Earning Media

When you think about marketing tactics for your small business, focusing some effort on earning media coverage could be well worth your time.

To earn media means to create a story that is newsworthy that can be published by a media outlet, not because you have paid for an ad spot, but because the media outlet sees a more genuine reason for covering your story. Many news outlets are looking for business success stories and innovative ideas to share.

Earned vs. Paid Media

Often we think about more traditional methods of raising the profile of our brand; tactics like newspapers, YellowPages listings, radio, and if we can afford it, television might make up the mix of tactics that first come to mind.

Earned media has a number of unique advantages over traditional paid media:

  • Earned media is often considered to be more trustworthy and genuine over a paid advertisement. Savvy viewers know that the message they are receiving in a paid advertisement is unfiltered, exactly as the ad firm wrote it.
  • Earned media is free; you are getting the coverage because you are newsworthy.
  • Typically I like to think of the business that has earned media as being “The Feature Show” rather than being the snack or bathroom break that can be passed over or fast forwarded through.

The downsides are that you likely have less control over your message. Reporters can write what they want, and possibly miss the mark on the message you want to deliver.  There is also no guarantee that you will get any coverage at all. You may spend time and energy attempting to earn coverage only to have your story passed over to publish a higher profile story on the same day.

Getting Published

There are three main points to keep in mind if earning media sounds like something that would work in your business.

  1. Be Newsworthy

Spend some time watching and reading the news to see what kind of business success stories are already being covered to try to get some insight on what makes your business special. If you are selling a very traditional product in a very traditional market, traditional marketing might be your only option. If you are new, innovative, abnormally successful, generous to local causes, or exceptionally involved in your community, you might be newsworthy.

  1. Find a Hook

Think of the key message that would make a reporter want to publish something about you. This hook can’t be your whole life story or the entire profile of your brand; it should be the one specific statement that you would open with to convince a reporter that you have something to say and that their readers want to see it. The hook might be an event or an announcement.

  1. Write and distribute a Media Release or Media Advisory
  • A media release is like a short news story that you write about your business or your event. While you’re writing you should act as though you are the reporter. Include quotes and any other information you would like in your article. These documents are usually to the point with less than one page of content. Some smaller media outlets make take your release and print it exactly as it was written. Other outlets will use the release to get an idea of what the story could sound like should they choose to cover it.  They may call for further details or ask for additional contacts they can speak with.
  • A media advisory is a specific invitation to media outlets that simply outlines the date, location, time and a single statement of “the hook” of a media worthy event. The media outlet will use the advisory to decide whether or not to assign a reporter, writer, camera crew or photographer to the story.

Remember, media outlets are in the business of selling their news to readers. The more readers they have, the more they can charge traditional advertisers for ad space. If you can make it easy for a reporter, writer or blogger to publish a story about you that will be of interest to their readers, they will likely be happy for the help.

The Halton Region Small Business Centre will be hosting a seminar titled “Media Relations and Opportunities” on Wednesday, October 17. Please visit our website for more details. 

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