As you plan your marketing strategy, earned media is a valuable option to promote your brand.
Earned media is free and often considered the most trusted source of information. A story in a newspaper promoting your brand or a segment on the noon news offers more credibility than a paid advertisement. Although free, earning a spot in the media for your local business isn’t easy. It takes planning, relationship building, and persistence.
“Look at earned media as an opportunity to give back, to connect with the community,’’ said Julie Holton, Principal Strategist and Owner of mConnexions. “It’s a way to connect with the media and reporters by providing a service for them.’’
Prior to her marketing career and launching mConnexions, Holton worked for more than a decade as an Emmy award-winning producer and executive producer in TV newsrooms across the country. Day in and day out, it was her job to work with reporters, producers, anchors, assignment editors, and her news directors to determine which stories to cover and how to cover them.
Recently, Julie Holton was featured as an expert panelist on Entrepreneur Connect, a radio show hosted by the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce on Michigan Business Rap. Click to watch the show via Facebook Live.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Media is data driven with reporters and editors working toward website clicks and engagement with their audience. So, your best tactic to earn media attention is by making yourself a valuable resource.” quote=”Media is data driven with reporters and editors working toward website clicks and engagement with their audience. So, your best tactic to earn media attention is by making yourself a valuable resource.” theme=”style2″]
Earning media attention takes time and effort. Here’s a simple guideline to get you started:
Know the news.
There are two key reasons to keep abreast of what is going on in the world.
- You are a business owner or leader and should really know what is going on in the world. If you do get face-time with a reporter you want to be able to speak intelligently about a trending issue and show the reporter you can be a valued resource.
- Often there are things going on in your community – or even trending nationally – where you may be able to shed even more light. For example, you own a real estate brokerage and the market in your area is very hot. You’re an expert on how fast homes are selling, how to stage a home, what to ask when buying, current mortgage rates … your expertise is endless and you could be a valuable resource.
Holton said to be successful working with the media, it’s important to know more than just the news. A business owner should really understand how the media works – and who does what.
“It’s not just knowing what is being covered in the news, but also knowing how a newsroom functions,’’ she said. “Understanding the basics of an assignment desk and being able to connect with reporters – in many cases through social media. Finding out who to reach out to, to let them know you have information that may be able to help them can make all the difference.”
Have a plan.
While you may find there are already existing stories trending that you could easily add insight to, it’s important to have a plan before you go out pitching. Think about your goals; know which media outlets make the most sense for your business; hone in on messaging you are trying to push out to the public; and know your company story – and what information you’d like to share. Before you take the step of pitching to a reporter ask yourself, what’s our story? How do we tell the story? Does it relate to promoting our business?
Develop your story.
To have any chance of earning the media’s attention, you must make sure you have a story to tell that reporters and their audience will care enough to read or watch.
“We start with the care factor,’’ Holton said. “Why is the audience going to care about whatever the story is that you are pitching? Because it’s not just whether the reporters care. The reporters are only going to care if their audience is going to care. Starting to put together that strategic plan of what elements you can provide is important.’’
A business anniversary, internal promotion or even a charity event won’t likely interest the press. A thought-out pitch, with human interest and information that could affect your community will have a much better chance of earning attention.
Understand how the media works.
Print reporters work for editors who work for managing editors who work for executive editors. TV reporters get their stories from assignment editors who work with producers and executive producers to decide the editorial goals each day. Do some research on your local media to see who makes the most sense to approach. More often than not, the reporter is the best person to contact – not the top editors. Reporters like to find their own ideas and editors are bombarded all day and will likely miss you.
Media members work hard and would like people to know what they’ve done and the role they play. Don’t pitch a real estate story to a sports reporter. While he or she may be nice and let you know who you should talk to, sometimes they aren’t and you could burn bridges before you even get started.
Make it easy for the reporter.
Newsrooms are shrinking. Reporters are overworked and underpaid. It’s likely they are juggling more than one story a day and trying hard to really make an impact in your community. Once you’ve developed your plan, and figured out your story, the next thing to do is make it as easy as possible for a reporter to feature you. Before you even approach the media, it’s important to know who the sources will be for the story (most media outlets are looking for a leader in addition to a “real person” to talk to), to have photo opportunities set (some media will even accept high-quality photos from the company) and to think about any third-party experts to further enhance your message.
Let’s go back to our real estate broker example. Maybe you have a mortgage broker the reporter can talk to about rates, or a first-time home buyer who would be willing to talk to the reporter and take action pictures while visiting open houses. Often when the story is really about “real people,’’ the media will be more inclined to cover it.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Anything you can do to make a reporter’s job more manageable will go a long way in your ability to get noticed by the media.” quote=”Anything you can do to make a reporter’s job more manageable will go a long way in your ability to get noticed by the media.” theme=”style2″]
Pitch your story.
Traditionally, businesses have used press releases to grab the attention of reporters. While this is certainly a valued option – and it allows you to “pre-write” the story, send clear messaging, and maybe even control the angle – more and more, businesses need to be creative in getting a busy reporter’s attention.
“You need to capture their attention right off the bat,’’ Holton said. “So make sure your subject line gives the care factor, tells them why they want to open the email to see what’s in there.”
If you send a press release or media availability as an email, make sure to include an informative yet catchy subject line so that your recipients are interested in reading more. If you’re alerting multiple news outlets or reporters at the same time, make sure to blind carbon copy everyone so that it’s not immediately apparent that you’re sending a mass email.
Also keep in mind that members of the media receive pitches all day long, so whatever you do, make sure your story pitch stands out. It may be best to call or mail a story pitch. And, just as you need to be creative with the story topic itself, you may need to step outside of your usual box to connect to the media.
This could be as easy as following reporters on social media platforms and commenting on things that are unrelated to your own business. This helps build a relationship with the reporter, without encroaching or being pushy. Another way to encourage engagement is to post relevant content on your business social media accounts, tagging the media outlet or sending the post as a direct message.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Just like any business relationship, you need to figure out the best way to communicate with the media. You can’t ever guarantee news coverage but if you can make yourself useful, informative and reliable you will have a much better chance.” quote=”Just like any business relationship, you need to figure out the best way to communicate with the media. You can’t ever guarantee news coverage but if you can make yourself useful, informative and reliable you will have a much better chance.” theme=”style2″]
Holton said studies show 88 percent of Twitter users go there to find news. And Facebook Live gets six times more engagement than other posts. Building up your social media sites can make a difference in reaching the media and your audience.
“You better believe reporters are also looking at social media for ideas,’’ she said.
Be persistent and smart.
Earning media attention can take time and patience. You may pitch several ideas that you think are no-brainers that no reporters nibble on. And then one day, you may get the call about a tweet someone from your company posted. Be ready and make sure your team is ready. Go over social media expectations and make sure they know reporters (and community members) are online and reading everything that’s out there.
“Every employee you have is a spokesperson for your company whether you intend for them to be or not,’’ Holton said. “So even if they are posting on social media or they are talking to their friends and family, what is that message that you want them to be conveying? Having that training, having those conversations up front and maintaining those relationships and connections is really important.”