mom was right: you gotta earn your media
Jun 11, 2009 | Tech News
Okay, I might have the saying confused with “You gotta eat your veggies” or “You gotta wash your hands”. But like a lot of Mom’s sayings, they are all great advice.
“Earned Media” is fast becoming The Meme of the marketing world. And I think it is spreading fast because of its validity.
Let’s start by defining the opposite ofEarned Media, the Paid Media. The bulk of Paid Media is basically what Madison Avenue does: Advertising, whether it’s on TV, Radio, Newspaper, Magazines, Outdoor signage or the Web. They are placed on these locations because your company PAID for their placement on the medium. Pretty much everyone outside of a selected few living in the Borneo Jungle are familiar with advertising. What’s more, everyone is well aware that you are trying to sell them something via the ads, and have long developed a sense of skepticism and cynicism around the message you want the consumers to hear. Which is not to say they can’t deliver the brand message, but the well documented fact is that they are fast becoming less effective, particularly with the media savvy younger generations. “New and Improved” won’t do it anymore, now you’ve got to bring out something like the Subservient Chicken to shock people into listening to you.
Earned Media, on the other hand, are organic and grass root. Your company still seeds the message, but you are working in concert with the media and consumers to develop awareness of the product or service that you want folks to adore. The resultant publicity and awareness is based on positive, non-sponsored coverage of your brand. The classic example of Earned Media is Public Relations, where PR professionals work to get your brand and product into the hands of the media and journalists, who then can do news coverage or product reviews. The PR folks help convey the message you want out there, but ultimately the messages are told via the journalists or news personalities. Whereas a poorly designed product can still be touted with fanfare on a Clear Channel billboard if you buy the space, a crappy product that offers nothing new or worthwhile will not see much coverage, no matter how many PR firms you hire.
The most exciting space for Earned Media, however, is social media. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and many other web properties are fertile ground for organic, user-driven messaging. One only needs to look on Twitter’s public stream to find frequent mentions of brands and products. Brands need to listen, engage, and participate in these mediums to make sure the desired brand attributes are what customers are experiencing and talking about.
As I feel that I have much to learn and much to think through about Earned Media, let me leave you with what I think is the best discussion of Earned Media I’ve come across: Fred Wilson, a VC partner at Union Square, recently gave a talk on Ad Age Digital Conference, and his slides are available for viewing here.