Tag: news

THE REAL VALUE OF EARNED MEDIA

Earned media

When we ask what the real value of earned media is, we first need to clarify what it is. Keeping it simple, earned media is press coverage. This can be in the paper, on the radio or TV. It can be in print or online. Fundamentally, it is content that has been shared by a brand and used by a journalist.

This process is nothing new. In fact, it is often referred to as traditional PR. At Open Comms it is one of the tactics we use as part of the press office function we deliver for clients. We collate all necessary information, find an angle, draft a story and distribute.

Sounds simple but there’s a little more to it than that.  

Interestingly, over recent years, the value of earned content has been a topic for much discussion. There are many benefits to securing coverage and brands are recognising the positive impact this has on business.

Earned media is Editorial

It is important to make it clear, earned media is not advertising.

Earned media is editorial and that means that there is no cost to the journalist or brand to use the article you have supplied. When it comes to advertising a brand will pay for space. With earned media, it is up to the journalist to choose whether to use what has been supplied or not.

As such, with earned media, there is no guarantee of coverage.

Creating Credibility

With coverage comes a perceived credibility. The papers, outlets and platforms that we target are all of a quality that our clients would expect. We don’t send content to anyone and everyone. It’s about being more specific and finding the outlets that an audience will access.

Given that a journalist has to verify the copy and choose to use it, this adds further governance and value to the results.

Real Influence

I was reading 2019 Global Comms Report: ‘the Path to Progress’ by PRWeek and Cision. Within the findings was that 60 per cent of respondents to a survey globally felt that journalists have the most powerful voice of any influencer.

That’s big figures and big news for brands.

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Much of the information we form our opinions on is first shared by the media. This gives huge power and responsibility to news outlets. It also means that the headlines shared are capturing the attention of the readers and viewers every day.

There is no doubt that the media is a tool to be respected but also accessed. In turn, it isn’t difficult to see the real value in earned media.

Capitalising on Audience Reach

Although the circulations of newspapers may be declining that doesn’t necessarily mean they hold less value. Almost all titles will have a digital version and just like print, they share earned content too.

In fact, when a story is shared in print and online, the reach can be particularly impressive. In some instances, it can reach millions of readers.

Conversely, when you want to communicate with a niche audience, it’s better to speak to a thousand relevant readers than a million that are disengaged. In this instance, we would target a specialist trade media.

The opportunity being that earned media gives you the choice to engage with the most relevant outlets for your audiences.

Harnessing the Value of Earned Media

Many PR’s, ourselves included, would say that earned media is our bread and butter. That isn’t to underestimate its worth. As mentioned above, the results can have a massive impact on the performance of a business.

Just some of the benefits to earned media are as follows:

  • Raising the profile of a business
  • Launching a product
  • Securing share of voice where it matters most
  • Positioning a person or business as an industry expert
  • Gaining credibility as subject matter experts
  • Managing communications throughout a crisis

These are just a handful of the benefits to having a plan in place that will allow you to secure earned media coverage.

Gaining Access to Earned Media

In order to access earned media, and the benefits it will deliver, the first thing to do is to recognise the value in PR. It is, after all, the specialism that is most responsible for earned media. As such, a business should either hire an expert inhouse or work with an agency.

What you need is a plan which outlines the stories that you have to share. They must be relevant and right for each publication. Far too often, journalists will receive content that isn’t relevant or that has no news angle. Not only does this make their job harder, but ours too!

PR has a bad reputation for sharing irrelevant content that has one purpose; to promote a business. While this is often an objective, there as to be a real reason someone wants to read what a client has to say.

Go back to the beginning and question the relevance of each story you have to share. It’s then a case of identifying your target media, drafting the content, securing a good quality picture and distributing.  

As is often the case with PR, it all sounds very straight forward. The challenge comes when you realise there are thousands of brands doing the same. The quality of your content has to compete and secure space, which is often limited.

Calling on the Professionals

With decades of experience between us, we manage earned media for all of our clients. There isn’t a single brand we work with where this isn’t an objective. It is what we do.

If you would like to speak to us about how we would approach this for your business, please do give us a call.

A WORLD WITHOUT NEWS

No news

Just take a moment to think what it would be like to live in a world without news. No negative headlines. No worries about the wider world. No gossip columns. No announcements of job losses or business failures. No articles about people that mean nothing to you. No articles. Full stop.

Now take some time and think again.

There would be no national newspapers to keep you up to date with politics and economics. No business pages to provide category insight, trends or innovation. The narrative would be ‘manipulated’. Stories would share the positive but fail to give the bigger picture. We would become reliant on a one-sided view of everything. There would be no accountability, governance or code of practice.

Local news would come from chatter shared around the school gates or water cooler. Gossip would prevail. There would be no time for investigating the facts. Those stories that make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside would be enjoyed by the few, not the many.

Charitable activities, good deeds and communities coming together to clap in the street. Veterans raising millions of pounds through personal challenges. Residents using their skills to sew, knit and cook to selflessly help others.

These things would still happen, but only those involved would know about them. Certainly not the millions of people that rely on their newspaper, radio or TV broadcast every day.

Give journalists a chance

So, perhaps I’m painting an unbalanced picture of the news myself.

Maybe some journalists aren’t as thorough or as professional as we may like. Playing devil’s advocate, couldn’t that be said of all industries? Surely the behaviour of few doesn’t set a precedent for the many.

I have worked with journalists across international, national and regional media, broadcast and print, for more than twenty years. Throughout my career, I can honestly say that I have built up a genuine respect and admiration for what they do.

Some, I would even consider as friends.

A heartfelt plea

Yesterday evening I was scrolling through my twitter feed only to come across a video which had been shared by journalists from the Yorkshire Post. The collective, with no outside encouragement, had come together to give a heartfelt plea to readers.

The message was very simple: buy a paper.

Not only was the content raw, it put a face to the people behind the headlines. It gave a glimpse of those that work so hard to put a paper together every day. Those that allow us to better understand what is going on in our region; good or bad.

It struck a real chord with me.

You may not like the way that some journalists behave, and you may have taken a vow never to buy a particular title for your own reasons, but don’t shoot every messenger. We live in a country where we have a choice of media and medium.

Spoilt for choice

You don’t have to buy one paper, listen to one radio show or rely on one TV station. There is an abundance of media out there. We are fortunate that this is the case, and perhaps too spoilt for choice.

While I know that people will take this as an opportunity to share their opinions about the media; with some that say journalists are ‘missing the mark’, perhaps even that they are not representative of the British public. The simple truth is, this goes beyond a daily press conference.

This is a moment in time, and we would be mindful to think beyond it.

Think about the last story you read which made you smile. Think about the cuttings your mum kept. Think about those you are saving for your own family. Think about that feeling when your company featured in the business pages and someone mentioned it. Think about the ideas, encouragement and motivation you took from a feature.

Don’t be the reason to ‘stop press’

There are good and bad sides to everything. Nothing is perfect. We are all learning, and we are all adapting. Journalism is a skill. It takes patience, thought, concentration, the ability to find an angle and to get to the heart of a story. It is creative, exciting, interesting and engaging. It keeps us all informed.

This may be an opportunity for us to turn our backs on journalism and to make a stand. Refuse to buy a paper. Turn off the radio. Avoid the press conferences. Choose a box set.

When this is all over and we come out from the darkness and into the light. When we go to pick up our free paper on the daily commute. When we go to grab the local paper to see what’s happening down the road. When we go to the shop on a Saturday morning to enjoy the paper with a strong coffee. When we go to grab the Sunday paper with its many supplements that last us a week.

They won’t be there.

The stand we took. The one we didn’t think enough about. The point we made. It will be the demise of the newspaper. Humble as it may be, it is a lifeline for many. Don’t make a mistake you will live to regret.

Taking the right stand: the news stand

For now, I am backing the Yorkshire Post and the journalists that work for the title and those within the wider JMIMedia Publishing Ltd.

I will continue to buy my local papers. I will learn from the stories, laugh at the stories, cry over the stories, be shocked by the stories and I will encourage others to do the same.

In a time when it has never been more important to come together, let’s back the many and ignore the few. Buy a paper and keep an industry alive that many of us really do rely on.

SECURING NATIONAL HEADLINES

Kellingley Colliery

The success of a PR campaign and securing national headlines is directly associated to the strength of client relationships.

It’s not that you can’t do the job if you don’t get on with your client, it’s just that it makes life difficult. With a specialism like PR, you are working with a planned schedule of activity, as well as the daily news agenda.

This is when relationships really do come into their own.

Why relationships matter

Take the Coalfields Regeneration Trust as an example. We had planned to launch the State of the Coalfields 2019 report and had a schedule of activity to support this announcement. It was one of the biggest stories of the year and an import piece of work.

We had been working on the timings for months. We had the plan and the spokespeople available, we now had to liaise with all regional and national media. The story was embargoed for Wednesday 16 October, when the report would be officially launched in Westminster.

Sending this story out was no small task. Hours of work is required when you are focusing on a project like this and there is no guarantee of coverage. It’s the start of the process that you hope will lead to results.

Making things happen

On the day of the ‘sell in’ journalists asked for the story to be sent through, yet there was still no firm commitment to coverage. Frustrating but not unusual. The next day things changed. The phones didn’t stop ringing from the moment we sat down.

Broadcast wanted to arrange interviews and it was up to us to make it happen.

The client was ready to take calls throughout the day and these were planned, scheduled and arranged. It was then that we were asked for a spokesperson to be in London on Wednesday morning. The idea was that we would secure national headlines with two TV channels if the client was available.

Excellent news. All we needed to do was get the client to rearrange all of their plans to travel to London overnight to arrive first thing for an interview at 6.35am and then 10am at the studios.

This is where relationships are critical.

Working together

The client could have said no. They could have said they wanted to spend the evening with their family. They could have said it was too much money to travel to London at such short notice. It may have been that they simply couldn’t be bothered with the logistics.

The response from our client, who we have worked with for more than six years, was that this was important. It was an opportunity. It was too good to miss.

Not only did the client get on the train late at night to travel to the capital, they also did so with a smile. They were excited by the coverage we could secure as a result of this piece. At no point did they complain, suggest it was too much trouble or ask why this couldn’t be done in a different way.

Then came further calls asking for interviews down the line (on the phone) at 6.25am and 6.30am. It was back to the team at the office to ask if anyone would be willing to take the calls despite the early hour.

Again, it meant rearranging meetings and schedules, but they pulled out all of the stops to make it happen.

Celebrating success

From the minute we put the news on this morning the reports started to come in. The client’s story featured on both local TV channels (Look North and Calendar), was the lead feature on BBC Radio Sheffield and was aired on BBC Radio Five Live throughout the day.

We continued to secure national headlines as the story featured on Victoria Derbyshire and Jeremy Vine, which then led it to be syndicated across radio stations throughout the country. Again, back to the client to ask them to detour to broadcast house.

We are continuing to work on this story (literally as I type) with three clients from the office making their respective way to different interviews in varying media houses in London.

I cannot be more thankful of the relationship that we have developed over the years. Without it, we simply wouldn’t be in the position we are now; celebrating success, sharing coverage and looking forward to the next story we have to share.

For interest, here is just one link to the story we shared: https://www.itv.com/news/tyne-tees/2019-10-16/former-coalfields-scarred-by-the-legacy-of-the-past/

WHY IT’S SO IMPORTANT TO BELIEVE IN YOUR BUSINESS

Emma Lupton and Lindsey Davies launching Open Communications in 2008.

This isn’t the first time I’ve come across this fact but running a business isn’t easy. In fact, sometimes it can be quite the headache. There is so much to think about. 

When you first start it’s strange because you have what feels like all the time in the world and things are still exciting. All you want at this stage is to be established, to be taken seriously and to run as a ‘real business’.

Conversely, when you are more established with the necessary processes and procedures in place, you crave that time that you had to take a step back and to consider your options. At this stage, not only are you now responsible for what you would hope to be a successful business, but you are likely to have staff, as well as clients, to think about.

The best analogy I can use is that it’s like getting married. When you’re planning your wedding it’s full on but exciting, you then go on honeymoon and it’s all new – you feel nervous but you know that you’ve made the right decision. A few years down the line and the washing on the floor is becoming annoying, the house never seems to be clean and it doesn’t matter how many times you tell them to put the lid on the toothpaste it never seems to happen – yet you still love them. 

And that’s why it’s so important that when you start a business you believe in what you do.

Don’t make it up, make it count

When you start a business, you have to truly and passionately commit to delivering results for your clients. You have to know that the advice that you are giving them is the very best that you can offer and that you will stand accountable if things don’t work out quite how you planned.

No one is perfect but when you run a business you often feel as if you should be. In PR there are so many people that you need to consider; business partners, employees, clients, journalists and the public. 

Increasingly the public are relying on journalists, and therefore by association PRs, to deliver honest news. It’s a challenge – there is no time for editors or sub-editors to fact check everything and news is so instantaneous that it’s no longer about quality but about first to ‘the post’ – literally. Who posts the news online first wins, but do they? 

We all need to work together to make sure that we deliver a service that for us (PRs) meets with the client’s objectives and for journalists delivers a story based on fact that their audience are going to want to read and share. 

Using your passion to share news

This leads me back to my first point, in order to deliver good, quality news you need to create a business that you believe in. 

We are very fortunate as an agency to have clients that have values that are aligned with our own. They are fundamentally to do a good job and to do it well. Here at Open Comms, our mantra tends to be: forget air kissing and going out for lunch, let’s celebrate when we’ve got the results, not before. 

I’ve noticed recently that over the last (almost) ten years we have attracted similar kinds of people and we now have an incredibly strong network of associates, suppliers and clients that we trust. Beyond that, many of them we can now confidently refer to as friends. This isn’t something we take for granted, it’s something that we are immensely proud of. 

The truth is that we couldn’t have done this if we were living a lie. Again, I go back to a marriage. If you were marrying for money or your head was turned by another, yet you still went through with it, before long it would show. People would realise that you were being disingenuous and that what comes out of your mouth is not necessarily reflected in your eyes (my nanna always said to trust the eyes not the mouth – wise woman). 

We always say that passion is infectious (we’ve finished with the marriage analogy now!) and that you can sense the energy when people talk about their product or service and how much it means to them. 

My advice to anyone starting a business would be to believe. Put your heart and soul into the planning and create a list of values that you intend to be governed by. Be honest, both to yourself and to others. 

Having a business isn’t easy but when you truly believe in what you are trying to do and the service that you deliver, then I see no reason why you cannot be the success that you set out to be. This will also resonate in the future when you want to give up – and there will be times – it will be easier to get through and to move on knowing that your business is founded on solid principles that mean something to you and to your customers.

 

Ends

Make sure spending a penny doesn’t make you an ar*e

Whilst browsing a local news site yesterday evening I came across a story which caught my attention. It was about the owner of a book store in Hawes, who has found himself in hot water – and headline news – for being a little less than friendly to his customers.

Wracking up an almost impressive 20 complaints in the last four years about his rudeness – in one instance referring to a customer as a ‘pain in the arse’ – Steve Bloom has got more than he bargained for. Not only is he considered rude but he brings new meaning to the phrase ‘spend a penny’ as he asks for a 50p donation for people to browse his store.

His excuse for being rude is that ‘he’s not really a people person’, but it does beg the question why he chooses to have a customer facing business. The donation on the other hand is apparently to make sure that his shoppers are ‘serious’. Book reading has suddenly become an extreme sport!

He resides in an area known for its attraction to hundreds of thousands of visitors a year, which are absolutely essential to the economic sustainability of the region, so again, to not be wholeheartedly welcoming is somewhat missing the point.

However… there’s always a but… and I feel quite sorry for this fella and I’ll explain why. For those who don’t know Hawes, it is a beautiful town in the North Yorkshire Dales and as well as being famed for its views, it is also the home to businesses such as The Wensleydale Creamery.

Coming from the Dales I am hugely biased and find it difficult to hear negative stories, however deserved, about the area and particularly the people and businesses based there. What did make me smile was that living in this area is like no other. People are ‘real’ and they say it as it is. There are no ‘airs and graces’ and everyone is on a level playing field, usually up to their knees in sheep muck.

There was many a time when we first arrived back in the Dales and I was astounded at how abrupt people were, only to realise that actually it’s just the way it is and you either like it or quite frankly leave.

People don’t always mean offence, they are just unwilling to change their ways to suit yours.

There has to be a little give and take. Clearly, not everyone is the same, and I suspect this man has made a bit of a nuisance of himself with the local parish council but is it the end of the world and should it be attracting national headlines?

The people in the Dales are honest, hardworking and typically friendly. They would do you a good turn before a bad and I am guessing some neighbours have been round to make sure that Mr Bloom, with his lovely flowery name, is doing ok following his rocket to fame.

We discussed this in the office and weren’t absolutely sure if this story wasn’t a PR stunt – albeit a good one. There must be an opportunity to find the grumpiest – yet most loved – shop owner in the country as a result. Someone that would make Mr Bloom smell like a sweet bouquet of fresh cut roses.

The outcome of the article in many media was a statement from Hawes Parish Council Chairman, John Blackie who said: “He is doing a disservice to the other traders, to the reputation of the town, which is very much a friendly town. We welcome people to come and visit us.”

The irony is that I would put 50p on the fact that this particularly book store owner is going to become somewhat of a local celebrity and tourists will be flocking to hand over their hard-earned coinage to take a serious nosy around his shop.

Not only will this benefit his business but also those around it. As they say, there is no such thing as bad publicity and I have to admit, I’ve considered suggesting a ride out on Saturday myself.

Editorial and advertising: perfect bedfellows or simply getting too close for comfort?

Pondering the world of PR and all that it encompasses.

Pondering the world of PR and all that it encompasses.

Obligatory start to all communications this week, Happy New Year to one and all! We hope that you had a well-deserved break and have come back refreshed, albeit a little on the plump side. I certainly have

So, as we embark on another year ahead what are the challenges that you will face? Have you even considered what is around the corner? Or are you still debating whether it’s appropriate to eat those left-over mince pies and to wash them down with sherry or a last glass of fizz?

Anyway, enough about my overindulgence, it’s irrelevant – we are back to it now and so my ponderings for 2017 begin.

Before Christmas, I noticed a shift in the way that an online regional title was reporting news.

Rather than simply sharing updates, as they had done for several years, they instead offered the chance for people to upload their own content for a fee. This is nothing new, it has been done before and as a PR agency we would consider it advertorial.

The reason for this is that those submitting news can write – within reason – whatever they like and share it on the platform as long as they pay to do so. So far, so good. However, what made this approach rather ‘unique’, and I believe added some intrigue, was that the platform made it clear that they would choose the best three articles to feature on their daily bulletin.

The reason I find this so fascinating is that it really does blur the lines between what constitutes advertising and editorial. In the first instance it is advertorial, as the person has paid for the piece to feature as they have written it, but in the second it becomes editorial, as a journalist has shared it with a wider audience alongside content that has not been paid for. Now to clarify, you can quite easily see the bylined author of each article so can still see which have been paid for but it’s a fine line.

I have conflicting thoughts about this; commercially I have to admit that it is a step forward and I also think there are many online titles that will follow, but what is unnerving is that people already find the relationship between advertising and editorial a challenge and I fear this will make it worse.

People will believe that to work in PR you write copy and upload it for a fee, which isn’t the case. What we do here at Open Communications is to draft good quality copy that is then sent to a journalist for them to decide whether to share it with their audience or otherwise.

I’ve been a follower of this particular news feed for a number of years now and am certainly keen to see if this approach evolves – or doesn’t, depending presumably on its popularity and ability to become an additional income stream.

I’m always interested to see how publications change the way that they work while maintaining the integrity of the editorial they share, so again, this will be one to watch.
Another shift in the wonderful world of PR and communications – there’s never a dull day.

Wishing you all the very best for 2017. We will be sharing our thoughts and opinions about subjects that are relevant to PR, marketing, communications and life in general. Remember to come back for updates and of course, feel free to add your own thoughts too.