Tag Archive: SWALife

Life used to be so easy.

There was Paid Media = Advertising.

There was Earned Media = Public Relations.

And there were the legacy media gatekeepers: Newspapers, Radio and Television.

That’s how the world appeared to communications pros way back in the 1980s.

One employed earned media and/or paid media to deal with or get past the analog media deciders to reach target audiences.

There was B2B. And B2C. And even B2G.

Simple?  Oh, so simple.

As we all know, 20th Century Web 1.0 (websites) and 21st Century Web 2.0 (convergence of social, mobile and cloud) have thrown everything into a tizzy. And some are even talking about Web 3.0 or semantic web. We will leave that for another installment of Almost DailyBrett.


And now we can add Owned Media to the mix as well.

The neighborhood property values will never be the same.

What the heck is “Owned” Media?

One can spend money to place ads into legacy and/or digital native media: Paid Media.

Or one can choreograph public relations campaigns, hopefully garnering always in-demand third-party validation by means of effective interaction with analog and digital gatekeepers wherever they may be: Earned Media.

(Some used to call this category “Free” media. Practitioners know through painful experience there is absolutely nothing “free” when it comes to media relations).

As the influence of legacy media gatekeepers subsides and the flack-to-media ratio (presently 3.6-to-1) grows more lopsided, more-and-more public relations pros, marketeers and investor relations practitioners are embracing Owned media. These are media channels directly (for the most part) under the control of corporations, governmental agencies, non-profits, NGOs or anyone with a product to sell, a candidate to elect or an idea to spread.


Before Almost DailyBrett goes any further, at least partial credit needs to be directed to Advertising & IMC: Principles & Practice, 10th edition by Moriarty, Mitchell and Wells for its role in defining this growing-in-importance owned media category. “Owned media: Media channels controlled by the organization and that are used to carry branded content.”

And just like advertising and public relations, owned media is experiencing the full impact of digital communications revolution, and maybe even more than its siblings, paid and earned media.

Natural Reaction to Growing Paid Media and Earned Media Issues?

Advertising pros are confronted with the dilemma associated with just too much clutter, legacy media declining in importance and influence, and digital native media still undergoing growing pains.

PR, marketing and investor relations practitioners are dealing with the remaining legacy media reporters, editors, correspondents and analysts, who are wondering just how much longer their jobs are going to last. In any event, they are overwhelmed with PR folks pitching them self-serving story ideas.

The digital news aggregators are starting to make a mark for themselves as the Huffington Post drew approximately 85 million worldwide unique monthly desktop visitors this past March, up from about 65 million the previous March. BuzzFeed virtually doubled its online readership from nearly 21 million in March 2013 to 45 million two months ago. Business Insider recorded a gain of 15 million to 17 million in the same time period.

Some of these news aggregators will succeed, famously capitalizing on their first-mover advantage. Others will not. For PR types, they present a new avenue to gain the vaunted third-party acceptance.

Has “disruptive” digital  communications technologies (e.g., Web 1.0 and Web 2.0) changed the rules of the game for paid and earned media pros? Absolutely, but maybe not as much as for owned media. When one contemplates owned media, there is a seemingly unending string of digital ones-and zeroes.

Examples of Owned Media Channels

So what are these owned media news channels — in many cases digital self-publishing – that are allowing us to bypass the legacy and digital native gatekeepers and giving pause to making more advertising expenditures? Here are some examples:

● The organizational website. Websites seem so yesterday and yet they are the digital point-of-entry to the company, non-profit, governmental, agency and political brands. They reflect the basic messages, mission statements, raison d’etre, the look-and-feel of the brand through the careful use of art, fonts, navigation and style. And now they increasingly feature audio and video, and they invite two-way symmetrical communications.

● The 100-million digital essayists (including this one) who compose blogs on a daily basis. Obviously some are more important than others. Companies over the years have become less reticent to the idea of their employees blogging, and with proper controls they are assisting in the promotion of the brand.


● The corporate intranet is now providing for true two-way symmetrical communication between management and rank-and-file employees. For example, Southwest Airlines debuted in 2010 SWALife, a truly interactive portal allowing employees to directly engage in a companywide conversation.

● Social media sites including Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and hashtags, and LinkedIn accounts are at least being regularly monitored (or they should be) and being hosted to create a “buzz” as it applies to the organization.

● YouTube videos and Flickr photo pages are spreading the corporate brand, sometimes on a viral basis, which can be accessed with a few clicks on the mobile device or remaining laptops.

Yep, we have moved from B2B, B2G, B2C to B2C2C with brands rising and falling via word of mouth…the best advertising of all. And guiding these conversations or at least influencing them are organizational owned media.

Owned media is just another example of how our world has changed, digitally and permanently. And it may be the best response to digital communications angst.







Ever make the fatal mistake of forgetting to bring along reading material, a laptop or an iPod on a plane trip…and all you are left with is a cup of ice, a bag of pretzels and the airline’s in-flight magazine?

Or maybe you have grown weary of negotiating Xcel spread sheets, reviewing PowerPoint presentations or combing through national and/or local newspapers and then you look and there it is, right beside the throw-up bag: the very same in-flight magazine.

And if you have seen one, you pretty much have seen them all (okay, the international carriers provide meatier versions and they focus on the local culture…but they still are at their core, in-flight magazines).

Picking up the July edition of Southwest Airline’s “Spirit” magazine http://www.spiritmag.com/, I started thumbing through the predictable boilerplate CEO message in both Ingles y Espanol, the chosen destination travel guide (this time to always riveting Kansas City), the airline’s flight system map (usually the best part of the magazine) and then I came upon the story about: Todd Painter, Southwest Airline’s manager of Online Communications based in Dallas http://www.facebook.com/people/Todd-Painter/1477287519.

Was Southwest actually extending some LUV to one of its PR people for the benefit of its paying customers? To top it off, Southwest was even discussing employee communications and how to use corporate intranets to foster two-way communications between the company’s nearly 35,000 employees and the corporate brass.


What a totally unexpected and pleasant surprise, even for an in-flight magazine.

Todd leads the Southwest’s corporate intranet site, “SWALife,” and has directed its transition into a multi-media, two-way communications tool.

“On a communications front, it is an exciting time for Southwest Airlines, as our employees now have the ability to join the online conversation,” Painter said. “For years, SWALife has been an invaluable information resource for our employees, but the site only offered one-way communication, and employees had no way to give feedback on what they were reading. With the launch of SWALife Interactive and its employee blog, our employees have a voice.”

Left unsaid in the article was a recounting of the myriad of obligatory meetings with Corporate Finance, Legal and Investor Relations (to name just three) about giving employees this type of freedom in the setting of a publicly traded company (NYSE: LUV) http://data.cnbc.com/quotes/luv. The most predictable and conservative responses from these always “concerned” internal audiences is the two-letter word that starts with the letter, “n.”

The worst approach that a corporate and/or employee communications manager could ever make with these internal audiences is to state that intranets are only for the company’s employees and therefore there is no danger of improper communication. This assertion defies reality because it only takes one click on the “forward” button and a story or an item is outside the company’s fire walls.

Nonetheless, Corporate PR or a designated Employee Communications Department should be able to prevail in this argument. Two-way communications (e.g. conversational marketing) are now a digital fact of life. In fact, colleague-to-colleague interactions are regarded as the most trusted of all communications. Besides, a publicly traded company’s employees should understand what is permissible (no selective disclosures of specific quarterly or yearly performance expectations, no “material information, no proprietary trade secrets). Aren’t we all big girls and boys?

By evidence of Todd’s story in “Spirit” magazine (which obviously had to be approved by some corporate legal eagle), Southwest now has an interactive employee intranet site. And yes, the company still trades every day on the New York Stock Exchange under the watchful eyes of the SEC. Public relations pros can prevail in these internal debates, and everyone is a winner including  blogging employees and hopefully the overall morale of everyone at the company as well.

Almost DailyBrett note: Todd’s successful fight against autoimmune liver disease, leading to a liver transplant in 2003 is awe-inspiring. And so is his championing of registered donor programs including the good folks at http://www.donatelife.net/

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