moody? Chris Lynch: I did overlap with Chris Moody when I was at Oracle. So I was running product marketing for the same business unit where he was running content marketing. I worked with Chris quite a bit actually. He was great. Randy Frisch: Awesome. Chris Lynch: Yeah. I enjoyed working with him. Randy Frisch: Nice. No hit on Oracle, you're not there anymore, but they used to be one of the sponsors of this podcast. Chris was the representative of such. But I'm pretty happy with my co-host now. Anna Hrach: Aww. Randy Frisch: Yeah, absolutely. Anna Hrach: Not like I'm sitting right here or anything. Randy Frisch: I miss Moody. Don't get me wrong. I didn't have to say that, no. I didn't have to say that at all. Cool. So Chris, I hit on this right out of the gate. Stuff at Cision is changing really quickly. There was a vision. I read about that vision from Kevin Akeroyd in the early days after he joined there that you were going to redefine what earned media looked like. But maybe you could just talk about what's been happening over the last few months and even weeks there since we recorded this? Chris Lynch: Sure. So as you mentioned, one of our founding concepts that we've had over the last few years as we came to Cision and started building out the vision was that earned media, the piece of media that most consumers trust the most has really been under-loved within the marketing function. So what we've been trying to do is build out a technology platform in Stack that is aimed at helping the communications professional or the marcom professional actually have a centralized place to manage their data, be able to manage all the processes around their campaigns, and then measure what type of business outcomes they're having. So we've been through a journey to build out the Cision Communications Cloud, which is our flagship product. As we've gone about doing that, I think we've had a combination of organic efforts to build out certain pieces of functionality. Cision Impact would be a good example of that where we actually went and took some of the same technology that is being used in advertising, but have applied that to earned media so coms professionals can actually understand, "Hey, when an audience goes out and consumes an article about my brand, and then they also come back to, say, my website and perform a desired action, like adding something to a shopping cart or becoming part of the lead gen program, how do we track that all the way through?" That's really what Cision Impact did, does, and we invested in that organically from an engineering and product standpoint. It's been out in the market for a year. Now in addition to the organic development, we also have grown inorganically with acquisitions. Recently at the New Year, we acquired a company called, which is really focused on social media management, because as we were looking at the workflow of most communicators and PR professionals we were working with, obviously there's a lot of overlap with social. Then very recently this week, as you might have seen in the news, we announced the acquisition of TrendKite. TrendKite has focused a lot on monitoring and analysis within the PR software community, and we felt it was a very complimentary offering to what we do. So we were happy to welcome them to the family this week. We've had a lot going on. Randy Frisch: Yet you've got time to record a podcast, so I'm impressed. As CMO, you've got this thing down. So I want to get back a little later in the show, maybe after we take our break, we'll hit a little bit more on earned media. But I'm sure a lot of people listening to this, even if they don't give a shit about earned media, which we'll tell them why they should, but they're probably really intrigued as to what is the experience as a CMO going through two acquisitions in under 30 days, or at least announcing two acquisitions in under 30 days. What does that look like, including from a content perspective, because there's a lot of new stories for you to tell and a lot of new audiences, I assume, for you to engage with? Chris Lynch: Yeah, so the key is starting with a very repeatable project plan when you do acquisitions. I'm lucky that I come from a background, obviously Oracle is also a very acquisitive company. So I understand how that process works and what kind of ducks you need to have in a row, but we treat it like we would treat any campaign, which is to say that we have a working group that we pull together. You have to be deliberate about doing that, because you're properly reading in people on a need-to-know basis before the announcement goes live, and you need to be very careful around that and explaining to people the implications of keeping things confidential as we move forward. But basically we pull the right people on my team that we need to execute the campaigns. That really will spread across communications as a primary driver, because they're the ones that are eventually going to be out there working with journalists, working with influencers to get the story out. We work a bit with product marketing, in terms of articulation of what the message is. How does this compliment and fit with our overall market vision? How do we talk about the two companies that are coming together in a holistic way that the market understands? Then we also work with digital marketing to make sure we're queuing everything up for when the announcement is going to go live across all the digital channels, whether it's banners, whether it's email, whether it's web, whether it's when it's hitting the press release. We are all kind of got all the ships moving at the same time. So we're lucky in the sense that we've had some experience doing these, but we try to make it repeatable so people who are involved in the project know what they're doing. Anna Hrach: Nice. I think that's actually really well reflected in even the most recent TrendKite acquisition. Everything that I've read about it has been very laid out. It's been very sort of, "Here's what next. Here's what this means," which is something that, not to pick on them at all, but it was when with the big Adobe Marketo acquisition was sort of like the big question mark. There was this massive acquisition coming together, and people were just sort of like, "This is huge ..." But with everything I've seen from you all, it's been, "Here's what this means. Here's the benefit. Here's what it's going forward." I think that's something that companies just forget is these are big, exciting times, but then all of those question marks go unanswered. I appreciated your communications. Chris Lynch: Oh thank you. Yeah, I think one of the things I try to do as a guiding principle is take an outside looking in approach, which is to say if I'm a customer of either company, how is this going to impact me, right? I think what people want to know is that the service that they've relied on for however long as a customer is going to have complete continuity, and they're going to want to hear from us that the plan is to invest in it further, which in the case of TrendKite and is absolutely the case. We are investing in these products because we believe they have so much to offer our customer base as well. I think that's the thing that you need to make sure that you're keeping an eye on is what does this mean for your customers externally? I think that especially as you get into larger corporate environments, I worked at Oracle previous to being at Cision, it's very easy to kind of just focus on the mechanics of a deal, and what are the market messages that we have from an agenda standpoint? But I think if you can just remind yourself that there's some person on the other end of all these things consuming all of it, that can be a good guiding light for you. It's something I try to instill in the team. Randy Frisch: That's great advice, Chris. It's funny, I'm reflecting on it, but a week ago, I am a customer of another company that was recently acquired. It was interesting. They actually hired a third party organization to essentially run a phone-in focus group where it was like me being interviewed for my perception of the value that each of these two companies was going to add to each other. I thought it was really interesting. As a CMO myself sitting in on it, I thought it was really interesting, the process that they went through, the different messaging they tried on me, in terms of what they're thinking to bring to market as these two companies become one. I think it all comes back to that point that you hit on, which is really take the time to think about what this means for all the customers out there. It's something we have to probably do, whether we're acquiring a company, if you're listening into this podcast, or we're just sometimes reinventing what our brand and what our company stands for. It's been great advice. I want to keep hitting you with some questions with all this experience. We're going to take a quick break though, hear from some of our sponsors. We will be right back here with Chris on ConEx. Jay Bayer: Hi, friends. This is Jay Bayer from Convince and Convert reminding you that this show, the ConEx Show Podcast is brought to you by Uberflip, the number one content experience platform. Do you ever wonder how content experience affects your marketing results? Well, you can find out in the first ever content experience report where Uberflip uncovers eight data science backed insights to boost your content engagement and your conversions. It's a killer report, and you do not want to miss it. Get your free copy right now at That's The show is also brought to you by our team at Convince and Convert Consulting. If you've got a terrific content marketing program, but you want to take it to the very next level, we can help. Convince and Convert works with the world's most iconic brands to increase the effectiveness of their content marketing, social media marketing, digital marketing, and word of mouth marketing. Find us at Anna Hrach: Hey, everybody. We are here with Chris Lynch. Before the break, we were talking about basically how to acquire and make sure that roadmap is set, and communicate everything out, and just what those changes look like. Now we're back. Chris, I have this question for you, because one of the things that I noticed is you talked a lot in your communications about the acquisitions about all of the benefits to users and sort of changing landscapes and just the abilities that users will be able to gain now from using Cision and these platforms together. It seems very reflective of sort of the current state of earned media, which 10 years ago, you had a PR department with this little box around them. Then you had this social department with this little box around them. Then you had the content department with the little box around them. The lines of what to do and when were seemingly clear, but of course with the rise of earned media kind of distributing it and spider-webbing out to all these departments, it's so blurred. It just seems like earned media really can't even be put in its little box anymore within any particular department. It feels very reflective, these acquisitions of sort of the current state of things. Chris Lynch: Yeah. I think that one of the things that I see happening in the market is first and foremost the lines between paid, owned, and earned have often got pretty blurred. If you think about the early days of social as an example, which I know you guys were out at the forefront of, there was a time when you could pretty much post any piece of content you wanted on your brand page, and actually it would get some decent reach across social channels. Then of course the social networks were like, "Oh wait, we should probably make money." Now if you really want to get certain messages out in front of people on social, you have to do it as an ad. In a lot of cases, some of that content that's being posted there would look like stuff of the earned variety, but it's then being promoted via an ad just to get in front of people. So that's an example where you see those lines blurring quite a bit. With earned media for me, I'm still a little bit of a purist, in the sense that I think earned media is media that is mentioning a brand, being generated by someone who's not in the employ of the brand. That can be sort of a clarifying exercise. Now not everyone would agree with me about that by the way. They would look at paid influencer relationships as a piece of earned media, because often they can look like earned media, in terms of how they're done. I think the key is often just transparency and just trying to communicate to the reader around what and how this piece of media was constructed. Is it true organic earned media, or is it a paid opportunity? But I think if you're looking at marketing organizations, this impacts how you org people and groups. I think social has been an interesting one, right? Because you have sort of where the bulk of a lot of the social providers make their money actually is not with marketing. A lot of it is with social customer service and care and those pieces on the vendor side, but then of course you do have just real social media marketing where you're trying to get an authentic story and a drum beat out. So we see with our customers that what they're looking at is the piece of social that they care about the most and trying to gain as much control of that as they can within the brand side. In that case, they often care about what is sort of the narrative we have around certain announcements, things that are going to really shape our statement to the market, and then also really following up with influencers, both of the traditional variety, like journalists, but then more of the ones that have a dedicated following that's mainly on the social side, and having a systematic way to engage them. Randy Frisch: I've got a question on all this. We're seeing the lines blur, in terms of who controls this and how all the strings are pulled for everyone to work together. How about who's responsible for being that external voice to achieve consistency with what earned media says about us? Take as an example in Cision, is that your role as the CMO, or are you able to also have additional evangelists, which is a title I've seen more and more in organization of late, or other members of your marketing team and senior leadership team who kind of take on that role? Chris Lynch: Yeah, so as a CMO, I feel like my job is to help the company acquire, engage, and retain customers across all three of the main media channels, being paid, owned, and earned. We do all three at Cision, and just our group as practitioners of marking. I feel like that's the CMO's role at the high level. One thing that's interesting is we recently, to answer your question, I think that there is going to be a new role that crops up around earned media. We just hired a vice president of earned media management. Her remit includes PR, coms, social, and content marketing, because we're advocating for that role to be inside more marketing organizations and for that to be someone who works alongside digital marketing on the paid and owned side, works alongside product marketing as they're getting ready to bring new products to market. But what we wanted to do was really practice what we preach and say, "Look, all of this is a story that the brand, Cision brand in our case, is trying to weave out in the market. Having one person to do that I think is important." I think just sort of limiting it to comms only is a little too limiting. That's why we created the new role. Anna Hrach: How did you kind of recognize, or what were some of the telltale signs that this role was needed? Just because I think that's still a huge question for pretty much everybody is how do we staff? What does this look like? Where does social go? What were some of those telltale signs where you're like, "Okay, we really need somebody to own this specific piece of it?" Chris Lynch: I think telltale signs is when you start to see some redundant work being done across your department. Our marketing team is big enough where you can see something like that happening. Let's say we're bringing a new product to market. There's a lot of different trains that you're orchestrating across marketing, whether it's what our add and media strategy is going to be, how are we going to drip out different campaigns to the existing customer base versus what we're going to be doing to prospect. There's a lot of things happening. But what I would notice is with our coms team, they'd be saying, "Hey, for this piece, we really need a piece of content to go and show this to journalists." I'm like, "Well, have you talked to the content marketing team? They actually built a white paper about that topic a month ago." Or, "Hey, we got to talk to the social team about how we get this out." I'm like, "Yeah. I think they actually already have something queued up." So what I was noticing was that marketing, like any department at any larger company, can get a little stove-piped, if you're not careful. There was good work happening in these independent pockets, but what I found was on the earned side, it was all a little fragmented. As we were starting to use our own tools, like the Cision Coms Cloud to pull in some of those campaign elements, I really was emphatic that we start pulling content and social into the fold, because you see that in the other functions, right? We have a unified digital marketing function, which is essentially the majority of our paid and owned media, because we want ads being orchestrated the right way, just as an email is going out around the same type of product or service that we might be out there marketing. Marketing has its various stovepipes, as you get into ... I go and meet with our customers, and you get to some of the larger CPG brands, there are still tons of org silos that exist, but we really felt that at least if you can get some unification around earned, some unification around paid, and some unification around owned, that does make the CMO's job a little bit easier on the day-to-day. Randy Frisch: Chris, I got to tell you, I love when we get CMOs on this podcast, because we get to really hit on strategic thinking, strategic level, but I'm going to finish this podcast with the least strategic question, but the one that is for sure burning on everyone's minds. Because my team when I told them I'm interviewing the CMO of Cision today, they're like, "Oh, you got to ask this question." So here is the practical, everyday question. Part of Cision is our ability to launch press releases. What is the best day of the week to launch a press release? Come on, first, you must have the data behind this, or at least you have an opinion from your years at Oracle. Chris Lynch: I could get you the data of the actual day. I do feel like it might fluctuate year to year, but I tend to think a Tuesday is a good day to launch. I think beginning of the week, it may not be the best day to get things in front of people, because they're just kind of getting into their week and into their day. You do things on a Friday, people kind of feel like, "Why are you doing it on a Friday?" Randy Frisch: Yeah. So true. Chris Lynch: So yeah, I usually go for the meatier part of the week, but I like Tuesdays because you can also sort of get out ahead of a news cycle pretty well. It depends on what kind of brand you are too. There's certain brands. They can put something out any day of the week and everyone is going to cover it because of who they are. But why don't I get back to you on what the latest data is. Randy Frisch: All right. All right. This is interesting. I feel like it's one of those blog posts that you need that would probably bring you a ton of inbound traffic. Chris Lynch: Yeah, for sure. Randy Frisch: So I get full credit if you write that one and it works out. Chris Lynch: Yeah, that's a good idea. Randy Frisch: All right. Chris, it's been a ton of fun. We're not going to let you go though. We're going to take a short little end here. It's kind of our fake end podcast. We keep you around and we get to hit you on some of the personal questions. Chris Lynch: Okay. Randy Frisch: So we'll stick around with Chris. Stay around and listen to what you need to know. All right, Chris. Thanks so much for sticking by. Anna and I always have a fun question we like to ask guests at the end to get to know them. This is one, if you ask Dan and I, we'd have answers for you beyond ConEx, but we love this podcast, so it's our default answer. But if you got to create your own personal podcast that hit on your personal interest, so don't tell me it's earned media, because if so, I'd worry about your work-life balance. What would that personal podcast be? Who would be your first guest? Chris Lynch: Oh man, that's a great question. If I were to do a podcast, I think I would do it around ... I think I would do a podcast about being an amateur boater. Randy Frisch: Oh wow. Chris Lynch: Because this past year, my brother and I went halvesies on buying a little motor boat to kind of putts around San Francisco Bay. It's been a real journey when you're entering that world, because the boating world is a very strange world. A lot of things are not necessarily easy or accessible to figure out. You go and read all of the safety books about how not to basically run your boat into the side of another boat, and you watch all the videos about, "Hey, slow is pro. Here's how you bring a boat in to a dock." Our boat is not that fancy. It's just this little motor boat, but we've had our hands full, I feel like, just learning what everything in the engine does and all of these different pieces. But it's almost like a very kind of ... Boaters are kind of like a little bit of an insular community, in the sense that they're very nice once you finally start to ask them something, but they also sort of just everyone kind of does their own thing. If you're not very persistent in asking people questions, you really won't know what you're doing. I feel like I've learned a lot in the past year, just kind of getting around. San Francisco Bay is kind of not a joke place to learn how to boat. It's like really strong currents here, a lot of winds, so you really have to know what you're doing. Randy Frisch: Right. Chris Lynch: But I'd love to do a podcast about that, about just sort of the process of learning how to do that and getting around. Randy Frisch: Amazing. Chris Lynch: It'll be fun, because we've had a- Randy Frisch: Is there an epic boater out there who would be that guest? Chris Lynch: Yeah. Randy Frisch: Or it would just more be amateurs? Chris Lynch: I think I'd want to talk to other amateurs about their boating stories. If you go on one really funny Instagram channel is the Qualified Captain. It's basically this Instagram channel where people send in videos of people ramming their boats into docks and people getting drunk and falling off the boat. It makes you feel really good about yourself. You can be like, "Oh man, the worst thing to happen to me last week was I was going in to dock it, and I didn't really like the angle, so I backed out and backed back in. You kind of feel like a little bad like, "Oh, I should have done it on one try," but then you watch that video and you feel better. So yeah I'd love to talk to other amateur boaters about what do they do when they're learning? Randy Frisch: That's great. For those listening to this podcast, we use Zoom to record these. The three of us can all see each other now. Chris, you may have been trying to figure out why Anna and I were smiling so much as you went into this boating example. You wouldn't have heard our ... We just recorded another episode just this week with Jason from UVS. He also talked about boating. I had the most traumatic boating experience of my life, which Chris, you and I are going to have to connect on LinkedIn so you see my story, but basically three weeks ago, I escaped a boat fire where the boat exploded in the middle of the ocean. It was insane. I read about it on LinkedIn. You can read all about it, but it's like I can't escape boats this year. I don't know, Anna. What do you think? Anna Hrach: Yeah, I also- Randy Frisch: It's a sign. Anna Hrach: Yeah, I know. I agree. I don't think you can escape boats, but also I did just take a sneak peak at the Qualified Captain, and it is cringe worthy. I was smiling over here, because I just saw one. I was like, "Oh my God." All of them are just teeth gritting, white knuckling like, ugh. It's a good one. Chris Lynch: Well number one, I'm glad you're okay. Randy Frisch: Thank you. Chris Lynch: What's very interesting is how boating, everyone has this concept in their mind, because it's just, "Hey, we're out on a boat. That sounds like it'll be fun." It's amazing how things can go from being fun to getting real real fast when you're on a boat. When we first got the boat, we had had some immediate stops and starts and we'd have mechanics like, "Oh yeah, you need some more ... You need a new carb in there, and you need a couple spark plugs, and then you're good to go." It was a used boat, right? We get out there, and I'm with my dad and my brother. We did have the good sense of mind, my brother has kids. He has a six-year-old and a four-year-old. We're like, "Let's not bring them out the first time. Let's just see how this boat does." We we're out there cruising and we're like, "Yeah." You're feeling good, because we went through the whole process of buying the boat and negotiating and all this stuff. Then sure enough, we're out there on the first cruise and some white smoke starts coming out of the engine. We're like, "Oh my gosh." Then we're out there. We're in San Francisco Bay, and the current is starting to move us when the boat engine is stopped. The current is just moving us towards shore. We were able, my dad, who has some good marine experience, we were able to get it anchored and call a tow to bring us in, but it is amazing how quick that stuff can just unravel out there. Randy Frisch: It's wild. Well, I'm glad you made it. I'm glad you've got some stories to tell. We'll have to tune into this podcast one day when you're done acquiring companies at Cision left, right, and center. Chris, thank you so much for sharing. The experiences you've been going through, a unique perspective on earned media for how we can organize our companies. Until next time, I'm Randy Frisch from Uberflip with Anna Hrach. This has been the Content Experience Show. Please go and find other episodes if you enjoyed this one on anywhere you enjoy your podcast. Until next time, thank you so much for tuning in.  
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