Big Red Car here in yet another glorious Texas summer day. Ahhh, on Earth as it is in Texas. Sure, it’s going to be 100F today but so what?
The Big Red Car is struck by the parallels between startups and political campaigns.
Particularly on the subject of “earned media content.”
Earned media content defined
Earned media content is notice that is given to a company, product, service primarily by its customers. It can be thought of as “word of mouth” or “buzz” or, sometimes, an article that goes “viral.”
In the media game, the gurus and wise men differentiate among owned, paid, and earned media.
A slightly broader definition might be that if you subtract out owned and paid media what remains is earned media.
Earned media is often free media and has some challenges inherent with it.
[Pro tip: Earned media can sometimes be the result of a very well executed communication plan which is based, initially, on owned or paid media.
Earned media content issues
The biggest issue with earned media is the almost complete inability to control it.
It is very hard to measure the impact of earned media.
The nature of the actual content may not always be good. It can be negative.
It is very difficult to manage.
In a company’s (or a politician’s) communication strategy, another channel is reputation management. [You do have a communication strategy, don’t you?]
Look at an LL Bean catalog and see the customer comments in regard to their flannel lined blue jeans. OMG, it is a freakin’ cult.
Reputation management is another aspect of earned media.
The combination of a great product, a forum in which to comment upon its greatness, a bit of customer engagement — can create a freakin’ cult.
Force feeding earned content
The recent focus in the Republican Presidential debate given to The Donald is a superb example of earned media content.
Without expending a penny, The Donald has stolen the oxygen from the room. At the actual debate, he had the mic twice as long as Ted Cruz. The Fox News inquisitors — supposedly the arbiters of fair play and equal time — gave it to him.
Since the debate, The Donald has overwhelmed, commanded, consumed, dominated the air waves.
[BTW, did you know that Jeb Bush was supposed to be the runaway front runner with a huge war chest and the pinched face approval of the Republican establishment? Come on, you knew that.’
The Donald is a superb example of what “earned media content” can look like.
The other night a talking head on CNN was lamenting that The Donald wasn’t battle tested yet as he hadn’t put up any paid ads.
Hello? Anyone home?
Earned media content is cheaper and, sometimes, better. This is the “lean” part of the lean startup.
Can we get some actionable intel for a change?
A startup company can adopt some simple tactics to drive its earned media.
1. Use testimonials as part of the face of your website. Not a lot. Just a couple. These are the web presence equivalent of “book blurbs.” Use them.
2. Send out press releases. This is a very simple thing to do. If you want a crutch, use PR Newswire. They are expensive but expensive is relative.
If you don’t want to hire a press wire service, then make your own. Format your press releases correctly and find the intake point for local publications and send them directly. This is, in essence, what you are hiring PR Newswire to do. You can do it yourself.
3. Issue whitepapers and information of industry interest. Disseminate them widely and post them on your website.
4. Attach a blog to your website and engage in a robust conversation. Decide right up front how you are going to deal with trolls. There will be trolls.
5. Develop the most robust possible custom service capability. An unhappy customer made happy can become a brand evangelist.
There are no brilliant ideas in the preceding but I am amazed at how many startups fail to capitalize on them.
When you are running a lean startup and unable to own a channel (you can always own your own website, that’s a channel), or to afford paid media — the answer is “earned media.” It is a smart decision and something that even billionaires running for President do and you’re way smarter than The Donald. Right?
Earned media content, it’s free.