The explosion of social media and digital communication channels in recent years has greatly expanded the public presence options for advice firms and other small businesses, but arguably there's still no better publicity than through mainstream media.
Anyone who has followed the plight of traditional media since the mid-1990s will know that these have been tough years for the industry. Thousands of newspapers and magazines have shut their doors under the pressure of the internet.
These closures have been driven by the loss of the advertising monopoly that traditional media once enjoyed. Advertisers have migrated online, and audiences with them. This in turn has destroyed the business model of publishers and shrunk their businesses.
Even after years of downsizing, though, there remains a certain appeal for business owners across many industries to see their products and services mentioned in the editorial content of newspapers or magazines.
"Earned" media, as it is called, refers to unpaid mentions, reviews, interviews or other journalistic coverage of your company and its services. It is distinguishes from "paid" media (advertising or other paid promotion) and "owned" media (your own website content, blogs, and social media channels).
Why should firms consider pursuing earned media?
There are definite advantages in pursuing earned media as opposed to just paid or owned media. One is the prestige and credibility that attaches to certain publications, as well the exposure to a wider audience that they can offer.
If you execute it well, you can adapt your firm's message to whatever subject journalists are interested in at any one time. Take something like the recent Neil Woodford debacle in the news, for example — the owner of an advisory firm could offer themselves for interview to shed light on the kinds of follies that he was making.
Certainly, in a field like financial services — perceived by much of the public as being a somewhat complex topic — there are many opportunities for advisers to step up and bring some clarity to issues that the general public may be uncertain about.
Then, if the resultant story is a popular one, it will often be shared by readers through their own social media accounts, which magnifies your message and public presence.
The other clear advantage of earned media is cost. Other than your time in agreeing to an interview or issuing a press release, this is generally a much cheaper option than taking out a paid advertisement.
But what about disadvantages?
There are also potential disadvantages to earned media. One is that, even if you think you have a good story to tell, there is no guarantee that the media will agree. Many a business person has spend considerable time providing quotes and background to a journalist only to find their comments completely omitted from the final story.
A second drawback is that you have little or no control over the outcome. How will your quotes be used? Who else is being quoted in the story? What angle are they pursuing? Your brand could be associated with a negative angle that does you no favours at all.
A third potential drawback is the quality of the final story. Years of cutbacks in newsrooms have removed layer upon layer of quality control. Slipshod fact-checking, poor editing and amateurish writing are now par for the course.
Finally, consider this: even if the finished story is well-written, factual, balanced and relevant, and even if your message is well-delivered, the article may be locked behind a paywall — so few people will end up seeing it, and no-one can share it.
The upshot is you must be extremely careful in how you approach earned media. You should choose quality publications and journalists you trust. You should be very clear about what angle they are pursuing. You need to know who else they are talking to. And you need to consider whether the final content can be shared.
By the way, don't expect to have clearance approval on what goes to print. You may be able to ask the journalist to check your quotes back with you, but very few publications give interviewees veto power on publication.
Ultimately then, if you really want total control over your message and the context in which it is used, you will need to consider paid or owned media.
If you want to find out more about how Regis Media can help to get your firm's message out to your prospective clients, why not take a look at the services we offer on our website?