This is part two of my earned media strategy series. Part one is located here.
Earned media has value for companies looking for more exposure. With an effective earned media strategy, a manufacturer can get its products in front of end-customers, distributors, and others…and possibly for free. That is, it’s free if the manufacturer is willing to take the time to have someone on staff write the articles.
However, a couple of fair warnings: One article won’t do the trick. Although earned media coverage has value, the secret to an effective earned media strategy is that it is continuous. Articles placed in the trade publications your customers read must be ongoing, placed in a variety of publications, and with fresh content that the publication’s editor will find valuable for her readers.
Additionally, the article must fit in with the editor’s editorial calendar. If your company manufactures commercial air conditioners and that topic was discussed in the March editorial calendar, she is unlikely to want another article on that subject for an October issue.
So what we are going to discuss here are a variety of earned media strategies that can prove very powerful for manufacturers marketing and promoting their products.
Earned Media Defined…Earned Media vs. Paid Media
Before discussing what earned media means, we need to clarify a couple of points, starting with the definitions of earned media vs. paid media. Let’s start with paid media because that is what most of us are familiar with.
Very simply, paid media is an ad in a trade magazine. Besides traditional advertisements, paid media may also be in the form of “native advertising.” According to Wikipedia, native advertising “is a type of disguised advertising, usually online, produced by an advertiser with the specific intent to promote a product, while matching the form and style which would otherwise be seen in the work of the platform’s editorial staff.”
This makes native advertising sound a bit sinister. It really isn’t. Most publications now clearly say such articles are “paid content.”
But let’s say we took that paid content and with a little tinkering got it published as a legitimate article in a major trade publication. Now not only is it free, but it is also a powerful marketing approach. A Nielsen study in 2013 found that earned media is the most trusted source of information in countries around the world. It also found – and this is really important – earned media has value and is the channel most likely to stimulate the consumer to action. Not advertising, not native advertising, not banner ads. Now that is something to get excited about.
Starting an Earned Media Strategy
If you are going to turn your earned media strategy over to an outside resource like myself, who has been writing for trade publications representing clients for more than 14 years, then this first step is not necessary. However, if you plan to start your earned media strategy within your company, the first thing to do is to make sure there is someone on staff who can write these kinds of articles. It comes naturally to me; for others it is tougher than nails.
Once you have found such a person, I highly recommend hiring a freelance copy editor to clean up any errors in the writing before submission. Along with being quality content, whatever you send to an editor at a publication should be as clear and grammatically correct as possible. If the editor has to spend a lot of time correcting grammatical errors in your content, she most likely will not work with you again. Make her job as easy as possible and the editor’s door will remain wide open.
With that said, here are the steps to an effective earned media strategy
• List all the publications that serve your industry. With some industries, there may be many related publications. For other industries, there may be very few.
• Once you have your list of publications, find their editorial calendar. Usually the editorial calendar, sometimes known as a “media planner,” will be in the advertising section of the magazine.
In addition to listing when your type of product is to be discussed, it will note how many subscribers the publication has, what type of subscribers (decision makers, distributors, etc.), and whether the site has been audited, meaning a private organization has found these stats to be true. You may have to start with a smaller publication having only 10,000 or so subscribers. Get your feet wet here before contacting larger publications with 50,000 and more subscribers.
• Working with the editorial calendar, note whether it says “materials needed” followed by a date. Usually this means they do accept articles from manufacturers, PR and marketing people, and others. If it is not indicated, email the editor and ask. Sometimes they will post articles like yours online and not in print…and in my book that is now much more powerful because of the influence of the Internet.
• Timing is very important. If you want to get an article placed in the November issue, for instance, contact the editor as early as August. Remember, production for print publications is always six to eight weeks ahead of publication, so an article written September 1 may not be published until November 1. Even if the article will be placed online, most editors now follow a schedule for those as well.
• Come up with a “pitch” for the editor. Typically, I summarize what the article will be about, note whether images will be included (editors like images), and then add something that is very important: I tell her why such information will serve her readers. If the article will discuss, for instance, slip and fall accidents, I will find some statistics that indicate why this is something her readers should know about.
• If the editor has accepted your pitch with a due date of October 20, for example, be sure to get the article to her a week or more ahead of time. You’d be surprised how many organizations and writers pitch an article to an editor, the pitch is accepted, and then the writer just disappears.
The publication has already designated space for that article, and now they have been left in the lurch. Remember, editors talk to one another and they move to different publications. If you stiff your editor more than once, you and your organization may be blacklisted as to delivering editorial content.
Following these suggestions should help get your organization and your products known by a large group of end-customers and quite possibly for free.
Earned media has value; people tend to trust items they read in publications, whereas they do not place as high a value on traditional advertising. If you are looking for a free way to reach thousands of potential customers, make earned media strategies an ongoing part of your marketing program.
Find out more about earned media and earned media strategies’ contact Robert Kravitz at http://www.alturasolutions.com/contact-us/