Earned media isn't new. It's been around for a very long time, under the umbrella of PR. As with everything in marketing and communications, technology has widened the spectrum for PR to include much more than traditional, editorialized media. When it comes to earned media today, many relevant, niche blogs have opened up the traditional PR channel standbys of newspapers, magazines, e-magazines, broadcast and, yes, web sites.
Earned media has always been the coveted prize in marketing and branding. Suffice it to say, 92% of consumers say they trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth from friends, above all other forms of advertising.* That also isn't new. What's new is the accessibility to tap into this space. But it isn't for the feint of heart!
Unlike traditional PR, social media has enabled the earned media channel to open up, allowing many businesses to establish themselves within this context.
No longer is the proverbial water cooler the only place people gather to talk about their experiences with products, their likes in advertising and their opinions. Social media properties; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Personal and niche blogs (to name only a fraction), are all out there providing thirsty information seekers with what they crave. They are reaching hundreds if not thousands of people who are listening and making buying decisions based on the information provided. According to inPowered and Nielsen, 85% of consumers regularly or occasionally seek out trusted expert content (credible, third-party articles, and reviews) when considering a purchase.
So what is required for business and brands to successfully harness this channel?
Let go: That is, let go of control! Understand that this communications environment cannot be controlled: Brand or business will not control the messaging, communities or influencers - consumers will.
Plan on it: Just because it's social media and accessible, doesn't mean that clear, concise objectives shouldn't be established. Once objectives are set, create short and long-term strategies. Be sure to also create a content plan, editorial calendar, key communications topics and a concise SEO plan of action.
Be found creatively: One of the most important elements of earned media is to be interesting. Only content that resonates with your target audience will get shared. And of course all your creatively awesome content needs to be backed up with SEO. Whether it's funny or useful, in written form, video or infographic; it must be shareworthy. But it doesn't end there. Once it's shareworthy, you need to make it easy to share!
It's about time: Just because it's free doesn't mean it's cheap. Earned media takes time to develop, initiate and nurture. We all know that time is at a premium. So before you embark in the earned media channel journey, know that both time and patience are required to garner results.
Be present: Yes, responsiveness and follow-up are key. This is not a one-way channel. It's not just about putting the message out there. You also need to monitor it. You need to respond to comments, answer questions, offer opinions and reach out to influencers. There are many monitoring software programs out there to make that job easier but you really need to be present. It demonstrates that you care enough about your potential audience and what they have to say about your business. If done properly, over time this will garner the much coveted earned media result: Positivity towards your brand or business. It will have become worthy of chatting about, posting about and writing about over social media networks - ultimately developing grass roots brand ambassadors.