May 2 2017

Earned Media: Why and How to Market Third Party Credibility

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Content marketing is attracting significant buzz at PR and marketing conferences and is the darling of owned and often paid media. Quality of content will range it very high, and when you unite it with likes supplier, you’ll get the winning combination. Yet, the heart of public relations and a solid strategic communications plan is earned media. Why “earned”? Because you can’t buy third party credibility.

press

Earned media comes in several flavors: an article placement in traditional media (e.g. Washington Post, CNN or CBS Radio), awards and speaking opportunities. While some speakers earn top dollar to keynote a conference, most professionals are invited to deliver a speech or participate on an industry panel to share their expertise – thereby earning credibility from the conference host.

Awards for personal or program accomplishments are earned by professional success as evaluated by your peers or an expert panel. Based on the strength of your narrative and completion of the application requirements, your work is critiqued to determine if it is worthy of recognition and reward.

Having a reporter tell your story brings credibility that you can’t deliver through sponsored content or video that you produced. Often times, media relations results in a single quote in a larger story. Sometimes, it’s a feature story about a product, executive or community investment. In each instance, there’s tremendous value to sharing the article or broadcast report with internal and external stakeholders.

In each case, the outcome of selling your narrative – a speaking gig, an award or an article – brings earned media to your brand. Many have tried to put a price tag on this third party credibility, but it’s difficult to quantify by traditional ROI measures. Therefore, it’s up to you to ensure maximum visibility for the success.

Here are a few common means to ensure the media story, speaking opportunity or award receives attention long-term.

  1. Post to your website with links and photos. Use a pull quote from the article or award citation to highlight the key message.
  2. Include in your email and content marketing campaigns.
  3. Add award badges to your website, presentation materials and collateral.
  4. Share on social media and include photos and video if available. You can also include sample tweets and Facebook posts in a social media toolkit for influencers who can help spread the good word.
  5. Use these earned accolades in paid media if appropriate.
  6. Highlight in your annual report.
  7. Ask influencers to help share the good news (bears repeating).

The best means to ensuring your audience knows about the great media coverage, heralded speech or much-deserved award is to spread the good news. In my agency days, we called this “merchandizing the results.” Today, it’s about using owned media to promote earned media. Paid media services such as Outbrain and Storify should also be considered to maximize visibility.

A well-rounded marketing and communications plan will address earned, owned and paid media. Each has its place in the PR/Marketing mix. Only earned media, however, carries third party credibility.

Note: This article was originally published on kurtzdigitalstrategy.com.



Sep 2 2014

Reporters Urge White House Transparency

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The Challenge is Access to Experts

Tension with the media is sometimes an unfortunate and unintentional aspect of public relations. PR and public affairs practitioners often face a delicate balancing act between providing accurate information in a timely manner to reporters and bloggers while managing confidential employer/client information. When a PR contact doesn’t return a call or email, however, it can look like stonewalling or withholding information.

When it comes to covering the White House and federal policy and regulations, the stakes for media and public affairs are high. President George W. Bush’s administration was often criticized for being the most secretive administration in history. With this background, President Barack Obama took office in 2009 promising to lead the most transparent administration in history.

But, transparency is not the same as access to information, government officials and scientific experts who can help interpret presidential decisions and administrative actions. To this end, President Obama has been criticized by the media for a myriad of offenses:

  • Limited access for photographers in favor of releasing official White House photos.
  • Justice Department reviewed private communications of Fox News reporter James Rosen to find a national security leak.
  • Justice Department secretly obtained AP phone records in an effort to find a government leak.
  • Administration denied or censored more Freedom of Information Act requests than it approved.
  • Politically-driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies (e.g. the Affordable Care Act, food stamps, Fukushima).

This last protestation was codified in a July 8 letter signed by 39 individuals representing media associations including the Society of Professional Journalists, Associated Collegiate Press, Association of Opinion Journalists, Radio Television Digital News Association, National Press Photographers Association, and The Poytner Institute. They argue that the Obama administration’s restrictions on press access to public affairs offices and government sources are a form of censorship.

Politico Magazine recently surveyed members of the White House press corps regarding their opinions on transparency. The resulting infographic narrative is an instructive take on the fourth estate’s view. For example:

When President Obama calls this the “most transparent administration in history,” my reaction is… “To groan. Depends on what your definition of ‘transparent’ is. This WH means it is putting its own version of pictures, video and readouts on its own website.” —Ann Compton, ABC News 

The primary take away from the letter and survey is two-fold.  First, journalists want – and need – access to experts to fulfill the role of media watchdog, the hallmark of a democratic government.  Government officials, both on the record and “leaked” information, deliver the news and provide analysis for interpreting complex policy issues. Public affairs officers are the facilitator between the media and sources – and sometimes are the source.  Like it or not, reporters need the public relations function.

Even when the news is bad, government has a responsibility to be accessible, factual and transparent.  In 2010, I had the good fortune of teaching a master class in political communications with former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. She was fond of telling students to “own your bad facts.” In other words, don’t try to bury the news but acknowledge the facts, and do your best to present a positive and compelling narrative.

Second, journalists want to be treated with respect. For five years, I taught a graduate course in media relations at the George Washington University and hosted reporters throughout the semester. I was dismayed that most all commented on the amount of profanity used by public affairs officers in the Obama administration.  Even my PR colleagues in the administration admit that cursing is common place and sometimes encouraged. A “pro tip” in the Politico survey states: “Come on. If you can’t deal with a White House official swearing at you, it’s probably time to head for the exits of the profession.”

I must admit that when working in the tech sector, casual cursing was permissible – and a boss once told me profanity was an acceptable way to prove I had authority and knowledge. However, this is unprofessional behavior. It may be cliché, but I’ve found that a little honey goes a lot further to getting what you need – be it photo placement, a correction to a news story, or a follow up interview.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded to the most recent criticisms in the journalists’ letter on CNN’s Reliable Sources defending the administration’s record of transparency. He also acknowledged the sometimes testy relationship with the press saying that if the press corps didn’t push for more access, that “is the day that they’re no longer doing their jobs.”

The media need sources and report on conflict. These are the realities of their link with public relations. The responsibility of a practitioner is to be responsive, truthful and facilitate access to expert sources. For PRSA members, that also means adhering to our code of ethics. Among its values and provisions are honesty, free flow of information, and enhancing the profession through respect. If we make a concerted effort every day to balance the sometimes competing needs of the press and business goals, we can take a step toward building stronger relationships with the media.

This article originally appeared on the PRSAY blog.

 



Aug 7 2011

Dogbert’s PR Ethics

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Posted my 400th Tweet this morning. Dogbert’s “PR Ethics” highlight negative perceptions about our craft.

Dilbert.com“>

I moderated two APR Readiness Review panels a few weeks ago and neither candidate had given the PRSA Code Ethics serious consideration (yet).  I believe we can all benefit from further reflection on the ethical choices we make daily on the job.



Mar 9 2011

“Your Fired”

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The following post appeared in the Capitol Communicator, March 8.

Donald Trump’s foray into reality TV has made “you’re fired” an engaging melodrama. But in real life, that’s a very challenging pronouncement.

The recent firing of Kurt Bardella, deputy communications director for the House Committee on Government Oversight, is instructive to all public relations professionals.  From the most junior practitioner to the most experienced executive, we are reminded that we can only be successful if we are credible.

And what is credibility?  At its core, credibility is trustworthiness.  Are you a believable source?  Are you timely and responsive?  Are you honest – when sharing facts and insight – and do you have approval to do so?

For Mr. Bardella, his reputation took a significant hit after Politico reported that he might have inappropriately shared correspondence with a New York Times reporter for a book project – perhaps BCC’ing the NYT contact on emails with other reporters. We will never know specifically the nature of the information, but the Congressional office investigated and concluded his conduct was inappropriate. It was also unprofessional and unethical.

Once Bardella was dismissed from his position, his reputation was permanently damaged.  While I expect that he will, in time, recover from this personal crisis, it will forever be part of his professional history – and Google search results.

Please note, that I do not wish Bardella ill will.  I believe that he will able to demonstrate to future employers that he has learned from his mistakes, which will make him a better practitioner.

What can we learn?  Here’s a refresher on establishing and maintaining credibility.

1)    Honesty is the most important principle of our practice.  Provide information that has been approved for dissemination.  If you can’t disclose facts, say so. Provide a timeline, if you can, for when such information can be made available.

2)    Relationship building isn’t a quid pro quo.  Providing confidential information or sharing information without the owner’s knowledge to curry favor with a journalist isn’t a constructive way to establish a relationship with a journalist. Take time to learn what the journalist needs and be responsive when she calls.

3)    Trustworthiness is essential to provide counsel to senior leadership.  Once you lose the trust and confidence of an executive, you will have a difficult time doing your job effectively.

4)    Follow the PRSA Code of Ethics, which includes among its values the protection of the free flow of information and privacy.

Credibility is an essential part of professional development and advancement. With it, you are a trusted advisor and source. Without it, you risk the pronouncement – “you’re fired.”



Jul 16 2010

#Antenna_Gate: First Tweet

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#Apple #Antenna_Gate response was defensive PR. Heed the lessons of #Icarus #FanBoy is insulting http://bit.ly/9ZHb2f