Why It Matters: Earned Media Placements & How to Start Landing Them
Everyone loves free stuff. Free samples! Buy one, get one free! Giveaways! They all sound wonderful. So when you’re trying to get your business out there, nothing is sweeter than free press.
There’s a plethora of free media outlets like your own website or blog, social media pages, reviews and audience engagement. While all these opportunities are important, there’s an elephant in the room that many PR teams too often ignore: earned publications in relevant media sources.
Earned media placements are often viewed as the pinnacle of brand exposure. They showcase your company from a third-party outlet with an existing audience. However, these platforms are consequently difficult to land, requiring your PR team to generate compelling content that offers new insights and appeases gatekeepers. And that can take an awful lot of time and resources to create.
Your PR team needs to understand your business, the industry, readers’ interest and then almost act as consultants to go above and beyond, explaining the potential your company is trying to unlock rather than simply stating its value. Your team's ability to land earned media placements is predicated on their ability to provide unique perspectives that no other player in the industry could offer. That’s a daunting task.
For this reason, PR teams often shy away from earned media placements and instead focus on flashy self-promotion through social media and paid advertising.
These more accessible outlets often require just as much attention to craft, but allow your PR or advertising team to stay more comfortably in their wheelhouse. Unfortunately, sleek visuals and clever posts don’t have very long shelf lives and come off as blatant self-promotion, neither of which is ideal for exposure.
Your tweet probably won’t be remembered for too long after readers scroll past it. Your beautiful banner ad, no matter how well designed, is unlikely to remain in viewers heads after the leave a web page. Your expensive video ad is also likely to be skipped as soon as the video player allows.
While all these methods are surefire ways of getting in front of an audience, they are also surefire ways to make sure your brand doesn’t stick with that audience. Earned media placements work in the opposite way because they provide inherent value to their target audience.
Let’s say you pen an op ed and place it in Forbes. While your initial brand exposure could be relegated to the byline, interested readers are going to follow that tiny detail back to your company. The article also stands to be relevant for months if not years as new readers search for the subject you are discussing, not your company specifically.
For this reason, earned media placements are integral to establishing your company as a thought leader and should be a key component of any outreach strategy, especially when working with complex ideas or trying to communicate with other businesses.
But how exactly do you begin to land these placements?
Research (and Research Some More) — While you may be anxious to get your ideas out on the market, don’t rush it. In our experience running PR campaigns, our clients love a big win early on. While this is often a nice ego boost, it’s rarely a critical score.
Don’t be afraid to give your team a few weeks to simply research your business, the market, the industry, and anything else that might be relevant. This way, when the time comes to generate content, they’ll have a solid grasp of the material and actually be able to deliver valuable insights on your behalf.
What’s the Big Picture? — Let’s say you run the “Better Hot Dog Company.” Your content creation for earned media placements should focus on why the world needs better hot dogs, not that your company offers them.
Your job is to call attention to a problem and paint a picture of your vision, a better tomorrow. Then when your audience sympathizes with your perspective, “well, I never thought of it that way. Maybe we do need better hot dogs. I wonder why this person is such an authority on hot dogs...?” Your business is the logical answer.
Read the News — Now that your team has a solid understanding of your business and the ecosystem in which it operates, it’s your PR team’s job to scan the news and be ready to jump on any opportunity at the drop of a hat, positioning your viewpoint in the context of relevant developments in the news cycle.
Maybe your hot dogs magically don’t need to be refrigerated and a power outage just caused thousands of pounds of food to spoil? Boom, kill two birds with one stone. There is your story and you can reach out to the journalist the published the original piece to try and gain traction. While this maybe a rather silly example, the model holds true.
Those three steps are all it really takes, and while they are much easier said than done, earning media placements is far from an impossible task. Start small and then shoot for the stars. Small media placements will give your brand authority and act as a portfolio for higher-tier outlets. If you’re content is solid, there is no reason your business can’t feature on the world stage.
At the end of the day, just make sure your team has a complete understanding of your vision, are clear communicators, have their finger on the market’s pulse and are doggedly determined to pursue relationships with gatekeepers.