Hubspot defines earned media as “any material written about you or your business that you haven’t paid for or created yourself.”
By definition, earned media is published by someone other than you or your company. Think newspapers, magazines, blogs, YouTube channels, local news affiliates, and the like.
You can’t directly control your earned media mentions. They’re editorial. If you really want to shape what third-party publishers say about you, you have to pay them for sponsorships, which can get expensive in a hurry.
Fortunately, you can do a lot to attract earned media and increase the chances that your earned media mentions are positive. (Or, at the very least, not actively bad for your brand.)
Here’s where to start.
1. Emphasize Your Organization’s Impact — Or Your Leaders’
Your organization absolutely has an impact on the communities it serves, even if it’s not trying to.
The first step toward leveraging this impact for earned media exposure is to focus it on one or two things that you’re naturally good at (or good for). That might be a particular initiative, cause, or even individual charity that you support.
Scale your work in this area and you’ll naturally attract attention. Publishers and public officials will ask who’s behind the good you’re doing, and from there you can look forward to positive stories about the philanthropy or community-building initiatives you’re working on.
2. Publish “Explainer” Videos On High-Visibility Platforms
Media types trawl YouTube. So do other YouTubers. And they’re all hungry for quality content.
Feed them with well-produced “explainer” videos covering topics you and your team know cold. Don’t give away your crown jewels for free, of course — no Coca-Cola recipes, please — but do provide actionable if general content that your audience can use. Then watch fellow publishers repackage it — hopefully with attribution and a plug for your brand — for their own followers.
3. Create Your Own “Journo” List For Email Pitches
Hiring PR pros is expensive. There might come a time when it’ll be in your best interest to add an outside agency to your marketing team, but if you’re just getting started in earned media, that’s probably premature.
For now, work on building and curating a list of reporters and longform publishers that cover your industry or niche. Reach out to them directly and personally, using an email list management solution to help you scale. (You can also use a newsletter kit for more authentic-feeling outreach.)
4. Develop Personal Relationships With Reporters, Publishers, And Influencers
Don’t rely on email alone, as even the best email outreach campaign has shockingly low engagement rates. Use social media to connect directly with individual publishers and influencers and share your story.
Even if you don’t get a magazine feature out of the deal, a retweet can be a nice consolation prize. Organic social media mentions qualify as earned media mentions, after all.
5. Attend High-Value Industry And Niche Events
You should network IRL, too. Conference organizers understand the value of earned media just as well as you do, so they’re quick to give out free or discounted tickets to legit journalists and influencers. Be there or be square, as they say.
6. Become A Trusted Resource And Build Organic Traffic To Your Web Properties
This is a whole ‘nother thing, as you know if you have any experience in the worlds of SEO and inbound marketing.
Building, optimizing, and scaling a content site takes a tremendous amount of work and isn’t guaranteed to succeed — a lot has to go right. While there’s no such thing as a shortcut here, one way to virtually guarantee early eyes on the page is to produce and promote original research that’s relevant to your industry and interesting to your audiences.
You’ll need to use the other channels you’ve cultivated to draw attention to this work. That in itself could generate earned media mentions, especially if your findings are surprising or compelling. And over time, it’ll attract more visitors to your corner of the Internet, creating a virtuous cycle that draws yet more earned media.
You Can’t Put A Price On Positive Mentions
Positive earned media mentions are powerful because they’re implicit votes of confidence in you and your brand.
The fact that someone took the time to produce content about you is one thing — publishers are hungrier than ever for content. What really matters is the fact that they believe in what you’re doing or selling.
This makes it much more likely that their followers will believe in what you’re doing or selling, thanks to the goodwill and authority they’ve built with their audiences.
While it’s important to set realistic expectations early on in your earned media campaign, it’s never too early to imagine the possibilities. High-quality earned media mentions could turn out to be the catalyst for the growth you’ve always sought.