The New Digital PR Roadmap: How to Secure Earned Media


Is your business struggling to align “traditional” PR tactics like pitching reporters with digital PR best practices like engaging influencers and brand evangelists on social media? You’re not alone. Simply staying on top of digital marketing changes can be a huge challenge for SMBs, not to mention putting best practices into action!

Recently, the team here at 21 Handshake has taken a closer look at the world of digital PR. Should you focus your efforts on building relationships with industry journalists on Twitter?  Or should your business be connecting with brand evangelists?

The answer: most companies will benefit from a bit of both.

Why does my business need earned media?

First, let’s back up for a moment and understand why earned media is so important and where it fits in your marketing strategy.

Earned media is any exposure your
business receives from unpaid marketing.

A decade ago, most earned media still came from traditional PR tactics, like getting your business mentioned in a story on the nightly news, or in-person, word-of-mouth referrals. Today, earned media has gone digital, encompassing everything from Yelp reviews to customer tweets. We’ve written before about the importance of proactively managing your earned media in conjunction to owned media (content you publish for free on your distribution channels, like white papers) and paid media (content you pay to publish on other distribution channels, like social media ads or PPC campaigns).

How can I take control of my earned media strategy?

Most companies spend a lot of time focused on owned media and paid media. Earned media becomes an after thought and sometimes gets dismissed altogether. “I can’t control what customers tweet about my business.” “I can’t force a reporter to write about my company.” Both of these statements are true: you can’t force a customer to leave a positive review or strong arm a reporter into writing about your business. But with proactive digital PR efforts, you control your message and significantly increase the likelihood for positive press.

1. Find the Right Balance

The first step is to find the right balance of “traditional PR” (e.g., reaching out to journalists) with digital PR (e.g., reaching out to brand evangelists and social media influencers). This balance will differ depending on your industry and your current PR needs.

For example, if a major industry report will be coming out soon, industry reporters will likely be covering this report. You’ll want to position your business as an authoritative source to provide commentary and add insight. One option of course is to publish an article on your company blog or share on LinkedIn. However, readership might be limited to a few hundred followers. Plus, you’ll need to manage the entire distribution process yourself. What if you could enhance these efforts by being quoted in a news story as an authoritative source? You’ll benefit from added exposure with very little additional effort in terms of content promotion, potentially reaching thousands of readers.

2. Engage Brand Evangelists

In other cases, engaging brand evangelists in a social media campaign may be better aligned with your company’s needs. For example, perhaps your business has suffered a recent spate of negative PR. Publishing a bunch of blog posts denouncing this negative coverage will only make your company sound like a whiny child– hardly the reputation repair you need! In this case, let your brand evangelists do the hard work for you. Ask someone who had a positive experience with your customer service team to share their story. Or, you could ask a customer who is benefiting from huge cost savings thanks to implementing your service to share their experience. Since customers are sharing their experience in their own words, the positive impact of this earned media will be much stronger than if you were sharing the stories for them.

Bottom line: There’s a place for “traditional” PR tactics, like pitching reporters, in the digital world. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different tactics. Stick with what works for you and discard what doesn’t– it’s all part of the learning process!

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