Is Earned Media Dead?
by Sara Joseph, Senior Vice President, Lifestyle & Travel, BerlinRosen
New communication and marketing trends are always evolving and it’s pretty amazing to realize that less than 20 years ago, PR professionals were using mailing houses to send out press releases and would wait days to call journalists by phone to follow-up on coverage opportunities. Today, most PR pros have checked both work and personal emails, caught up with their favorite brands, public figures, influencers and friends on social media, and scanned the news headlines across several platforms while tuning into their favorite podcast all before they have finished their morning coffee and commutes to the office.
As technology and innovation change the landscape of how, and how quickly, we do our jobs, the value in securing accurate and attention-grabbing earned stories stays relevant and stands the test of time. It plays an irreplaceable role in Public Relations campaigns today when it drives or supports new tools and tactics.
The press release is dead, but earned media is not.
As consumers hone their watchful eye to decipher between what branded content provides an honest review vs. paid endorsement, they grow more skeptical of what influencers endorse given all the free products and payments flowing their way, it’s more important than ever to keep traditional earned media coverage in the mix. It adds legitimacy to all programs.
When it comes to moving the needle for consumer brands and providing confidence in companies, products and experiences, the desire to know the truth and understand the people behind the brand remains important.
Can you still build a brand today using only earned media?
A recent exercise in testing the value of earned media for our team was a case study of one of our most recent hotel openings – The TWA Hotel. With no advertising, social media or paid influencer support, our team executed on an 18-month consumer-facing traditional earned media plan to define the brand, build anticipation and ultimately drive room sales and event bookings.
While the press coverage, driven by creative and personalized media pitching, exceeded our expectations (over 1400 clips across more than 40 countries), the real ROI came from room bookings, event bookings, and restaurants and bar reservations. Rooms sold out for months on the day reservations opened and the restaurant bookings were at occupancy for the first few months. And, events booked up quickly too, think Louis Vuitton Cruise Fashion Show, Michael Kors fashion event, weddings and conventions.
The more things change… the more they stay the same?
While today people may use technology to find their way to traditional media channels – reading the Wall Street Journal on a smartphone, keeping up with New York Magazine via Podcast or linking to a BuzzFeed story from Facebook – the fact is that they still look to get their news from sources/outlets that they trust. They look for endorsements from friends, family and thought leaders they believe in.
The value of a truly integrated marketing program that combines earned coverage and engagement via social media, content and experiences isn’t changing, and all tactics to build brands and deliver stories have their own very important place in communicating messages. However, it’s the delivery and authenticity that can’t come into question.
As brands look to relate, connect and be pure in their delivery to gain trust, earned remains hugely valuable.
Media Coverage does drive participation to events
As more and more retail, dining and entertainment venues build events and cultural happenings into their spaces to draw people in to spend time, shop and dine, earned coverage is key in driving participation.
Having clients included in round-ups and calendar event listings in outlets like Thrillist, The New York Times and Refinery29 has value as they often link directly to more earned media stories about venues, brands and destinations. During a Best Brews series at Brookfield Place, the coverage we landed in outlets such as CBS New York and The New York Times drove consumers to future events.
Social media organically amplifies earned media coverage: Where is the best place to brunch? The best spot for drinks after work? The best Burger in NYC? When you google where to eat, play or stay in your hometown or when traveling, searches produce earned media stories to guide consumers to destinations.
Plus, executives want to see their brands and campaigns in the news.
When was the last time you attended a client meeting and no one asked: “what press are we getting?” From a measurement/KPI standpoint, analyzing tone, message delivery, etc. is a valuable tool to showcase how corporate positioning, executive positioning and brand awareness overall are making an impact.
At the end of the day…
Whether your media fix is curling up on the couch with a cup of coffee and the Sunday New York Times, flipping the pages of Travel + Leisure to source ideas for your next vacation or listening to your favorite podcast on the subway to stay updated on politics or business trends… think about the role that we all play and the value earned media still has in the field of PR. As strategies to reach target audiences evolve and expand, earned media remains a paramount aspect of campaigns to add legitimacy, value and generate lasting recognition.
Get to know the author:
Sara Joseph is a former TV producer turned public relations powerhouse. A Senior Vice President at BerlinRosen Sara heads up the Lifestyle & Travel team in the Real Estate practice. Her clients include TWA Hotel at JFK, Singapore Airlines, Boston Seaport, Waldorf Astoria New York, Parker New York, GFI (developers of Ace, Nomad and The Beekman Hotels), Silverstein Properties and more.
Prior to joining BerlinRosen, Sara was a Senior Vice President at Current Marketing where she opened and established the agency’s New York office and led its Travel & Tourism business.
From launching new brand identities and opening hotels to negotiating multi-million dollar integration deals and counseling clients in times of crisis, Sara has an expansive view into developing strategic programs for clients. A few have included Singapore Airlines, IHG, Marriott International, Omni Hotels, Fontainebleau Miami Beach, The Setai Miami Beach, Club Med, Celebrity Cruises and Greater Miami and the Beaches.