Last post we looked at "suspect content" that is distributed over owned and paid media. It's suspect to the audience because it is highly controlled and partisan. Today we look at the "trustworthy content" that is found in earned media.
Social and earned media content is seen as truer because it is uncontrolled and has the perspective of the third party. Whether it comes from a known journalist or from the comments on a Facebook post, the readers know, in the least, that the author is not on your payroll. That provides a level of objectivity and even integrity that doesn't exist in an advertisement or corporate website.
A lot of marketers will put the press release in the earned media content bucket, but they are completely wrong. Now, I know Paul Miller at UBM will take issue with this, because UBM magazines and websites, as well as those at Hearst, Penton, Advantage, et al, publish a myriad of news releases on their pages. Paul will claim that because they appear on their news engines it gives the information believability. But then UBM also owns PR Newswire which is the "cash-cow" press-release distribution service the company owns. so he has to say that. The viability of press releases is the cornerstone of most earned-media strategies in the corporate world. But trust me, press releases do not equate with real earned media.
Press releases are owned content, even when they appear in third-party print and online sites. The content is determined and controlled by the source. It's distribution is paid for by the source and no one believes the content except those already predisposed to believe it. I've written a lot of press releases in my career and I have been tracking the readership for more than a decade. I have discovered that almost all of all the true readers of press releases (excluding impressions caused by web-search spiders) consists of people employed by the company that issues the release, or employees and executives of the competition of those companies. The percentage of journalists that read those releases off the wire is almost unmeasurable. It's not that they don't want to read them. They can't. There are thousands of releases flooding through the wires every hour, so they are no help to the journalist trying to follow an industry or trend.
This is what creates earned media:
- A journalist/blogger's assignment
- A journalist/blogger's curiosity
- A journalist/blogger's personal relationships
- A journalist/blogger's field of vision and/or hearing
That's it. All four of those are intertwined. There are some journalists I know that won't accept emails from sources they don't already know. There are some that don't accept emails at all. There are some that can only be reached through direct message through Twitter. There are some that you can only contact by knowing where their favorite Starbuck's cafe is and hanging out there for a week. They may go to tradeshows, but only stay in the sessions and avoid the show floor. Some only go to the show floor and quickly walk through to see if anything grabs their attention and turn their badges around to make sure no one knows they are media. They all have subjective filters they place in the way of information just to keep the flow to a dull roar.
The press release that so many companies put so much concern and effort into is only for their reference once you have their attention.
Getting earned media is not formulaic. It is not free but it is less expensive than what owned and paid media costs. But it takes an enormous amount of effort over a long period of time to attain ... unless you have an effective social media strategy. What you probably think that means is not what what it really is.
But before we get into that, we're going to talk about contributed articles. That comes next.