What is Earned Media? Key Strategies

Earned media is one component of content marketing that is MIA for too many marketers.

If you are hoping that people will publish or share your great content, well, that’s like stepping up to the plate without a bat. Generating earned media today must be the clean-up hitter in your content marketing strategy lineup.

Earned, Owned, and Paid Media

To understand earned media’s role in your content marketing strategy, we first need to look at the three types of media – owned, paid, and made.

You likely spend a lot of time on your owned media – the content and distribution channels you control, such as your websites, white papers, newsletters, and social media accounts. For example, if you want to share your insights on the latest trend in your industry, you write a blog post, publish it on your website, and let your followers know through your social media accounts.

With paid media, you buy access to social ads, PPC programs, etc., to promote your content. For example, you conduct pay-per-click campaigns for keywords around that trending topic to gain additional visitors to your website.

With owned and paid media, you are in control of the content – after all, both types of media involve your brand’s dollars.

Earned media, though, is free. But first, you must attract the interest of the gatekeepers – influencers, media brands, or your fans – who hold the key to accessing their audiences and talking about your company and publishing your content. In our industry-trend example, a media outlet would quote your expert in an article on the topic.

Why Earned Media is Important

With multiple firehoses gushing information at us all the time, your audiences need an effective filter, or they’ll drown. If you gain earned media, you are more likely to get through your audience’s filters. Earned media gives you third-party credibility – someone who your company doesn’t pay believes enough in your products, insights, etc., to mention, quote, or promote your brand’s content.

Earned media also enables your brand to reach a wider audience – an audience that may not know about you but can benefit from your content, products, or services.

Said, earned media may take more work because you are not in control of the process and decision-making, but it should be a significant component of your content marketing strategy.

Three ways to generate earned media

1. Cultivate Influencer Marketing

We hear quite a bit about influencer marketing and the importance of building relationships with those industry leaders who reach your target audience. If you can get an influencer to publish your content or talk about your content, that’s earned media. In turn, the influencer’s audience has the potential to become your audience.

Of course, you likely aren’t the first or the last to reach out to your industry’s influencers. Thus, you need to make sure your outreach stands out before contacting the influencer, researching what topics they write about, what they share on social media, what channels use, how they interact with their followers, etc.

With that information, you can craft a pitch that shows you know who this influencer is and how they communicate with their audience. Show how your brand and content would be valuable and helpful to their audiences.

2. Participate in Industry Trade Shows

One of the best ways to get people talking about your brand and sharing your content is to be present at industry events attended by your audience – you likely already know this. The Content Marketing Institute’s B2B research revealed that 81% of marketers use live events as a tactic in their content marketing strategy, and 75% of users rate them as effective. More marketers cited live events as an effective tactic than any other tactic. But showing up on the exhibit floor isn’t enough. You need to create and distribute your content – in text, visuals, video, and in-person throughout the event.

As early as possible, explore whether someone from your organization could present a relevant topic to your brand and help the event’s audience. If you speak, ensure that your slides and handouts include your Twitter handles, proper hashtags, and links to make it easier for your audience to share the presentation’s content. Don’t forget to promote this appearance to media organizations that may cover the topic or the event.

Identify pre-show opportunities to impart your brand’s wisdom or insight through the event organizer’s media channels (blog, newsletters, social). During the show, get involved with the social conversation. Don’t just ask people on your social media channels to stop by your booth. Instead, use your social accounts to connect with event-goers. For example, tweet a favourite quote from a speaker using the event hashtag and see how many people retweet that content – that’s a great way to earn media at a show.

3. Engage your Fans and Advocates

Strengthen your relationships with the people who are talking about your brand, sharing your content, etc. (Don’t forget that your employees can be fans/advocates too.) First, add a segment or category called fans/advocates to your media contact lists. Then add them to your media monitoring or social listening trackers.

If someone on that fan/advocate list mentions or shares your content, interact with them. For example, if someone quotes or shares your content on Facebook, comment to thank the person and ask what part of the content she thought was most helpful.

It is similar to how you would reach out to traditional media and encourage them to talk. About or share news about your brand, whether it’s a new research report, your latest award, or something else. These individuals may be more receptive than traditional media. To sharing your news or content word for word or adding their positive opinion to the information.

For example, Buddy Scalera, a comic-book writer, editor, and photographer, tapped .Into his fan/advocate database, when he launched his recent book, Comic Artist’s Essential Photo Reference. He shared the news with his contacts and asked them to share the information with their audiences.

Fans and advocates of your well-respected brand often are honoured that you have asked them. For something and are willing to share because, it shows they’re connected closely to a reputable company. That enhances their audience’s perception of them. As an influencer in your industry – and at the same time grows your brand’s reach.