10 reasons why you should undertake earned media efforts

With the rise of social media and several newly developed online formats and channels, some argue that earned media efforts are no longer worth undertaking. Here are ten – hopefully convincing, reasons why these earned media efforts will in fact bolster the impact of your comms actions.

By Manu Butty – GOPA Com.

10 reasons why you should undertake earned media efforts


1. Brands and institutions rely on the media as a key multiplier

It is unsurprising that traditional PR is a key pillar in every marketing and communication mix. Media, however, is not just any multiplier: it is the multiplier par excellence. As consolidated actors in the public sphere, they offer not only a quality stamp on the content they put out, but they also reach well-defined target audiences. Take the National Geographic, for instance, used a go-to source of information by environmental enthusiasts.


2.  The credibility of the media offers reputational equity

As Confucius explained to his disciples: ‘Without trust we cannot stand’. Trust is, perhaps now more than ever, a vital communications asset, and the trust placed by audiences in media is unparalleled. Social media has become the Mecca of fake news, leading audiences to turn to reputable media outlets as trustworthy news sources thanks to their layers of fact checking. Crucially, this reputational equity of the media is transferable to the brands that they mention, for good or for worse. A notable example is 10 Downing Street, which uses content produced by Reuters on the Prime Minister’s social media accounts. They do this because they trust them innately.


3. Media are not only news providers but also content generators

The media depends on audience consumption, and therefore must keep viewers’ attention by creating content that is appealing to them. Competition in the industry means media outlets often specialise and produce curated and niche content. This in turn allows brands to easily identify media that cover relatable topics and reach specific audiences. Partnering up with media can therefore be a clever way to get curated content and access to archive images, footage, and visuals. These days, most news agencies offer this service behind a paywall.


4. Media relations is intertwined with influencer marketing and stakeholder engagement

The media is a well rooted institution, often seen as the ‘Fourth State of the Realm’. It influences decision and policy makers and key stakeholders, as well as the wider population. With the advent of social media as a major news source, journalists have turned to the web and become social media influencers with large and highly targeted bases of followers, while remaining contributors to news outlets. Thus, when building a relationship with a media target, whether this is an outlet or an individual, you are building a relationship with an influencer, a lobbyist, an informant, a copywriter, a content creator, a specialist, an institution, and an ambassador. Just take at the example of Hugo Clement, a young France 2 TV reporter who now has over 700k followers on Twitter and 1.1M followers on Instagram.


5. Earned media efforts can be turned into owned efforts to increase impact

A mention in the media is content that can be shared, re-shaped, or re-published without a buyout. This is a complete contrast to the trend we are increasingly seeing with content produced by influencers. A media mention can be used to build new relationships, to position yourself, or even influence others. They can sometimes even open the door to social media growth hacking techniques that can increase the number of relevant followers you have on your accounts. The media is a constantly evolving content repository that can provide a reputational stamp that supports your positioning statements. For example, an article promoting an EU-led environmental initiative published by VICE could be used to engage with young audiences.  


6. It’s creative, fun, and ultimately profitable

Mapping media targets and reporting media mentions is easily one of the more repetitive and least profitable aspects of earned media efforts, and to be honest, one of the most boring. Technology can easily do this better than any human, and there are many tools that facilitate this. Engaging with media targets, however, is an enriching experience. Journalists and editors are experts in their fields with a solid understanding of perception techniques. They are flexible, agile, knowledgeable, and creative, four attributes that any comms team would greatly benefit from. Journalists are natural storytellers, and God knows that any effective communication relies on a story to convey its messages. Often the stories they come up with act as triggers for other comms actions that we can later pursue. But most importantly, it takes a certain talent to conduct successful media relations, which makes these efforts highly valuable.


7. Outlets provide a scale that is useful – and unique, for campaigns

News agencies and outlets operate across different countries and in different languages, using news pieces that are produced centrally and then localised. On top of this, media publications and shows are topic specific. This makes them ideal for specific campaign partnerships where brands or institutions need to communicate specific messages to well-defined audiences. Time Out magazine provides a perfect example since each edition for a specific city could be the ideal partner for country or place branding.


8. Brands value the media, but often fears it

Engaging with the media requires a confidence that comms teams often lack, and a level of expertise that is highly valued. There is a fear of the media that is fuelled by the assumption that media outlets have their own agenda that they will push for during public interactions with spokespeople. While this can be very true, it often prevents brands and institutions from reaching out to the media and benefitting from what it has to offer. This, however, is a gap that can be bridged. Comms teams, agencies, and freelancers can overcome this challenge and capitalise on this opportunity. There is no end to the services they can provide, from traditional media relations to media and public speaking training.


9. The media didn’t die, old formats did

Following the rapid digitisation of our societies, the media has transformed itself and adapted to new formats. Radio listeners have now turned to online radio shows and podcasts, which has led to the internationalisation of what would have been exclusively local shows. Prophecies that TV as we know it would come to an end have not been fulfilled, and online TV, video on demand and catch-up TV are developing each day. Print media has switched to online publications, social media, and websites, which has in some cases even boosted readerships. I for one start my day with The Global News podcast by the BBC World Service and The Intelligence podcast by The Economist with the – dare I say, brilliant Jason Palmer as presenter.


10. Why pay for it when you can get it for free

Traditional media is still a part of every advertiser’s media buying mix, whether it be radio, TV, out of home, online, or print. We are constantly exposed to ads on billboards, at airports or on the radio, as well as those that we see on social media, for example. If advertisers are paying to place ads on these platforms, its means they must value the content they produce as much as their reach metrics. Media relations provide visibility in the media through organic efforts. In fact, these efforts can be monetised through the Estimated Advertising Value formula. In a nutshell: if you are willing to pay for it, why not try getting some of this visibility for free?