To say these are challenging times for earning media coverage would be an understatement. PR firms and their clients have experienced frustration and disappointment this year in their attempts to get the media to take notice of their stories. They’re competing against a backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, protests for social justice, wildfires in the western states, hurricanes in the Atlantic and Gulf shores, and the Presidential election.
What are the three legs of media?
Media is much like a three-legged stool — classic in design but adaptable to changing landscapes.
A three-legged stool is always stable, even on an uneven surface.
There are three kinds of media — earned, owned, and paid. While they can often work together, sometimes one pulls more weight than the others. When they’re coordinated, media outreach can work most effectively to deliver the audience that clients seek.
What is Earned Media?
Earned media is favorable exposure that a company has not paid for or created. It can be a story idea that’s pitched to the media--newsworthy or entertaining enough to garner usage based on its own merit. It can also be a creative campaign that goes viral across multiple social media sites. Earned media has evolved over the last 40 years, yet it remains the same in one fundamental way — earned media is very effective.
Earned media can be “word-of-mouth” news, features or advertising on steroids.
Today’s consumers are similar, in many ways, to consumers in the past. Opinions about products and services shared by friends or family members influence our decisions about where to eat, where to vacation, what brand of vehicle to purchase, and which school districts are the best. The major difference in 2020 is that consumers share their opinions (whether good or bad) with the people they connect with online — with the potential of reaching hundreds or thousands of people through sharing and retweets.
A Nielsen study shows that earned media earns high marks for trust. 83% of consumers trust recommendations from people that they know. Two-thirds of consumers report that they trust reviews/opinions posted online and editorial content from newspapers and magazines. A SearchEngineLand study reveals that 88% of consumers utilize reviews for local businesses.
Earned media comes in many sizes, shapes, and flavors. It can be on-air, online, in print or offline. Whatever the source, earned media is valuable. Examples include-
- Facebook posts during the pandemic, proclaiming that “this takeout pizza is the best ever!”
- The Yelp review praising an HVAC company as “fast and affordable.”
- The watercolorist’s blog praising “brilliant jewel tones” for the brand of paint they just bought.
- TV news segment (local or national) for the opening of a new location.
- Radio news story about a breakthrough health treatment.
- Blogs written, without a company’s knowledge or input, that praise their products or services.
- Spontaneous invitations to “like” a company’s Facebook page.
- Amazon reviews.
- TripAdvisor reviews, especially when they include photographs.
- Media recognition of restaurants that provide free meals to COVID-19 frontline healthcare workers.
- Customers using and promoting your products on their YouTube channel.
Some excellent examples of Word of Mouth (WOM) Earned Media, include:
- The ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) Ice Bucket Challenge
- TOMS Buy One, Get One campaign where a child in need gets a free pair of shoes when you buy a pair.
- Dropbox Free Storage offer of 500MB of free storage for new customers and referrers.
It’s important to remember that earned media is usually the result of your combined marketing efforts. Earned media is organic and tangible evidence of an effective marketing campaign. Here’s a tip. Online, always include reviews, posts, and feedback from customers, as most consumers agree that they trust the information shared by your most satisfied customers. Consumers enjoy different platforms, so be sure that customer feedback is shared on all social media platforms from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube.
What is Paid Media?
Paid media is paid-for advertorial, feature content or advertising that a company places in a variety of media outlets, including broadcast, digital, outdoor, and print. Paid media can help drive traffic to your website, your retail outlets or service locations, and your social media sites. This is because the message is controlled by you, not the outlet where it’s placed.
It’s important to note that paid media can help drive earned media. Clients often benefit by using paid media to promote content on social media platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Other commonly used paid media tactics center around utilizing broadcast media. One example is the guaranteed placement radio news release, written and produced with the client’s key messages, and aired on stations across the country. These pieces can close with a call to action, with a goal of driving traffic to the client’s website.
While some believe that paid media isn’t as beneficial as earned media, nothing could be further from the truth. Paid media is one of the three legs of the stool. Without paid media, clients would have to rely solely on earned and owned media, reducing opportunities for mass exposure, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic -- a time when what used to garner national earned media attention can easily become overshadowed by the next big headline.
Traditional paid media utilizes radio, television, print, and outdoor. Currently, billboards and digital signs may not be providing the reach that advertisers need as we see less traffic on our highways due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, radio listenership and TV viewing have returned to near normal levels as more people work from home.
Sponsorships are another example of paid media, and sponsorships offer the potential to increase earned media. Sponsorships of community food drives and other COVID-19 related activities will likely result in local exposure through local television reporters or local DJs, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
More and more employers are extending the time their employees can work remotely from home. Online advertising provides the ability to reach specific demographics — easy to target by both age, sex, location and education. Facebook and Google ads are examples of paid online media. These ads are ideal for reaching remote employees, who are weary of COVID-19 and politics on television.
Pay per Click (PPC) advertising helps drive traffic to company websites. Direct mail, via USPS or email, is another example of paid media.
What is Owned Media?
Owned media is any property, often web-based, that you control. Examples include:
- YouTube channels
- Email campaign sending a company newsletter
- Social media posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — shares, retweets, and comments are earned media
Catalogs, sent through the mail, or included in customer orders, are another type of owned media.
Owned media is the third and final leg of the stool. It is a critical component of any company’s business success. Why is owned media so important?
- Control. Companies have total control over the content of their website, social media posts, and YouTube content.
- Permanence. The content doesn’t go away, but can be tweaked and modified as conditions change. The ability to adapt content during the COVID-19 pandemic and the upheavals of this election year allow companies to be responsive to change.
- Reach. Meticulous utilization of keywords and Meta tags help SEO.
What should you consider when planning media strategies?
Every client is unique, with their own specialized product or services, and their potential customers are often very diverse. There is not a single magic formula for success, and media placement can be difficult in the current politically charged, pandemic-driven environment.
- Unless you have an outstanding, high news-value story, earned media will continue to be more difficult to secure as stations are bombarded with pandemic-related stories and political news, which get priority coverage.
- Paid media could be more difficult to secure in the coming months as well, as competition for placement has increased due to reduced coverage of pitched stories by earned media outlets.
- Driving traffic to owned media may be more difficult for many reasons — political advertising crowding the airways, COVID-19 news overload, and social media fatigue.
All three types of media — earned, owned, and paid — are important. They can be balanced and rebalanced as market conditions change. Public Relations and Marketing opportunities still exist, but it’s even more important than ever before to find the right combination of approaches to achieve your goals and maximize your audience.
Why contact MediaTracks now?
MediaTracks was established in 1989 and has a long track record of helping clients effectively leverage a wide range of audio services to maximize ROI, especially during troubled times. MediaTracks has guided clients through the turmoil following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and helped clients weather the Great Recession of 2008.
Helping you, as a public relations specialist, amplify your client’s budget during troubled times is one of MediaTracks’ specialities. They’ll work with you to help develop strategies that seize opportunities amid “bad news” headlines.
MediaTracks is an industry leader in radio and audio services, helping clients leverage their media assets. The company produces two syndicated news and public affairs programs broadcast on more than 1,200 radio stations nationwide, reaching over 6 million listeners weekly. Their staff writes, produces, and syndicates Radio Health Journal and Viewpoints Radio.
You may be wondering how clients can gain visibility during the pandemic/political season. From concept to final production, MediaTracks offers specialized audio products utilized by public relations firms. They can help create and produce effective radio campaigns for your clients, including:
- Audio News Releases (ANRs). :60 second audio announcements about your client’s products, services, or brand. These are distributed to radio stations as paid media via syndicated programming.
- Custom Feed ANRs. These :45 second produced audio news releases can be distributed to newsrooms in a specific geographic area, a particular demographic or national in scope. This is an earned media opportunity.
- Radio Media Tours (RMTs). A company spokesperson can devote 2 to 4 hours to do pre-arranged interviews with 10-20 radio stations. The interviews can be live or taped for broadcast at a later time.
- Public Service Announcements (PSAs). Public service announcements are the perfect vehicle for non-profit organizations, including healthcare organizations, “Get Out the Vote” messaging or “Practice Social Distancing.”
- Minority Population Targeting. These :60 second radio news releases are a guaranteed placement vehicle for reaching African American or Hispanic listeners.
Why radio? And why now?
Radio continues to reach over 92% of the US population. It’s affordable and accessible. People can listen on a variety of devices. Radio targets various demographics more effectively than any other media. Radio is affordable and quick to produce.
Contact us today (847-299-9500) to learn more about how radio can benefit and boost your clients media presence in the coming months.
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