Earned Media Really Should be…Earned
Updated: Apr 1, 2019
With 20+-years in B2B PR, earned media is ingrained into my psyche. As such, it’s nice to see an increasing number of articles on marketing strategy champion earned as part of an integrated campaign. Interestingly, while most of these articles define owned and paid media consistently, it was not so with earned. It seems each author defines earned media based on their marketing discipline. Some define it according to digital/social engagement and validation outcomes, such as likes, mentions, shares, reviews and so on. Others suggest that earned media must lead to some sort of digital transaction: subscription, download, “contact me,” etc. A simpler definition was “any mention you don’t pay for.”
None of these expressions of earned media are wrong. I’d argue that all positive outcomes from content marketing campaigns are inherently earned – even in the owned and paid channels. (I’d also argue that in some manner, you pay for content delivery via every channel – but that’s another post.) The problem with these marketing definitions is that they overlook an extremely important quality of earned media: editorial rigor. The missing outcome is having your story deemed worthy of publication by a competent, credentialed editor – based on a rigorous set of criteria.
Earning a story placement in an editorial outlet gets harder every day and that makes self-publishing more attractive. Given the number of story pitches I’ve had rejected or worse, ignored, I should be cheerleading for easier ways to pump content into the marketplace. Truth told, I miss the continual challenge of earning an editor’s acceptance, and ultimately their trust. My successes in media relations were forged – often excruciatingly – from consistent effort to improve the strength, relevance and value of the story ideas I pitched. Editorial rigor made me a better thinker and a more effective communicator.
I wish I believed that we could recapture editorial vigor easily, but the unfortunate truth is that the democratization of the earned channel through digital and social media has not resulted in better storytelling. If anything, it has enabled the proliferation of bland, indistinguishable and self-serving content that competes on frequency and amplitude rather than relevance and usefulness.
But ever hopeful that at our core, we all prefer to deliver value-laden content, here’s a thought on how to use the editorial lens to help create great stories that will pass the editorial sniff test. Try to tell a story that meets at least one of these criteria:
It relates timely relevant and impactful news
It provides fresh insight into and context around current and emerging marketplace trends
It reveals and explains a new idea or approach to solving pressing business problems
It presents a unique, interesting and provocative point of view
It connects the dots between today’s reality and tomorrow’s probability/possibility
It explores new frontiers and tells us how to get there
It’s no coincidence that these criteria mirror those for Marketplace Eminence. Applying editorial rigor is an essential tuning step in crafting eminent stories.
It’s encouraging that B2B marketers are embracing storytelling through earned channels. We can make our stories great by taking the road less traveled and becoming eminent: dig in, do your homework, and earn it.
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