Earned Media: Some Things Haven’t Changed

By Robert Johnston, Senior Vice President

Garnering media continues to be one of the most effective opportunities for our clients to spread the word about their work, advocate for policy change, and inform public conversations. It’s also one of the more difficult goals to reach, which truly warrants its name of “earned” media.

Simply put, earned media is any publicity or exposure that you didn’t pay for or create yourself. Once upon a time, that mostly meant news stories or broadcast media segments. Today, the landscape is ever-changing and broader; now it includes tweets, likes, mentions, retweets, blogs, video, podcasts, and more.

Hatcher has worked for more than two decades to build relationships, develop content expertise, and understand how to present a story so that it’s relevant for reporters and their outlets — all in the service of earning media.

We succeed when we follow tried-and-true principles. Here are some of the most important:

Know the media landscape: Do your homework. Whether you seek to get content placed in print, broadcast, online, or in mainstream or trade outlets, the likelihood of getting reporters’ attention increases greatly when you provide content that is relevant, new, timely, or advances previous coverage. This attention to detail will pay off now because reporters will recognize that you respect their work and have something of value to offer.

Manage expectations: National mainstream coverage is great when you can get it. And while coverage in The New York Times or The Washington Post is often at the top of a client’s list, there now are even greater options that provide direct connections to target audiences and offer a better chance of publication. So, while we always want to aim high, we’re equally committed to having honest conversations with our clients about alternative options where a pitch is likely to be accepted.

Be accurate and honest: Whether we’re pitching a news story, interview source, or new perspective, we hold ourselves to the same standards to which news publications adhere. Anything we share with the media is vetted for accuracy — from data to names, titles, and any pertinent facts. And when we pitch, it’s always because there’s a real and timely story to be told with sources who are willing to share.

Respond quickly and consistently: Sometimes the difference between being covered or included in a story comes down to how quickly you respond to an email, tweet, or phone call. We never want to keep people waiting. Being available and immediately responsive also builds trust for the next story where your sources, contacts, or expertise might support a reporter’s coverage.

Be polite but persistent: Pitching reporters takes “polite persistence.” Based on the different feedback we get from reporters, there’s no one way to contact them. Some are open to phone calls; some only want to be pitched by email; while others prefer contact via social media. Today, you have to do it all. And never be afraid to pick up the phone! Yes, even land lines. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been thanked for reminding a reporter about a story tip, event, or press release they’ve overlooked.

One thing hasn’t changed: earned media must be earned. So, the key to obtaining media coverage: never rely on just one touch — and never give up!