Earned Media is Earned

Earned media; while a C-suite leader may look to members of their company or organization’s public relations or strategic communications staff to conjure it up with the snap of a finger, success in this venue is neither fast nor free. Yet, the phrase, “let’s do some media on this,” is a too frequent command.

As the name itself implies, earned media is earned. It is not bought like paid media (advertising), and you don’t own the platform where it is placed, like social media or your company website, where you can post anything and everything about product, personnel and pride. Earned media comes with an investment all its own.

Placements must be earned for one of several reasons:

  • You have a burning story reporters can’t ignore, but likely if that story does not involve crime, calamity or corruption, it’ll be a tough sell.
  • It strongly connects to another C-word—the community the reporter is assigned to cover. That could be as broad as an entire business sector or as small as the smallest town.
  • It must be timely. If it didn’t just happen, reconsider your pitch.

Working successfully with a reporter is about building a trusting relationship. This could span months or years, but could also come down to a basic level of trust cultivated across a series of calls or desk-side meetings.

Trust with reporters is built on multiple foundations. Are you and your organization credible? Are you responsive to their needs at deadline? Is your story relevant to their audience? Do you install a firewall between your media content pitches and your sales pitches, just like their media outlet likely does between editorial and advertising?

There is nothing wrong with selling a quality product, but unless it delivers a revolutionary innovation to save the world from famine, pestilence or destruction, cut your earned media pitch at the corral gate. But if your product truly delivers on a transformational equation to provide documented and verified benefits of stronger, better, faster, give it your best shot.

Knowing what is and what is not news is the most important filter—one frequently misunderstood by colleagues who are not in the trenches. Unless they have seen with their own eyes a reporter scoff at your company’s latest news release of the day, it’s difficult to grasp. Earned media is gained by knowing the difference between genuine news and self-serving puffery. Once the reporter knows you are a professional in that aspect, they will be more likely to pick up or return your calls. At that point, you have earned their trust.

Once trust is earned, reporters will know whenever they see your name pop up on their phone or ding their inbox, it’s worth further consideration. Based on some level of an established relationship, you will be providing them with a valuable story and you will have a credible spokesperson or subject matter expert available.

Your company or organization has a number of valuable stories to share, but not all fit the mold for earned media consideration. Knowing the difference and working to develop a better understanding of that matter with your boss and your bosses’ boss will save hours of frustration, recrimination and rejection.

Earned media is secured through trust, dependability and availability.

While news releases are frequently the catalyst for earned media contacts, the decision to do one must also be based on the same scrutiny as deciding whether to pitch a story to a reporter.

There’s plenty of room for information and content that doesn’t rise to the news release or earned media level. More than likely, you will share that on your “owned media” web or social platforms with an audience that has a vested interest in your organization or company. Paid media is the best choice when the information falls short of earned media scrutiny but you still have a mission to share it with members of a broad community or a targeted local or trade-related audience.

While it’s important to know the difference, each member of the media family—earned, owned and paid—can coexist in harmony and support one another. But it’s important to know that the right to sit next to “earned media,” the most popular cousin at the reunion dinner table, cannot be bought but neither is it cheap and most definitely is not free.

Earned media is earned.

Do you need help to establish your organization or company in the earned media space? At Stratovation Group, our media network runs deep. We’re glad to help you develop the strategies you need to develop your own network of reporters and begin to share stories that matter to them. And as you do, those stories will drive value, visibility and influence back to your company or organization, your boss and your bosses’ boss.

Think of us as your growth partners. Through crazy customer-centricity, we engage in projects, staff augmentation, managing business processes, and strategic partnerships to help our clients win. We’d love to chat.