The Ultimate Guide To Earned Media For Small Businesses
Open any print publication—from industry trade journals to newsstand best sellers such as Fortune and Fast Company—and each will be filled with subject matter experts either being quoted within feature stories or contributing their own bylined columns. Ditto for online publications and blogs. Whether these publishers have news-based reporting, interview pieces or contributed articles, they all need sources. How were these experts selected?
Most likely, these individuals landed the coverage by pitching their relevance to an upcoming article, or they suggested a story idea that was newsworthy and relevant to the publications’ readership. Either way, they received the placements—and the implied third-party endorsement that comes with being featured in the media.
How do you become the go-to expert for your favorite print and online publications? Don’t assume you have to be a big corporation to get noticed by the media. In this case, size doesn’t matter.Don’t assume you have to be a big corporation to get noticed by the media. In this case, size doesn’t matter. #publicity #contentmatters Click To Tweet
What does matter, however, is that you have applicable knowledge for the upcoming story and a trustworthy reputation to back it up.
So how do you get noticed by the media? Before diving into the specifics, it’s important to first understand what earned media is and why earned media should be an integral part of your marketing plan.
What Is Earned Media?
From a publication standpoint, there are two types of media. Paid and earned.
Paid media comes in the form of advertising, sponsored content, advertorials, etc. This kind of media has guaranteed placement because you are paying for it to be shown, and no alterations to content are made. Because you’re paying for the privilege of being featured, you’re in control of the content.
Earned media, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. No payment exchanges hands, and submission is no guarantee of publication. Earned media is the property of the publication, and they can use it to suit their editorial needs.
For example, you may be interviewed for a story and you’re quoted within a couple sentences. You contribute a bylined article or submit a guest blog post, and the content may be edited for clarity, style and consistency.
Why would anyone give up control of the content they produce? And should they?
When looking at overall visibility, earned media should absolutely play a role in your strategic content marketing plans because it exposes you to a broader audience (hello potential customers) through a trusted medium.Earned media should play a role in your strategic content marketing plans because it exposes you to a broader audience through a trusted medium. #PR #contentmatters Click To Tweet
Three Big Benefits Of Earned Media
Being published in print or online media is certainly an ego boost, but is it an effective marketing tool? You bet. Unlike any other marketing and advertising activities, earned media offers several unique benefits:
1. Earned Media Builds Trust
First, there is an implied third-party endorsement that comes from being published by a trusted media outlet. It’s what others say about you, so there is a trust factor with earned media that doesn’t come from traditional advertising—trust that boosts your overall image and reputation.
2. Earned Media Provides Social Proof
Second, earned media builds links to your website’s press page and becomes content to post on social media. It provides the necessary social proof that you are expert enough to be considered a trusted source.
Earned media is also a great conversation starter with clients or prospects, and it can easily make a cold call feel warm. You wouldn’t contact prospects to ask if they saw your new ad campaign that features products/services for use in trade shows. But you could reach out to those who do annual events and have a conversation about an article you wrote on the seven must-haves for increasing booth traffic via the effective use of branded merchandise.
3. Earned Media Boosts Impact And Influence
Finally, earned media can lead to guest blogging and/or speaking opportunities, increasing your impact and influence even more. Once you begin establishing your credentials through media placements, it becomes much easier to sell yourself as the expert that your targeted media outlets can count on to deliver the content they need to educate their audiences.Earned media builds trust, provides social proof, and boosts impact and influence. #publicity #mediarelations #contentmatters Click To Tweet
Six Ways To Get Publicity Via Earned Media
It’s easy to see why pursuing earned media is a beneficial and worthwhile marketing tactic. But where do you start? What do traditional magazines and online publications want and need? There are six primary ways to participate:
When most people think of earned media, press releases automatically come to mind. Rightfully so.
One of the principal functions of most media outlets is to convey news, and the customary way to communicate with the media about your company’s news is through a press release that provides all the pertinent who, what, when, where, why and how details.
What constitutes news? Depends on your target publication. Generally speaking, news is often based on company updates, expansions, earnings, mergers and acquisitions, new hires and promotions, awards and recognition, events and charitable activities.
That said, product and service updates may or may not be considered news. Oftentimes, if you can buy ad space for the announcement, then it’s not classified as news.
Keep in mind that blasting out press releases and expecting the media to publish them is unlikely to happen. That’s not how most media work today.
Rather, press releases are the support documents for well-conceived and targeted pitches that align with current events or speak to upcoming articles as noted in the publication’s editorial calendar/media kit. So, while press releases are still a crucial foundational document that should be created to collect all the facts, they’re often not the primary communication tool that they’ve been in the past.
While new product introductions aren’t often considered news, there is a caveat if your publication of choice features product reviews or showcases. Just look at all the women’s magazines, for example, and the health and beauty products that are highlighted each month. In these instances, a sample of the product, accompanied by a press release, could be appropriate depending on the media outlet’s submission requirements.
If your industry is also product-based, such as my niche (the promotional products industry), then much of the editorial content within industry media is naturally based around products.
If this is the case for the industry in which you work, editors will most likely need unique items with great images and creative descriptions. A prime opportunity for you to gain publicity!
People naturally gravitate to others’ success. They want to know what works, the best practices and insider secrets. Being able to demonstrate success—and then create a pitch that shows editors how this can be intertwined into an upcoming story on the editorial calendar or be used for a stand-alone feature—is a valuable way to get noticed.
The power of case histories comes not only from sharing ways to do something better but also from the application of this knowledge in a real-world scenario—and this can make compelling editorial. When pitching a case-history-based story idea, explain the background to give context and include pertinent details. Additionally, if ROI can be demonstrated, you’re more likely to have the basis for a great story that will capture an editor’s attention.The power of case histories comes not only from sharing ways to do something better but also from the application of this knowledge in a real-world scenario. #PR #contentmatters Click To Tweet
Having a bylined article in a magazine or blog your audience reads is one of the most engaging ways to demonstrate your expertise. Writing about subjects you know in a way that is educational for readers is an effective tactic to gain publicity while allowing you to be of service.
Think about what you know (sales, marketing, technology, building houses, baking cakes, etc.) and determine how your skills align with a publication’s mission and audience needs. I bet there are numerous story possibilities.
What does this look like in practice? For example, I wrote a series on product safety in the promotional products industry (Promo Buyers’ Expectations: Can You Meet The New Demands?, Rationalizing Your Way Out Of Responsible Promo Sourcing and Are Promo Firms So Desperate For Short-Term Gains That They’re Willing To Gamble Their Future?) that was published by Promo Marketing magazine (now Print & Promo Marketing magazine). These articles offered a worthy perspective on a serious subject, all the while giving me great visibility.
For even more examples, check out these articles we wrote for Valerie Hayman Sklar, president of Corporate Specialties, that were published at Forbes.com as well as these PPAI Voices articles we wrote for Brian Swift, president of Swift Sourcing.
If you have valuable industry insights, sage advice or important lessons learned (often the hard way), the opportunities for sharing your knowledge with the media are plentiful.
To get started, look at the media your customers read to see if they offer ways to contribute in print or through guest blogging. Submission details as well as writers’ guidelines should be available on their websites.
Most traditional media outlets, especially newspapers, have a “letters to the editor” opinion section where readers have an opportunity to share their thoughts on important issues. This is also the case for many industry trade journals and association publications.
Additionally, trade publications often ask a monthly question as a way to engage members and provide a forum for discourse. Responses may be published in print, online or both.
I used this strategy to contribute to Promotional Products Business (PPB), the flagship publication of Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) that is now called PPAI Magazine, when this question was posed:
A distributor asks: I recently started writing a blog, which is accessible through my company website. In my blog, I discuss issues relevant to the promotional products industry, but I was wondering whether I should be more transparent. I know that users today like to see the “human” side of a business apart from the strictly professional side, but is it possible for too much transparency to backfire? I was wondering how other distributors structure their blog content and the feedback they’ve received.
My nearly 600-word response was published in its entirety, allowing me to serve my community of fellow practitioners by sharing my expertise while getting significant PR. Check it out here.
Finding quality sources is always a challenge for journalists, editors and freelance writers. There’s a fine balance between creating a bank of solid experts + adding new voices who can offer fresh perspectives.
There are numerous ways you as an expert source can connect with writers who have immediate needs:
Depending on the service, you may be able to create a profile to showcase your expertise and/or there may be daily queries that go out looking to match experts to story opportunities being written right now.
Because these services typically elicit a lot of query responses, your pitch must be short and on-point. A brief bio (sentence or two) may be included to establish qualifications with a link to your About page for more information. If you’ve been featured in other publications, you may also want to link to a press/news page on your website where the reporter can evaluate your credentials.
If you’ve published a blog post on the topic of the query, linking to it could be a way to provide the writer with more details if they’re interested beyond the query response.
How To Work Effectively With The Media
Working with the media takes time; it’s playing the long game. While it’s great to be featured in Inc. or Entrepreneur, you most likely won’t start there; you’ll need to build up some street cred first.
Coming from an association publication background, I can say that we were always interested in hearing from credible sources. Thus, working with trade journals is my #1 place to start and then work to build into larger publications as you gain momentum.Working with the media takes time; it’s playing the long game. Working with trade journals is my No. 1 place to start then build into larger pubs as you gain momentum. #earnedmedia #contentmatters Click To Tweet
Whatever kind of media outlet you target, follow these tips to be a strong, reliable source.
Do Your Homework
Always do your homework to understand the publication you’re pitching. For magazines, read them—cover to cover—for multiple issues. Also look at their websites to see if they do online exclusive content that different from what’s in print.
For blogs and online pubs, do a thorough examination of several months of content.
For both printed and digital, visit their social sites. Review the media kit to understand the readership and see the editorial calendar. This research will help you tailor your outreach so that it is relevant for that specific publication’s audience and on target for planned editorial.
Put The Reader First
Take an audience-centric approach; don’t sound like an ad or be self-serving. Rather than thinking about what you want to write, put yourself in readers’ shoes and determine what they need to read. Once you identify their needs, you can write to meet them.
Provide great content that’s unlike previously published material. If you’re just like the writers currently published, why should you be considered? Offer a new idea or a fresh perspective so editors will take notice.
Finally, respond quickly. Reporters, editors and freelancers are always on deadline. Responding first is no guarantee of publication, but it goes a long way in proving you are reliable.Want to work effectively with the media? Do you homework, put the reader first, be original and be timely. #PRtips #earnedmedia #contentmatters Click To Tweet
Add Earned Media To Your Strategic Marketing Plan
There are many ways to connect with customers and prospects through content—from blogging and social media to email marketing and earned media. Which is the most effective? That depends on your goals and what form of communication your ideal clients respond to.
While you can’t create every type of content and do it well (unless you have unlimited staff and budget), relying solely on one means will limit your potential. Finding the right mix is key, and earned media can be a solid tactic when pursued strategically, methodically and consistently
There’s talk of getting free press, but there’s really no such thing. Earned media is truly earned in time and effort.
But getting mentioned in the press—from small niche magazines to large newsstand publications to popular blogs—is worth the investment and should be an integral part of your comprehensive marketing plans.
Takeaway: Content matters. And having additional ways of sharing your thought leadership beyond your own blog matters, too. By establishing relationships with industry publications and working with them on earned media opportunities, you can reach new audiences while building your brand, sharing your expertise and boosting your online reputation.Want to expand your content marketing beyond blogging and social media. Check out our Ultimate Guide To Earned Media For Small Business. #publicity #PR #contentmatters Click To Tweet
What’s Next: Media relations complements all your other marketing initiatives—websites, blogging, social media, email blasts, catalogs, printed collateral, direct mail campaigns and events. Regardless of economic climate, a targeted media relations plan can make effective use of your marketing dollars at a fraction of the cost of advertising. Plus, the implied third-party endorsement of being featured in publications positively impacts your corporate credibility.
If you’re interested in becoming the go-to expert for your favorite publications, we can develop a strategy that aligns your knowledge with the publications’ needs to craft a targeted pitch of your expertise. Then we can ghostwrite the articles when they say “yes!” Contact us to learn how we can work together.
Feedback: What did you think of this article? Do you use earned media as a part of your marketing strategy? If so, how do you use these articles to support the sales process? We’d love to learn more about your experience working with the media as well as how this article resonated with you. Drop us a line here and let’s get the conversation going.
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