We've looked at content for purchase content, owned content and social content in the previous posts and we're getting close to the end of our series. Today we look at the reality and difficulty of earned content.
This is why earned media is so valuable.
The chart indicates relative costs and effort that go into the various forms of content and how the market audience views those various forms. Paid content (advertising) is the most expensive of all media and requires the least amount of effort but is the least trustworthy. Owned content costs less and takes about more effort but us not viewed with the same level of suspicion, generally because there is a level of human contact involved. Social content takes more effort but even less cost than owned because you can do it even without a website. Social begins to cross the trust barrier because objective third parties may have the opportunity to state their position... if social is done right. Most of the time it isn't, which is why it is still in the untrustworthy realm.
Earned content alone resides primarily in the trustworthy realm. Even people who don't trust the press will refer to a magazine, newspaper, broadcast on online site for information before they will visit a corporate site or advertisement. As we have said in previous posts, press releases are not earned content, nor are rewritten press releases even if they are published. The best they can be are owned and owned isn't trustworthy.
Earned content is the most valuable of all content in your communications arsenal. You don't produce it, you don't control it and you pay relatively nothing for it. Earned content is created by journalists, no one else. It is as objective as a human being can be, it is independent, it is the most trusted of all, and it takes enormous effort and/or time for it to become reality because it require developing trusted relationships with the third party journalists.
However, because you can't control it, it can't be considered a strategic effort. A press release that goes through the marketing effort is packed with cliches, buzzwords and superlatives and, with some luck, may include a nugget or two of information interesting to a journalist. It may or may not stay in his files or floating in the back of his head until he has enough information to put together an interesting story. Or it may or may not get rewritten into a small blurb on his publication. In the least, the publication may just post the release in it's entirety. You won't know what will happen for sure until you see it published. It is hard to build a strategic plan with all that uncertainty, but why is it so hard?
Because most companies and publicists really don't understand how a journalist's mind works. Most companies are nose-deep in their own marketing committee discussions and cannot see beyond their own messaging. They may think they have looked at all the possibilities and come up with something unique, but the journalist they are trying to reach really does see more than the marketers do. And even with their perspective, most of them are just taking educated guesses as to what the reality is, simply because they have far too much information to process and not enough time to do more than they already are.
So while earned media is the most valuable content you can get for your company, it can be harder to find than gold in the Sierras, which is why so many companies never even attempt to make a decent effort to get it.
That doesn't mean, however, that getting it cannot become a strategic effort. And that's what we will talk about next.