Powerful Impact of Third-party Content in Consumer Decision Making

Patrick Brightman - 04/17/2014

patrickI had a conversation recently with the director of audience targeting for one of the largest digital networks in the country, who was kind enough to visit our New Jersey public relations offices to discuss an interactive program for a client. He brought a treasure trove of interesting data but one key takeaway for me was that most folks in the digital marketing community believe that today’s consumers need to see an online ad about nine times before they react to it.

This certainly is a far cry from the Mad Men days when companies believed consumers had to be exposed to an ad three times for it to be the charm. In essence, people now need to see ads about three times more often than a generation ago to achieve the same effectiveness. Of course, this is due to all of us being bombarded everywhere we turn by digital marketing tactics – ads, emails, commercials, editorial coverage, etc.

Now, public relations professionals, especially those of us in the New Jersey-New York area, know all about fighting for a share of voice. Home is one of the most congested areas in the country and the largest media market, so we live it on a daily basis.

Who Can You Trust?

With so many voices, one has to wonder which carries the most weight with consumers. The answer may lie in recently published findings of research conducted by Nielsen. The study reported an increase in consumer usage across all digital and social media in the past five years – including company websites, user reviews, and third-party expert content – to learn about new products and services. This ability to easily access information from a variety of sources has fundamentally changed the way consumers research products and, ultimately, make purchase decisions.

In the study, content was divided into three categories: expert (reviews and articles selected from third-party websites and blogs dedicated to the respective product category), user reviews (posts in reviews sections of major online retailers or forums), and branded content (copy directly from the websites for each brand/product).

All three content types are necessary, as each has an effect on product/brand familiarity, affinity, and purchase intent. Content written by credible experts, however, performed best overall in the study. It was the only content category to exhibit a strong lift in all three areas of the purchase cycle. The research suggests consumers have a higher degree of trust in content created by credible, third-party experts.

Public Relations = Big Impact

These findings once again highlight the importance of successful public relations programs. The best and most effective way to gain “expert content” is to conduct PR campaigns that incorporate news releases, on-going media relations, press conferences and more to generate editorial coverage that rises above all the other noise consumers hear. The power of the press is still strong – it’s just electronic now.

Let’s not also forget the other invaluable aspect of editorial coverage, i.e. expert content. All editorial content that is posted online has links back to a company website. As we have stated in other blogs, third-party linking goes a long way in improving organic search results, which is the Holy Grail for all businesses. Public relations can help you sip from that cup.

So, in short, getting editorial coverage will help your company achieve business success. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed from generation to generation.

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