Sunday, March 25, 2007

Reflection On Jodi Long's Visit To Class

On Tuesday, our class had Jodi Long as our guest speaker on the topic of "Integrating WOM Into the Media Plan." Jodi is a media professional with over 20 years of experience. A large chunk of that time she was involved with CBS in general management of radio stations as well as a national promotion group. She has also done local and national sales management as well as account management in cross-media planning.

I asked her to speak to our class because of the depth of her industry experience and passion in this space. She gave an extremely informative presentation on what it would take to get WOM into the media plan. What I liked most about her talk, and why it was perfect for this class that blends the study of organizational communication, marketing, and media, was that she talked about the organizational decision-making that goes into the media planning and buying process. She layed out, in extensive and entertaining detail, the relationship between the brand client, the ad agency and media buying firm.

I want to summarize some of the key stages but not get into all the details for each one.

Starting with media planning she discussed how the media budgets, goals, and objectives are set annually (making it extremely difficult for WOM components to get into the plan if you're timing isn't right). The Agency then prepares the media plan and the important thing here is that inertia is the guiding principle. That is, if you want to make a change you have to justify it; thus, the burden of proof is not in justifying that the old plan makes sense for this year, but the burden is on justifying why this year something should be done differently.

The approved plan is then passed to the buyers. Jodi explained the "avail" process, which is like a Request for Proposal (RFP), but in this context is specifically an opportunity to pitch business with specific criteria. The avail is sent to traditional media outlets and then the negotiations begin. A key point here is that WOM marketing companies are not getting the avail since they aren't yet consistently on the radar.

The media playing field right now is dominated by the primary choices of TV, cable, Radio (broadcast and satellite), out of home (like billboards, transit, taxi tops), print (newspaper and magazines), direct mail (free-standing inserts [FSI] and custom campaigns), and interactive (online search, email blasts, etc.; mobile might also be included in here). The key point here is that WOM doesn't have a place at the table, yet. [[MY OWN COMMENTARY HERE: Some people might argue that, depending on how you define WOM, you might be leveraging WOM principles but still using traditional outlets in doing so (for example, you might be designing your traditional ads to generate talk value or using your ads to highlight the specific features built into products and services that are designed to elicit certain types of social activity, like engaging in consumer-to-consumer WOM. Others would argue that, while WOM strategies should figure into the planning process from the beginning, it should not be considered a media channel]].

A very interesting point that Jodi made is that existing media channels all "own" something. For example, TV owns reach. Radio owns frequency. Magazine owns branding. News owns sales (for example, coupons). At this point, I asked what WOM could own. And we agreed that one way to sell WOM is to say that WOM owns "credibility."

Jodi then talked about the role of media sales representatives, and the media buy (lots of details here I won't cover due to space).

Then, Jodi went into specific advice she would offer WOM marketing companies if they want to get into the game. She talked about how agencies are very protective of "their" clients and are not keen on having someone else enter the mix, so a WOM company has to be politically astute.

Also, she provided the top five reasons why new media, in general, but also specific to WOM, are not purchased.

#5: No accepted standard for deliverables and cost (ROI models don't exist and there are limited industry-standard metrics)
#4: It's hard to determine how much to spend to acheive an agenda like penetrating a market
#3: Lots of inertia in business. People feel safe with TV and print.
#2: Funding comes from mass media. It's difficult to compare costs analysis because WOM is not a mass medium.
#1: It's an extremely intricate and complex sales process (there's a high turnover rate of CMOs and market managers), with big workloads and short deadlines.

Jodi also provided the class with suggestions about what WOM companies could do to try and overcome each of these obstacles. I won't post them all here -- if you want to find out you can hire her, or take the class at Northeastern :-)

Thanks Jodi for an outstanding and highly informative class!



Brent Hodgson said...

Interesting how she defined different media as "owning" a different benefit.

It seems WOM plays a bigger role in SME marketing than other (traditional) advertising mediums - ie Television, Radio etc (probably due to budget constraints).

As for measuring "Word of Mouth" - one of the great benefits of the internet is that you ARE able to track, measure and quantify this to an extent.

kitch24 said...

Do you think that WOM takes on a personality which is a blend of the personalities of traditional media sources?

Andrea said...

In addition to finding something for WOM to won in the existing media channels, I thought Jodi's indecision about which organizational member agencies should approach in regards to pitching a WOM campaign was extremely interesting. The fact that many organizations do not have a specific employee who deals directly with word of mouth marketing could be indicative of their inablitity to stray from traditional marketing techniques. I would be interested to see how and if organizations begin to incorporate positions specifically dedicated to word of mouth initiatives.

Holly said...

It will also be interesting to see how companies choose to handle WOM initiatives. Will it be something they develop in-house positions for? Or will they choose to outsource to businesses that specialize in WOM marketing? I wonder if there might eventually be a graduate program dedicated to the study of WOM.