Many PR pros must educate clients on the true value of a PR campaign for their brand or organization.
Though many industry insiders are frustrated by the public’s readiness to conflate “publicity” with “public relations,” most still see media relations as a central PR function. Add the fact that earned media carries more trust with readers, and your media pitch might start to feel more important.
Earned media is one of the four pillars of the PESO model, the blueprint for integrated communications developed by Gini Dietrich in her book “Spin Sucks.” However, as newsrooms shrink and earned-media opportunities become scarcer, PR pros must adapt to get the stamp of approval from legacy media outlets.
First, PR pros must convince their clients that earned media has value for their organization despite the decimated news media landscape and the ease of self-promotion.
Kevin Maloney, vice president of purpose for Porter Novelli, says: “At the outset of any engagement, it’s critical to have an open and honest conversation with your client about what success looks like from an earned media perspective, as well as the content, access to spokespeople, etc., that will allow your team to deliver valuable coverage.”
Worth the effort?
However, you have to show that your coverage has value.
“Generating clips for the purpose of clips is of little value in today’s media relations landscape,” says Brian Ellis, an executive vice president at Padilla.
“Placing value on a media placement should always be based on the purpose of the campaign and the metrics that will be used to evaluate that campaign,” Ellis says. “Earned-media campaigns can drive traffic to a website, entice customers into stores and cultivate leads for business development. The key is to identify clear goals for the campaign at the very beginning, so story development, media targeting and pitching efforts can deliver the desired outcome.”
Is that asking too much? With today’s media tools, Ellis says, it’s easy to gauge the influence wielded by a media placement.
“We now have the ability to measure the impact of earned-media campaigns in relation to the full PESO model,” he says. “Digital analytics gives us the insight into how a story might impact web traffic or social discussions. With the right data sources, it can also be tied back to customer inquiries and brand awareness. It all connects back to the purpose of the campaign and the metrics that will be used to measure that effort.”
Particular metrics can help identify earned-media success.
Meredith L. Eaton, director of North America for Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, says: “Looking at the publication’s readership in terms of unique monthly visitors and audience demographics, as well as social shares of the piece, is helpful. Some sites, like Forbes, even show the number of individual article views at the top of the page.”
However, she says the best way to track is through links. “Hopefully, the placement is in a publication with a high domain authority and includes a link back to a page on the company’s website,” she says, “so you can track click-throughs and traffic. And if the article includes key messages or keywords you want associated with the brand, even better.”
Eaton also advises asking your customers for information about how they heard about your product or service. “It can also be really helpful to have a first question for any inbound sales calls be, ‘How did you hear about us?’” she says. “Fingers crossed, a few may say they saw you in that great media article.”
What media pros want
There are news cycles, and there are cycles in the news.
How journalists find story topics has changed in recent years with the advent of social media and the supercharged 24-hour media cycle. There’s been a pivot to video and a push for visual content. Every journalist now has a Twitter handle and will sometimes share breaking news straight to their feed instead of waiting to write up the item for their newspaper.
Speaking of newspapers, they’re still in heavy decline.
Where is a PR pro supposed to pitch a story—and what kinds of stories are media pros looking for?
“It really depends on the outlet, but human interest stories are a proverbial winner, as are pieces supported by proprietary data,” says Andrew Cross, senior vice president of public relations and partner with Walker Sands. “And pieces with compelling images or video accompanying them will play well on social media.”
Maloney agrees that social media shares are crucial for earned-media success.