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Plan Your Work: Getting Started with Earned Media

Earned media is a powerful tool in any communicator’s toolbox, but it’s important to remember that securing earned media coverage requires significant time, effort and follow-up. But by planning ahead and developing a proactive approach to earned media, you can build and enhance the profile of your messages and your organization.

Before you get started with an earned media pitch, consider what you will say and how you will say it to ensure your message is well received and understood by your intended audiences.

What Will You Say? Developing Your Message

A poorly crafted message will not be covered—or well received—by most media contacts. While all earned media messages should answer the 5 W’s: Who, What, When, Where, and Why of the story; consider the five questions below to further develop a clear message that will help you achieve your objectives.

  1. What are our objectives for this earned media effort?
  2. Who are our primary audiences? What do we want them to do?
  3. What is the key benefit they will get from doing this?
  4. What other information- such as quotes, personal stories, statistics, or other important points- can we present to help stir them to action?
  5. What information- legal, institutional, or otherwise- must we include?

How Will You Say It? Developing Your Dissemination Plan

Once equipped with a clear message, consider how to leverage the local media landscape to best ensure your message is conveyed to its intended audience. Combining various earned media communications vehicles in a media mix enables you to generate earned media coverage and communicate your message in the most effective way.

Be sure to consider media deadlines when developing your schedule and timeline for dissemination. For added impact, align your earned media strategies and dissemination plan with paid advertising and social media campaigns when possible.

Communications Vehicles for Generating Earned Media Coverage

  • News Release
  • Media Advisory
  • Letter to the Editor
  • Opinion Editorial
  • News Conference
  • Special Events
  • TV/Radio Interviews
  • Editorial Board meetings
  • Blog Postings
  • Social Media
  • Feature Stories/Testimonials
  • Allied/Third-Party Communications

Did It Work? Measuring and Reporting Success

While success can mean different things to a traffic safety communicator, measurement is an important, but often overlooked step for evaluating the success of your earned media effort. For example, a successful earned media effort that generates coverage, but fails to stir your target audiences to modify behaviors or create the desired results may not be fully complete.

When developing your earned media plan and determining measurement techniques, be sure to utilize measurement tools that will track progress against your earned media effort and its objectives.

Consider quantitative measurements, such as media clip lists or web analytics to measure the reach of your earned media program, but also look for ways to evaluate whether your audiences actually received and acted upon your messages.