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The Converged Media Approach – Earned Media

Some of us can prove the value of marketing to our organization just by starting up the inbound marketing engine, revamping a blog, and publishing some gated content. But for most of us, making inbound marketing work takes, well, work. The last two weeks, we took a look at which Owned Media and Paid Media tactics are available to marketers to help promote their content. But one more aspect of a Converged Media approach remains: Earned Media.

Definition & Significance

Hubspot defines Earned Media as “any publicity you haven't paid for that's owned and created by a third party.” This applies to both online and offline media - web articles and magazines alike, but also includes social media signals and customer reviews.In online marketing, this earned publicity is important due to several factors, but chief among them are:

  • How Google ranks content on our websites, and
  • How users interact with the web.

Google places emphasis on websites and web pages that are linked to from other relevant, quality websites.These inbound referral links are essentially a third-party vote of the quality of your content and your website, and Google rewards your site accordingly. Of course, having quality content on your website (owned media) is crucial in attracting a good third-party link!The other obvious connection is quite related to Google’s emphasis; as web users, we read thousands of articles, and often follow links within those articles to continue learning about the topic at hand, follow a purchase or service recommendation, and similar reasons. This kind of link is captured in our analytics programs as Referral Traffic, and represents a great way for users to find our website when they’re looking for topics for which our site is relevant.“When secured, earned media is exceedingly more valuable than paid or owned because it showcases your brand and your story in an unbiased, third-party capacity,” says Lauren Cascio, Account Executive at Bohlsen Group, a marketing and PR agency in Indianapolis.Let’s now explore how different types of earned publicity can help our target audiences find our content.

Media Outreach & PR

Many marketers think of PR as little more than press releases and public relations for major announcements, but in today’s ever-evolving media landscape there’s so much more to media relations than press releases.Media Outreach covers targeted media pitches, ready-to-run article pitches, media alerts - and traditional PR. It’s also one of the best, Google-approved ways to earn media coverage for your content.“Today, reporters are often covering a variety of topics and trying to wear many different hats at once,” Cascio says. “This means that they are only able to cover stories that are very relevant to their subjects. Instead of focusing only on relationship building, it's crucial to focus on trust building - approaching the right media, at the right time, with the right story that's on topic and on trend.”Obviously, media outreach in any marketing strategy should be seen as the worthy investment it is. Cascio says that  placing your story with the right media can take “days, weeks and even months” of coordination - proving you must take a strategic approach when including Media Outreach in your content marketing efforts.

Influencer Outreach

The media aren’t the only target for earned media coverage. Savvy marketers are commonly turning to experts and pundits, and their best customers, to get the message out about their content. But just like the media, your best influencers aren’t going to give their influence away for free - it takes true relationship building, and offering them something in return, to create a happy union of influencer-approved and -shared content.Who then are the influencers for your audience? According to the social experts at Ogilvy, identifying these influencers means finding “those which have the most influence over potential buyers.” Influencer marketing means orienting your marketing activities around these influencers, rather than the target market as a whole. It’s a proven third-party endorsement marketing tactic that aligns your brand and content with your users and the voices of experts they respect and trust.The key is having great content, so great that the influencers want to be involved. Keep in mind you need to offer something in return to make these relationships work. Offering to raise the awareness of the influencer, by recognizing them as an expert and involving them in your content creation process, is a reasonable offer in exchange for them sharing this content with their own audience. Being intentional about your marketing strategy, and allowing the time to build relationships and develop the right content, is crucial to this kind of tactic. “If you only weave influencers into your content strategy when your finished product is ready to be promoted,” says Amanda Gallucci, Senior Content Strategist at iAcquire, “... you're missing out on the full potential of having respected experts on your team.”

Syndication

Content syndication is another tactic that you can use to generate some earned publicity. Syndicating your content on the web means allowing that content to be published on another website, in exchange for receiving credit for the original publication of the content. This can be extremely effective on other sites that cover your industry, particularly if you’re trying to build an online audience and community for your blog.Press releases are often picked up and published by other media outlets, and websites like Social Media Today and Reddit are also sharers of syndicated content. The key, just as with Media and Influencer Outreach tactics, is to create great content that is worthy of sharing with others. Typically, this falls more into awareness-level content and thought leadership, and stays away from salesy, bottom of the funnel type pieces.Syndication will be most effective when used as part of an overall strategy (with owned and paid efforts) - and can sometimes offer happy dividends for your influencer and media outreach efforts. You’ll know you’ve hit the earned media jackpot when a blog written by your influencer or a media article your PR team worked to get is picked up by other media outlets and shared with their audiences, too.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, earning media coverage can be one of the most difficult but most rewarding marketing efforts you can use to promote your brand and your content. Taking the strategic approach is often best when it comes to these crucial but detailed content marketing efforts.“I think the most important tip here is that these tactics should not be used in a vacuum,” Cascio says. “Often, they are complementary and need to be conducted strategically in conjunction with each other.”There’s no better way to say it. With that, tune in next week to see how a strategic approach to all forms of media tactics - Owned, Paid, and Earned - can pull your efforts together and drive your content marketing efforts to new heights.

dustin clark headshot

As the Digital Marketing Director for Element Three, Dustin works with the Element Three digital marketing department to determine the best combination of data analysis, marketing technology, and storytelling for driving our clients' bottom line. His background in journalism, digital communication, and ecommerce positions him as a unique voice in the cluttered digital marketing industry. When he's not writing about the forefront of digital marketing, you can find him jamming with a guitar or at home with his wife and two children.