Is earned media the PR campaign Holy Grail? The PR practitioner’s quest to garner earned media might drive a campaign, but we have to be honest about realities of engagement.
If you’re still not sure of the difference between each type of media, here’s a bit of a breakdown:
What you pay for. This includes paid advertisements, TV spots, radio spots, news releases (you paid for distribution and you own the content), web banners, paid searches, etc. This type of media is often targeted at new markets or “strangers”.
What you own. This includes your corporate website, microsites (your Twitter account, for example), your company’s Facebook page, branded collateral, a live event you put on for clients, etc. This is often targeted at current and future customers.
What you earn: This includes focused social media content (retweets, for example), organic blog posts (this means a blogger talks about your company or product without incentive), videos, cover stories, etc. This is often targeted at existing and potential brand advocates or fans.
In a way, none of the media you garner is free. The planning and management of the campaign itself could be labour intensive and costly. And, more often than not, you’ve paid for a conversation starter (beware: you might get in to hot water if you try to buy the entire conversation).
The advantage to paid and owned media is that mentions are more predictable. You control the owned outlets, and you likely produced the content you’ve bought. It’s the aftermath of that campaign initiation – the earned media – that comes littered with nuances and subtleties. This is likely because earned media is often based on trust. Journalists and bloggers are often hesitant to talk kindly about a brand if they don’t fully believe in the cause. If they don’t trust your product, they won’t promote you. And, don’t forget, it doesn’t count as earned media if it’s incentive-based mentions (like sending a blogger a freebie to get them to talk kindly about your product).
It’s not always easy to differentiate between the different levels of media mentions. Especially when it comes to earned media. If you use a media monitoring service here are some first steps to take once you’ve performed your searches:
- Categorize your content: organize your clips based on paid, owned and earned.
- Clean it up: go through the earned media to make sure the “earned” really happened organically; that the mention happened without incentive or payment; re-categorize if necessary.
- Scrutinize: be sure that if you’ve categorized a clip as “earned” that it’s more than just a name drop – did the mention result from your campaign? Was the earned media positive or negative? Did that mention lead to more sharing? If not, does it make sense to keep it in the “earned” pile? Is it worth reporting on?
In the end, a solid campaign is built around successful engagement. No engagement, no sale. You’ll have to take time to monitor what’s being said about your brand. And the levels of engagement should be the focus. Don’t forget some of that media can be negative. So be honest with yourself – knowing the true landscape will give you a better chance to improve.