A thousand and one clients have severally asked me how they could secure earned
media for their activities. My answer has always been one; create newsworthy
activities, those that sell on their own without any need to ‘advertise them’ – period.
But first, let’s understand what earned media is. Basically, it is that attention or
coverage you or your brand receives without you paying for it and you also did not
write the story for a journalist to use. Earned media usually comes as a result of a
deliberately rolled out plan either through a press release or just a post on your
social media page. Whereas many believe it is a matter of luck securing an earned
media in Ghana, and maybe in other African countries, I argue that the determinant
of earned media lies in the stories themselves.
Securing an earned media is no more a game of luck that communication
professionals should be engaged with. It is a matter of tact, diligent work, ability to
study and remain focused on the goal. In today’s competitive world, where several
businesses, organizations and individuals are struggling for space in major
newspapers, it is only appropriate to understand that pitching news stories cannot
be as easier now than it was. Reporters also want to see their stories on the front
pages, a decision that lie solely with the editor. This is the more reason why it
works better when your content, in itself, stands tall among all other news of the
So how can one work around this tricky path. Here are some killer tips that can
assist nail that story without you paying for it.
Create news worthy content. Most news stories that are earned media have one
thing in common; they have great content. People want to read content that gives
them great information. Stories that benefit others and not only your brand. In
achieving this, ask what about your story that makes it readable? Is it to market
your brand, provide information, entertain or educate. Once you think of a content
that has the likelihood of attracting many readers then the likelihood of catching the
attention of the editor becomes high. Don’t just concentrate on the headline which
will promote your business. Ask also what headlines the public will be interested in.
Create room for others to benefit from your story and not just for marketing or
Keep your message short and simple. You need to understand that your story
will get that great recognition when your message, press release and other
communication materials are short and simple. That is how journalists write and
you must write like them in order to catch their eyes. A renowned journalist and
editor, Harol Evans, in his book Journalistic Writing, Essential English for
Journalists, Editors and Writers said: “It is not enough to get the news. We must be
able to put it across. Meaning must be unmistakable, and it must also be succinct. Readers have not the time and newspapers have not the space for elaborate
reiteration. This imposes decisive requirements. In protecting the reader from
incomprehension and boredom, the text editor has to insist on language which is
specific, emphatic and concise. Every word must be understood by the ordinary
reader, every sentence must be clear at one glance, and every story must say
something about people. There must never be a doubt about its relevance to our
daily life. There must be no abstractions.” Key takeaway from the above is that
messages must, at the very best, get straight to the point. No need for flowery
marketing content, buzzwords and non-factual claims. Reserve your business
register for another medium. And be sure not to use difficult to understand words;
no one places a dictionary by the side when reading news stories.
Ever considered media exclusives? Try it. Media exclusives are great tools that
could assist in creating media interest, hence giving you that prominent coverage.
Fact is that there are many journalists out there in search of good stories and
exclusives. Target some very experienced journalists that you could run some story
ideas with for their comments and advise. This strategy works well in many media
outlets. Think through what story ideas you can generate that will be different from
the everyday news. What different thing is your business offering? Your ability to
identify what makes you different and better than your competitors is one
important key message that journalists would be interested in. Once a media house
gets that exclusive and breaks it, other media houses are likely going to run after
you to ask more questions and that is the trick to getting your news all over.
Newsjacking. Newsjacking is the art of injecting your ideas into a breaking news
story so you and your ideas get noticed. This is very useful but tricky tool that
doesn’t often get used. No wonder it is often referred to as an “art”. Successful
newsjacking requires an everyday media monitoring to understand what news is
out there and how you could feed on it. The trick here is to avoid news that
involves death or tragedy. Your target must be around light-hearted and popular
news items within your industry. When done well, newsjacking is, no doubt, a great
strategy that can be used to draw more attention to your business.
What do you think?
The writer is a communications consultant with the Newmark Group Limited – a leading African Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) firm. His email address is [email protected]