Professional Development: Earned Media marketing practices


Earned Media session with Greg Holman, News-Leader, and Kate Allt, KY3

Earned Media (or free media): unpaid publicity owned and generated by a third party (media/news source) 

The Springfield Regional Arts Council hosted Kate Allt (multimedia journalist, KY3) and Greg Holman (engagement editor, Springfield News-Leader) for a marketing session on earned media. There were plenty of takeaways, including the revelation that the traditional press release doesn't really matter, so don't sweat the formatting. Send the information several weeks in advance and don't be afraid to follow up. The SRAC will host its next quarterly session on grant writing and arts advocacy language, September 8 at 4pm in the Annex of The Creamery Arts Center.

With social media and several platforms available to promote events and causes, why is earned media still important?

Holman: I have the sense from event planners particularly that if they go and make a Facebook event that that is sufficient to get the word out, and they think journalists will see that. Facebook, for example, has “edgerank,” the alogorithm for what shows up in your news feed, so consequently even if you have a really good social media game there’s nothing that replaces the human touch of calling or emailing a journalist.

Allt: The social media aspect of earned media is huge. For example, KY3 reached 1,150,668 people on Facebook last week. You can have a page and event page, but you’re not going to have the same reach. If you reach out to us and let us know you have something going on, we can talk about coverage. It doesn’t have to be paid. If we do a news story on it, you’re going to get that reach. That’s something you don’t really get anywhere else, the outreach media companies have in their communities.

How do editors and reporters go about choosing stories?

Allt: I work on the morning shift, always planning one day ahead. Twice a day everyone in the newsroom gathers and we go over everything we’ve got. If you have sent us an email, it’s probably in that planner. We look at everything going on that day, what has the biggest reach and what affects the most people, what people are going to be interested in. In the morning we can take on more fluffy stories, human interest because that’s what people want to see early.

How far out should marketers be sending press releases?

Holman: The earlier the better, and it doesn’t even have to be a press release. People get hung up on the classical press release, and I don’t care about that. Send me an email with the basic information. I find it hilarious that people won’t pick up the phone and ask for an email address. There’s a million priorities (for journalists) that have to be slotted. One way to become more of a priority is to occupy (our) time.

Allt: Earlier is better, but (for tv) if it’s too early it may not happen. News happens so fast, and there’s so much flying at us. Let us know about it ahead of time, but don’t be afraid to follow up. 

Holman: It’s OK to call on the phone.

What do you expect from marketers (or story subjects) once you’ve decided to write a story?

Holman: If you’ve sent us a news release and we call, but only get voicemail …

Sometimes it seems like it really needs to happen quickly on your side, and sometimes it will feel like it’s coming out of the blue from us, like ‘why is this suddenly so urgent?’ That’s the nature of the beast. If you want news coverage please answer your phone. Leave few voicemails. If you email me or text, that’s probably a little quicker. If we get on the phone, we’re doing great. A lot of times I won’t even have a phone number, 

Allt: I tell people I’m half-journalist, half-stalker. I will call you until you answer and if you don’t answer, I’ll email you. And if you don’t email, I will Facebook you. We have to get (the story) done. No matter how good the story is, if we can’t get a hold of you we have to move on to something else. I don’t have enough time to sit and wait.

The traditional press release isn’t necessary, then what are some valuable items for people to send?

Allt: Our number one is visuals because we’re TV. We have to see something. Let us know what it looks like, because if it is a good story but not very interesting visually we may have to pass on it. People aren’t going to watch boring visuals. We don’t need a traditional press release. That’s fine, we still get plenty of them, but you can send bullets of the story and what it is that we’ll be able to see.

Holman: Complete information. Who, what, when, where, how … send an informal email. Pretty much every outlet is interested in video now. If you have visuals, high-resolution photos, send them with that email. Particularly something that’s a feature, if you have good art, that’s a way you can get your foot in the door. I imagine the Springfield Business Journal and 417 Magazine would say the same thing.

Is there a type of image file people should send?

Holman: The bigger, the better. Any more, we’re thinking about how (the content) will go online, but we still have the print product. A nice, quality image (300 dpi) is ideal.

Is it possible to sustain news coverage of ongoing events?

Holman: You can make multiple follow-ups and pitches. In the case of an exhibition, there’s typically an opening reception. It’s OK to follow-up. 

Allt: We like to do today. “Today” is the key word for us. If we can get something on the first day, we’d like to, but if it’s going on, we can follow-up.

Should marketers be worried about their following up being a hassle?

Holman: Well, it’s not a hassle until it’s a hassle. It’s like human interaction in any business.

Allt: Sometimes that’s how it has to happen. Sometimes, we have to cancel because of breaking news so I’ll need to follow-up 

Holman: Reporters are quite dogged, it would be unfair if we were upset.

If I’ve interacted with a reporter before, is it OK to contact a different reporter?

Holman: I would say to make your pitch where you want it to go. If you’ve worked with any journalist in the past and thought the coverage was fair and helpful, I would bare down on that person. I wouldn’t overly worry about interactions with other writers, keep focused on the relational side of things. If you’ve developed rapport with a journalist who has done a good job then I would lean on that.

How should people be using their own websites to help journalists?

Holman: If you have a website or blog, keep it updated. Reporters will refer to blog posts for background information to ask intelligent questions. 

Allt: If a blog hasn’t been updated in a while, it can make you question how accurate the rest of the information, even the contacts are.

Anything to add?

Holman: Don’t chase journalists at parties or bars. And, think about ‘what is the impact of this’ and ‘why would people care.’ The reader doesn’t care about what you want to promote. The reader cares about what the reader is interested in. What you need to do is sell what’s of interest to a wide 

Allt: Even if you don’t think it’s a news story, send it anyway, you never know.

Holman: In journalism school, we had this thing called the abstraction ladder. At the top of it is agricultural economics, at the bottom is Bessie the Cow. Get us your Bessies in front of us because then the larger picture of (the organization) is communicated through whatever your Bessie is.