Earned coverage is presenting the organization’s message in a meaningful way for the public, an acknowledgment that the organization served society somehow, and thus deserves free publicity. Digital Era created a competitive media field where PR job is a combination of writing and communicating skills, news judgment, good timing, crisis management skills, and personal relationships- that make messages effective, engaging, and really social (Schawbel, D.). Communication professionals find human contact essential when it comes to building a relationship with the media and the audience. There are supporting technologies to facilitate connection but not to replace face-to-face communication and personal touch in the job (Harrison, K.). Humanizing the content of the PR message and personalizing pitching to reporters are and will be significantly important for earned media coverage. In addition to the personal touch, the Future of Earned Media & PR highly depends on new technologies and especially AI.
The means to deliver a message changed dramatically for the past years, so today, media experts describe the influencer marketing on Social Media as the digital version of “word-of-mouth,” which is one of the best-valued examples of earned media. (Seyman, R.) At the BrightEdge Share13 conference in San Francisco, speakers from Google, Bing, Microsoft, and Facebook agreed that Earned Media is rising, and the relationship between social and earned his stronger than ever. (Yu, J)
Earned Media & Personal Relationships (PR)
According to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), 75% of journalists find that less than 25% of the received pitches are relevant. Buchanan, A. says many agencies “spray” press releases chaotically without any targeting, and that shows two major mistakes communication professionals do:
- A) they don’t research the journalists; therefore, they don’t have relationships with media;
- B) they are not pitching newsworthy stories; therefore, their messages are often disregarded.
Communication expert Jake Rozmaryn, Vice President at Antenna Group, admits that earning media coverage becomes more challenging and more valuable; as Natasha Veras, Assistant Account Executive at Winning Strategies, agrees that the hardest thing in her job is “Getting comfortable with media outreach,” but it’s a big part of the profession.
“You have to serve not only your client but the media.” is Bob Woodward’s response to these challenges. According to this veteran investigative journalist, the key to public relations is the understanding that a communication expert care of the interest of both his/her principal and also the media. (Kitterman, T.) That means pitching newsworthy stories that involve research market information, show the social value, and reference credible sources, in addition to pitching the new product, service, or brand. PR experts and journalists cross fields in this regard because all use news judgment to choose timely topics and have a strong notion of public interest and opinion.
Social Media as Earned Media
Social media, on the other hand, dominated by personal opinions; this is where people and organizations share “their part of the story in their words.” In the context of the Digital Era, “shares” and “retweets” may very well count as earned media. That’s why owned content on Social accounts needs to be attractive. People judge the content by its authenticity and storytelling qualities; they value original pictures and videos. (Kaley, A., Neilsen, J.). Nowadays, owned content can easily be picked up by media and influencers; if it has a creative idea or а good cause, it can create hype.
Although partnering with a mega-influencer may seem like good earned coverage, that might not be necessarily the case. People are likely to distrust their post since they know it’s paid for. (Seymen, R.) Angela Montefinise, Senior Director, Communications and Marketing at the NY Public Library, says that influences’ business is dying, users are well aware of social media mechanics, and they are not buying it. However, Seymen R. argues that micro-influencers are getting more efficient than mega-influencers, and brands might start pitching them in the nearest future, but all in all, a change is coming.
How Earned Media May Change in the Future
It’s fair to say the next big thing is coming, and maybe it’s hidden in the emerging streaming industry. Digital giants like Apple, NBC, Disney, Warner Bros, and HBO just started developing the field of content on-demand, and communication experts do have content the question for the future is how to create the demand or in other words, earn the coverage.
Another probable future for expansion of earned coverage might be the gaming industry. For instance, setting a Pokemon Go arena at the Bronx Zoo can attract fans of the game and could generate organic hype of Zoo’s hashtag (the game uses location tags). Gamers have virtual worlds with internal social media- chats, marketplaces, and internal societies (Frank, A.); communication experts could explore them, address the users, and gain extended coverage in a $173.9 billion gaming industry. (Wijman, T.)
Otherwise, internal tools already facilitate communications experts’ work and will do even more so in the future. An app called SignalAI uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to make it easier to track numerous companies, people, events, trends – and analyze that information to support decision-making and inform campaigns. That can also help communication expert pitch the right journalists with the right stories and gain more media coverage. (Blank, A.) Other applications like Cision enable PR professionals to follow and reach out to media and influencers more effectively. The Cision “PR suite” is a professional platform with access to a continually growing database of bloggers and journalists; it allows communication experts to monitor and analyze news and social media channels without constantly switching between socials. The bottom line is AI is already here and will change the future of the industry.
The Future of Earned Media & PR Lays in Personal Relationships
Brooke Gladstone argues that media were created for building PR; with time, the relationship between media and PR changes, but earned media was, is, and will be the most valuable and cost-effective method of marketing. That’s why investment in earned media is soaring, helping fuel owned and paid media convergence – it is the chief enabler that drives converged media strategies.
Communication strategies change depending on the innovations in the field, but the human factor always plays an essential role in a successful campaign. Personal relationships become even more important in a time when the flow of information is 24/7/365; today and even more so in the future, communication experts will use news judgment to cover a topic of public interest and pitch a relevant message to fellow reporters. New technologies provide new means for that communication, but the skills required to transmit information and make it valuable rest in the human domain.