Earned media is one of the most cost effective ways manufacturers can promote their products in trade publications.
But if you are looking for some sinister advice here, you have come to the wrong place. For while product promotion can be obtained for very little or no money, you have some work to do in order to accomplish this.
Let’s say you are a manufacturer of super-duper widgets, and you know of several trade publications that cater to those people who purchase and distribute a super-duper widget like yours. Now more than ever, you want those people to find out about your company’s product. Unfortunately, the cost of advertising is totally out of your budget. Well, if you can’t advertise – known as paid media – you have another option and that is called earned media.
So what is earned media and an earned media strategy?
According to Wikipedia, earned media “refers specifically to publicity gained through editorial influence. The media may include any mass media outlets, such as newspaper, television, radio, and the Internet, and may include a variety of formats, such as news articles or shows, letters to the editor, editorials, and polls on television and the Internet. Critically, earned media cannot be bought or owned, it can only be gained organically, hence the term ‘earned.’”
OK, our focus here is an earned media strategy by getting articles in trade publications read by the very people who may want to purchase or distribute those super-duper widgets. This type of earned media is referred to as “article placement.” It may be in print or online and it is essentially what I have been doing for clients for more than 15 years.
But why would the editor of a major trade publication accept an article that promotes your company’s products?
To answer that, we need to examine what has been happening in the publication industry over the past 15 or more years. When I got into this business, many of the trade publications had their own writers. So the goal in those days was to help editors write an article that might reference my client. Now, even with fairly large trade publications, staff may include a publisher, one editor, someone handling online publishing, a couple of account reps, and that’s it. The rest of the team are independent contractors. On top of this, instead of having an office, most of these people are working out of their own homes.
This is an opportunity for us because it means this editor needs help. She has to get a quality “book,” as it is called, out to subscribers every month that has quality content that is valuable to her readers and helps grow the publication so the advertisers are happy and will continue advertising in the book.
And the help we offer her is to provide quality, educational content that is fresh (never published before), that educates her readers, is well researched, provides value to her publication as well as earned media value for us.
Now we have created an earned media strategy that helps her and your company. This editor, like so many, is now open to what we have to offer as long as it meets some specific editorial guidelines, and that’s what we will discuss next.
Earned Media and Editorial Guidelines
Those unfamiliar with editorial guidelines invariably have a slew of questions about what is acceptable and what is not. The following answers will help you secure an article placement and use it to tout all the features and benefits of your super-duper widget.
Does an earned media strategy mean I can just write about the features and benefits of my widget?
No, not usually. That would be a form of advertising, paid media. We are talking about getting earned media, which is not paid for.
Well then, how can I bring my widget into the article?
Tactfully. You have to educate the reader, tell a story. Most trade publication stories work like this:
They start with a problem. For instance, let’s say your product is designed to help prevent slip and fall accidents in stores. So we start the article by discussing how many people slip and fall in stores every year or discuss an actual incident.
Possible solutions are presented. So what can be done about this? I advise always mentioning two or three possible solutions, with one of these solutions being your super-duper widget.
The best solution is identified. Now we explore why your super-duper widget is the best solution. Maybe it’s the least costly and most effective; maybe it prevents slip and fall accidents longer than any other product on the market. This is where you tactfully bring in those features and benefits you are so eager to mention.
A conclusion ends the article. Because these articles are generally only 1,200 words, the conclusion is short and is essentially a wrap-up of what has been discussed, with a final tactful mention of the benefits of the super-duper widget.
Can I mention my product by name?
In most cases, no. Here is where you must be discreet, it part of an effective earned media strategy. You can “point” to your product in the following ways:
- Incorporate quotes from an expert from your company (not a marketing person but an engineer or someone similar).
- Byline the entire article by this engineer; most editors like this approach.
- Have a third party (expert, thought leader, or customer) talk about how great your widget is. This can be very powerful and if the editor recognizes your expert as a true expert, she will look forward to the article.
- Include images of the widget for the article and always add “Images Courtesy of the Super-Duper Widget Company.” Most publications add this caption, so the reader sees your widget in action while reading the article. Now that is an effective earned media strategy.
Here are some things to know and avoid when it comes to getting earned media in a trade publication:
Before approaching an editor for an article, makes sure it is something she might be interested in or did not cover earlier in the year.
Avoid writing, “This is the best widget on the market.” Turn that around and say, “Users are finding this to be one of the most effective widgets on the market today.”
If you cite statistics or studies, always provided source info. Many times the editor will not even list these, but she likes to see that you did your homework and that you can back up what you are saying.
Related to this, earned media must be honest and everything said is credible.
Earned media has value. When someone reads how a product can address their needs, it can be very powerful. That is why an earned media strategy can be so effective.
More on earned media is located here.