Too many press releases sound like they were written a century ago and dispatched via telegraph. They quote the CEO and describe the obvious. They seem oblivious to news trends or trending news. Not surprisingly, they often wind up in waste cans.
The art of earned media – getting your brand, client or subject mentioned in news columns in print or online – requires just as much creativity as paid media and often more daring. Potential rewards are worth the effort.
Getting attention is the point of earned media. A stale press release may not do the trick as well as staging a clever event, posting a thought-provoking blog, sustaining an engaging social media site or hopping onto a trending news story with your own relevant content.
If your earned media strategy consists of sending press releases and hoping for the best, you are missing out on the high-speed train known as digital media. A press release is like a prayer that someone will reprint it as a story. Digital media lets you be the writer, editor and publisher of your own story and broadcast it as widely as your wits can manage.
Online visibility is a core value of earned media these days. Your link can be embedded in stories, shared or circulated in channels where your dream audiences hang out. That visibility can translate into clicks on your website, blog or social media platform. In turn, that builds awareness and, in time, trust.
Paid media and even traditional medial relations are about getting attention, too, but typically on different terms. You are ending a message you want people to hear and heed. Earned media is increasingly about providing information that people are eager to know and are willing to access if you make it available.
Because of the blizzard of information whipping around all of us, your earned media content needs to stand out to be seen. That’s where daring comes in. Sometimes the best strategy is to follow the lead of bank robbers and go where the money is – or, in this case, where your audience is. That’s why newsjacking has become a staple of earned media campaigns. Why go from a cold start when you can tap into the energy of a story that is already buzzing.
Another key contemporary earned media tactic is to send your content out in as many channels as you can, not just to the local newspaper. Actually, this isn’t as new as you might think. Cigarette companies pioneered the idea of putting your product message everywhere, from race cars to billboards to scenes in Hollywood movies. Pushing content through multiple channels, digital and non-digital, recognizes that your target audience is on the move and not always in the same place to hear what you have to say.
Celebrity endorsements are common on paid media, but true influencers shine through better in earned media content that allows them to share their experience in more relaxed, less pushy terms in video or online accompanied by images and other information.
Paid media buys must navigate highly segmented traditional media. Earned media campaigns are less constrained as they range across the digital and traditional media landscape. While paid media buys must be targeted because of financial limitations, earned media outreach can be much more expansive and experimental. The idea is to shoot wide, then narrow according to actual results.
Integrated communications strategies can and should involve both paid and earned media. Strategies saddled with smallish budgets may find the maximum impact through digital media, relying heavily on solid content. Good information, promoted through a network of digital media, social media and email, can be an attractive, budget-friendly, audience-engaging option.