How To Build Earned Media Opportunities with a PR Strategy

December 13, 2023

Written by
Terry Stanton

Getting earned media placements is a critical part of any successful PR strategy. Unlike paid advertising or content produced by a company or brand, earned media offers third-party validation that is more likely to be trusted by consumers.

Expert media coverage adds authority that generates value long after a paid ad has vanished from consumer memory. Plus, the shares and backlinks of earned media mentions have a long shelf life that can continue to drive warm leads to your website. Generating earned media placements enhances brand visibility and relevance among audiences that are engaged in your message.

In this article, we’ll explore how to build earned media opportunities that tie into your overall PR strategy. We’ll also look at what to do after you’ve secured placements and how to use them to grow your business and increase your authority.

Define Your Goals and Objectives

Knowing what you want to achieve and what success looks like to you is the first step in any PR strategy.

Here are some typical goals and objectives:

  • Reach a new audience
  • Drive traffic to your website or business
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Promote a new product or service
  • Increase authority through thought leadership

Knowing who you want to reach and what your message is will set the course for your earned media strategy. This type of clarity helps determine the type of publications you’ll seek.

For example, if your PR strategy is focused on increasing your visibility in the food industry sector, you can hone in on reporters writing for prominent food industry publications. You will also include reporters who write on that topic for regional and national publications as well.

One key thing to remember: Set a realistic timeline to achieve your objectives. Any type of PR campaign strategy operates as a long game. It takes time to hone in on messaging, identify audiences, establish a rapport with reporters and to build trust. It’s not like paid media where you can set the terms.

Identify Your Media Targets

Identifying your goals will help you target the media outlets that would be useful to you. Create a list of the publications, influencers and journalists that produce content about topics in your field.

You can prioritize your list based on the size of the publication and relevance to your message. A PR firm will have the tools necessary to identify the target media. If you’re working on your own and have the time, you or your internal team can conduct organic research to identify journalists and publications that write about your topic in order to build your own list.

After you’ve identified media outlets that publish stories about your topics, look for the ones that welcome independent submissions, such as op-eds or opinion pieces. Some publications have an editorial calendar that will help you determine the best time to pitch editors your exclusive articles.

If there’s a podcast that you listen to, jot down the name of the producer and search for their contact information. Podcasts offer great earned media opportunities beyond traditional print and radio coverage. Today’s digital PR strategies are constantly changing, just as the media landscape changes.

To find journalists, start by doing a quick Google search in order to pull up recent, relevant articles. Identify the journalist writing that article and see if their contact information is listed. Oftentimes, you will also be able to identify their social media handles as well. Give them a follow and add them to your database.

How to Write a Pitch That Demands Attention

Once you’ve put a database together, you can send the reporters your pitches. These emails are elements of your public relations strategy as they are often the first point of contact and will leave a lasting impression.

To increase the chances that a reporter will follow up and want to speak to you, make sure your email is appropriately written.

Email Pitch Guidelines:

  • Send useful information: Reporters are looking for story ideas or sources who can help them with stories they are working on. Run of the mill press releases that don’t have relevant or useful information will most likely be ignored. Worse yet, sending pitches that aren’t useful could have your emails moved to spam or ignored completely.
  • Keep them concise: Reporters are moving fast and don’t have time to read lengthy pitches. Keep your emails concise and to the point. You can summarize your pitch and use bullets to hone in on the important aspects of your pitch.
  • Use newsworthy angles: Tie your message into trending news. This is called newsjacking, and can be helpful to a reporter who is looking for sources if they are writing about the topic for their publication.

How To Write Your Pitch:

  1. Start by thinking about what makes you or your brand stand out. What is it about your purpose or mission that differentiates you from competitors?
  2. Present the problem you are trying to solve and include your solution.
  3. Include original and substantial facts or data that support your work.
  4. Include a brief biography that lists your accomplishments in order to establish your expertise.

After you have sent your pitch, you can follow up. Give it a week before you send a follow up email to remind reporters about your pitch.

New Methods to Connect with Journalists

Email is the most common way to send pitches and get the attention of the media, but there are other ways to get a reporter to take notice:

  • Social media: Journalists are often active on social media like LinkedIn. Give them a follow to see what type of articles they write. Engage with them or send them a direct message once you’ve established a connection.
  • Network: Make plans to go to an industry conference or find newsworthy events that attract journalists. Connect with reporters who write about your topic and let them know that you’re available as a source for future stories.
  • Share Content: If a reporter uses your comments or content in an article, share the link and give the reporter or publication a shout out on social media. It is always nice to thank them with an email if their contact information is available.
  • Use HARO: Help A Reporter Out is a free website that anyone can subscribe to. Journalists will post on this site when they are working on a story and need a source. If the request is up your alley, you can submit yourself as a source and offer comments.
  • PR agencies: Partnering with a PR firm is a sure way to connect with the media. They have cultivated relationships with journalists for years and they can help you find relevant opportunities.

When you connect with a reporter, show them who you are. This means that you should have a website that highlights your experience and expertise. Share your social handles so they can see the insight you offer. Your credentials make you valuable to them, so be sure to include all the relevant details like professional highlights, education and more.

Build Media Relationships

Your work doesn’t end once you’ve secured an earned media placement. Your goal is to build a lasting relationship with a journalist to create ongoing opportunities and continual coverage.

We’ve already mentioned that when a reporter uses your comments or content in an article, reach out and thank them and share their work. Additionally, you can use this placement as the basis to proactively pitch your reporter additional stories.

Monitor trends in your field. Try to stay ahead of the curve in order to give the reporter a scoop on something that is happening in your industry. Share insights and data. If a reporter reached out on a topic you can’t help with, go the extra mile and suggest someone you know and trust as a source. Building this relationship can go a long way toward securing future media placements.

A word of caution: don’t connect with reporters just to say hello. These days journalists are busier than ever. When you connect with a reporter and present yourself as an expert, you need to offer them information they cannot get anywhere else. Your expertise and your willingness to share it is what will make you valuable to them.

Offer Bylines and Contributed Articles

Besides becoming a source, you can write your own articles or opinion pieces. Bylines help you shape your messaging and can boost your authority. Find editors at industry-related publications and pitch them on thought leadership. You could suggest writing an industry roundup or a Q&A column. You could also pitch ideas for contributed articles that are data-rich or exclusive, with insights not previously published.

For thought leadership, it’s best to focus on leading trade publications. Once you’ve established a presence there, you can start pitching to larger outlets. Thought leadership takes time in order to establish trust with both the media and the readership.

Monitor Media Coverage

As you make inroads in your earned media strategy, you will need to monitor and track the resulting media coverage. You can create a media alert in Google that will let you know when your name is mentioned in the news.

You can also subscribe to a media monitoring service to ensure you don’t miss a placement. If you are working with a PR agency, they will have access to services that can monitor each placement and offer analytics on how the article was perceived, how many times it was shared on social media, and what kind of reach the article achieved.

Document your placements and put them in the media hits page on your website. The more media mentions you have, the more you show your expertise to stakeholders.This not only increases your value to journalists as a source they can count on, but it also increases your trust factor among your customers or clients.

Adjust and Refine Your Earned Media Strategy

Securing earned media placements is an ongoing process that requires constant adjustment. What worked yesterday may not work tomorrow, and you and your team must look at your strategy consistently to determine how you can improve outcomes.

Ways to refine your strategy could include:

  • Are they too long? Are you offering relevant information?
  • Are they targeted at the right journalists or publications?
  • Should you branch out to other types of media opportunities, like award submissions or trying to secure speaking engagements?
  • What does your budget look like?
  • Are you spending enough resources to get earned media or should you consider hiring a PR agency to help you?

A successful earned media strategy brings awareness to you and your brand and offers implied third-party endorsement of your product or service. While it can’t guarantee an increase in sales, an earned media PR strategy and campaign can boost your brand’s trust and loyalty factor.

Terry Stanton

Senior PR Campaign Manager

For Terry, it’s all about the message, and with an award-winning career that includes broadcasting, video production, digital marketing, and public relations, that’s not surprising. She began as a TV anchor and reporter, then moved into corpor...

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