Has Your “Earned Media” Mindset Set You Up For Failure

Has Your -Earned Media- Mindset Set You

When I was a kid the world was a simpler place. There were 3 channels on the TV, people listened to drive time radio on their way to work, and drank their coffee while reading the  morning paper. The lines between public relations and marketing were simple too. PR got you “earned media”, stories in the press, and marketing bought ads on popular TV shows and magazines. The problem was not knowing what people were watching or listening to, but how much could would the ads cost.

The World Has Changed for Marketing

In case you didn’t notice, the world changed. In this two screen equipped, Tivo ad-skipping enabled, ad blocker installed, social media addicted world it is hard to get anyone’s attention. If you do get their attention they are much less likely to take your word for anything. They prefer the opinions of strangers on Tripadvisor, Yelp or Amazon reviews to anything you have to say.  Even when you find their favorite program on TV and they don’t manage to skip your ad, it is only because they were too busy on their phone to notice. What’s a marketer to do? I propose that your PR group may be your best friend, but… not the way you used to do things.

The World Has Changed for PR Too

In the good old days when the story came out a PR rep would add a clipping to their clipping book and their job was done. After all, what else could they do? It’s not like they could sell more issues of a magazine if it had a great story about their company, hotel, restaurant, product or destination. Right? And unless the article was an award like “Car of the Year” , “Best New Movie”, or “Top Beach Destination” it was unlikely that a story would influence what was happening in marketing.

But… what if you could do the modern equivalent of selling more copies of the magazine that has that great story? What if you could show stories that promote you from a “trusted voice” to your potential customers? Shouldn’t you? Wouldn’t you? You can. You should. Let’s talk about how.

Setup for Failure

Most companies I have dealt with are not setup with the assumption that their PR will be a success. Think about it. If you knew your PR would lead to great stories, what should you do in the modern world to prepare for that success? If your answer is we would keep track of the story in our clippings book, but your TV is not still showing only 3 channels, then you might want to rethink that.

Every time I create an episode of my award winning Amateur Traveler podcast about a specific destination I send an email to the tourism board that I just talked to 10,000+ people for over half an hour about why travelers should visit their destination. About half even acknowledge the email. Most don’t do anything with it. Why? Because they don’t have a plan for what to do with stories besides making a note they happened.

These are the same companies that will favorite a tweet about them, so you know they saw it, but won’t retweet it to their audience because they already had a plan for what they were tweeting today.

I actually had a destination respond to my email this week with their press trip guidelines:

  • Complimentary stays are provided at the discretion of the host hotels and are subject to availability.
  • _________ is not able to request complimentary accommodations or amenities with less than one month’s notice of proposed travel.
  • If complimentary accommodations are not available then the _________ can try to secure a media rate for the journalists. However, the _________ is not able to cover the cost of accommodations, so the cost will be passed onto/incurred by the journalists
  • _________ does not cover air travel to _________, or ground transportation within _________.
  • _________ may not be able to accommodate spouses, children and/or visitors accompanying journalists.
  • _________ policy prohibits the hosting of journalists if the primary purpose of the trip is leisure or holiday travel.
  • Meals accompanied by an _________ CVB staff member will be covered, but all visiting press should plan to pay for some portion of their meals during their visit. We will also need for you to please provide the following prior to press tour consideration:
  • Documentation of a minimum total viewership of 100,000 (the audience of one outlet, or several – only for journalists requesting comp accommodations)
  • Letter of assignment on outlet letterhead, with info on demographics, circulation, and intended scope of coverage. In addition, you can find comprehensive information online in our press kit in terms of recommendations as a great start for your coverage while you are here…

But… I hadn’t asked for a press trip and as a thank you note this left a bit to be desired. Honestly, it left me with a strong desire never to create any content about this destination again. What could they have done differently?

Plan For Success

Every company should have a plan for promoting stories, even when they didn’t write that story, and even when they didn’t even know that story was being written.

These days you can:

• Retweet! For the sake of all that is good and holy, take advantage of content that drops on your door step. Post it on Google+, twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and that new social media network that is coming next week. If someone told you you looked pretty today, wouldn’t you tell someone?

• Include stories about you in your email newsletters

• Set aside money to boost tweets or Facebook posts. Boosting a story that someone else wrote about you will look less like an ad and therefore will more easily get through your audience’s ad blindness. Even $25 will put that story in front of thousands or more readers. Load your email list into Facebook as an Custom Audience, ready to promote to and, better yet, create a Lookalike Audience in Facebook’s Ads Manager that will help you find people just like the ones on your mailing list.

• Create PR buzz about stories. Did the story find a new hook that might  get you even more press?

Whose job is it in your organization to take advantage of the great stories that PR will get you?


The old model where PR and marketing are not coordinated is an out-dated model. Some of the best “advertising” for your company is being written by your friends in traditional and online media. Take advantage of it!

Earned Media Mindset

3 replies on “Has Your “Earned Media” Mindset Set You Up For Failure”

Nice suggestions for a better plan. Even better-er, might be to just have common sense. As you said, an outlet might have scheduled their tweets for the day. Having the flexibility to alter the posting schedule seems logical. Change is scary, though!

As both a PR practitioner and a content publisher, you’ve hit the nail on the head. All too often companies have the mindset “if every word isn’t exactly as we would have written it, then we won’t promote it.” That’s old logic. You’ve nailed it with this one.

Excellent points. We write for a print outlet with a million readers plus a huge online presence. Yet when we contact a DMO about a story we’ve had published about them we are met with a giant yawn. As Lance notes above, they are so worried about what is written in something they didn’t create they just ignore it.

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