Jewel Marketing
Taiwan Content Marketing

Earned Media: Sizzle For Your Steak

By Jason Patterson

Founder of Jewel Content Marketing Agency
"Tesla does no marketing" is one of the business world's favorite factoids. While not exactly true (Tesla wouldn't sell tequila if they did no marketing), even taken at face value, I feel the wrong lesson is often drawn from it.

Fame Is The Name Of The Game

The issue is not whether a product can sell itself, because Tesla vehicles do not sell themselves, but earned media certainly does, and it's a major contributor to Tesla becoming the most valuable car brand in the world (as of the time of this writing), beating out a wide variety of car gods with more glamour and more heritage. And yet, when it comes to owned, paid, and earned media, the latter often gets neglected, especially in B2B.

Granted, I don't think B2B brands can be really propelled by earned media in the same way that B2C brands can (it wasn't enough for WeWork in the end), but it comes in handy. And the funny thing is we all know this already. Everyone knows it's better to be a famous brand than non-famous. Oracle isn't putting their name on a pro baseball stadium for no reason.

And yet, earned media still often doesn't get the attention and resources it should. And there are two primary reasons for this. First, as illustrated in this nice little Forbes article, earned media channels cannot be controlled in the same ways that owned and paid channels can, making it hard to improve and predict your metrics there with the level of rigor that is demanded today. And second, the marketing and media relations teams in many organizations tend to be siloed from each other, even when they report to the same manager.

Why Marketing And Media Relations Need Each Other

But even though these disciplines work quite differently from each other, a lot of low-hanging inbound fruit doesn't get picked when they don't work together. Earned media is more credible than other forms, making it a highly-effective sales lubricant, with 93% of sales reps saying that they leverage media coverage when communicating with prospects.

And it's really important when you're going after prospects who've never heard of you, or who've had no previous awareness that you sell something relevant to them. A respected trade publication can perform the same job as that all-important first friend who vouches for you as you try to gain entrance to a new circle of friends.

That first cause of B2B earned media neglect that I mentioned is the nature of the beast, and cannot be entirely tamed, though that Forbes article does make some helpful suggestions that can have some effect. But that lack of collaboration that I mentioned as the second cause is entirely internal, and therefore very much amenable to improvement. And I see three core reasons why you should.

1. Media Relations Needs Help

When marketing is largely siloed off from what media relations creates and does, your media relations people may find themselves a little too dependent on product managers, which can lead to media content that reads like a feature list instead of a feature story.

Or they may lean too heavily on PR firms, which can lead to a lot of fruitless attempts at getting articles written solely for the purposes of attracting journalists (as opposed to articles asked for by or negotiated with journalists) published.

The problem with the latter is that unsolicited content should not be created solely for PR, because unsolicited content created solely for PR is propaganda, and nobody wants to read that. Instead, news or insights should be shared with the public, via PR.

The problem with the former is that even when dealing with trade media in highly technical fields, you don't want your content weighed down with too many details; what the media cares about is what's special, what stands out, and what's unique (i.e., what's new).

And what's more, a lack of coordination can actually lead to marketing and media assets that don't agree with each other, a not unheard-of problem at tradeshows and the like where you have content for just-launched products authored by different sources in close proximity.

2. Marketing Needs More Reach

Earned media is a great way to get more reach (and more high-value reach) and achieve other marketing KPIs that can be hard to hit through owned or paid methods in B2B, like brand awareness.

Even if it doesn't contain a lot of marketing-specific messaging or information, favorable media coverage establishes your legitimacy and authority in your industry, making it important to share on your social media channels alongside your blogs, whitepapers, and other content. It also gives your content team a break from having to constantly churn out your own stuff (while improving your SEO), or it can fill a gap in the content calendar when a normally-scheduled item is late.

What's more, trade media need clicks too, and they are often very hungry for content. You can work with their people to create bylines and other content that interests them and their readers, making for another way to establish legitimacy and authority. Some trade media will even let you publish case studies and other content right on their website, which is a great way to get them in front of decisionmakers who might not otherwise be involved in the buying process early enough to consume such content other ways.

But it takes closer collaboration between media relations and marketing to make these things happen, as marketing might not even be aware of what media relations is doing, or what leverageable media-published content is out there on the web, leaving a lot of money on the table, and media relationships uncultivated.

3. One Side May Be Neglected Versus The Other

When marketing and media relations are siloed from each other, one side may be overrepresented, with the other side neglected. Why? Because the boss they both eventually report to came up through one side or the other, but not both.

If media relations is viewed through a marketing lens, media relations risks being dismissed as "the department of things marketing is too introverted to do." If it's the opposite, marketing risks becoming "the department of tradeshow support and ad hoc requests."

If the former happens, you risk brand awareness suffering, leading to a marketing funnel that chronically underperforms, even if well-resourced and well-done. After all, a steak without sizzle can be mighty tasty, but a steak that sizzles is much easier to sell.

But if marketing is the side that atrophies, you risk your media relations efforts becoming a money pit, because they'll be all sizzle and no steak (unless you've got a rockstar CEO acting as your de facto CMO), so you'll have to keep conjuring larger, more extravagant, and more expensive forms of sizzle to keep the media engaged. Both situations are undesirable.

Earned media is a great force multiplier, but you need a marketing-related force to multiply (i.e., you need the sizzle and the steak to go with it). And keeping some of your storytellers far away from third-parties who write stories for a living is hardly efficient, especially since your content people might be asked to create media content by your regional marketing and sales leaders anyway.

It is therefore better if marketing and media relations work more hand in hand, at HQ and beyond. Your media relations people often have huge and very influential personal networks, making them ideal people to distribute your key marketing content, messaging, and insights. And media relations may need a little help from marketing connecting the dots amongst the technical features so a coherent picture can be presented to the world.

You can't necessarily reorganize your company, but you can assign some KPIs for marketing and media relations to share (bylines published, brand mentions, etc.). You can also make certain that media relations assets (and those published by third parties) are also part of the marketing content calendar. This will help both sides be better aware of what the other is doing, and maximize the effectiveness of both.

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