As the line blurs between content creation and newsgathering, smart organizations are capitalizing by enhancing their earned media visibility.
As first observed in the 2022 Luquire Trends Report, the past few years have seen an interesting confluence of trends that has created unprecedented opportunities for brands to get their messages out through earned media.
The first trend relates to the growing demand for news organizations to produce more news content with fewer resources. For example, according to data from Pew Research, while the number of journalists working in local TV news has remained relatively flat since 2004, the amount of time TV stations are allocating for local news has increased 72% over the same period.
On a parallel path, corporations and other organizations have been building up their in-house content creation capabilities, primarily to capitalize on opportunities to get their messages out through “unfiltered” channels like company websites and social media. “Brand journalism” became its own discipline as organizations explored a variety of storytelling platforms – from infographics to videos to in-depth features – to not only inform their audiences, but create an emotional connection.
What Does It Mean?
These two trends began to bend toward each other at the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020, when newsgathering – like virtually every other industry – was turned on its head by fear and uncertainty. No longer able to conduct in-person interviews or cover live events, journalists had to find other ways to obtain content for news platforms whose audiences were hungry for information about the pandemic and other world events.
Enter the corporate content studio, which could deliver broadcast-quality video or streaming content to complement a journalist’s original reporting. Overnight, journalists who were skeptical about accepting corporate content were welcoming prerecorded interviews, B-roll footage and a host of other material.
If anything, the trend has intensified, as the public became more accustomed to seeing corporately produced content in the mainstream media. Some organizations have gone a step further, gating access to important information that previously would have been accessible only through traditional news outlets.
For example, during the Space Race in the last half of the 20th century, every NASA mission was broadcast by the major news networks and covered intently by hundreds of other news organizations. Whether it was Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon or the devastating tragedy of the Challenger explosion, the entire world witnessed their monumental events as they unfolded.
But as space missions have become privatized – and as news media have become more accepting of content from other sources – companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are not granting media access to cover their launches. Instead, they provide highly sanitized feeds to the media, so their audiences only get to see what those companies allow.
What Should Brands Be Doing About It?
The new dynamic between companies and media outlets creates significant opportunities for organizations to enhance their earned media coverage. For starters, brands should double down on multimedia storytelling, going beyond the written word to bring inspiring or educational stories to life. Video, podcasts and infographics are all compelling tools that can be used not just on owned or shared platforms, but on earned channels as well.
To maximize these efforts, companies should be identifying resources to provide better quality and higher quantities of produced content. Whether partnering with an agency or building your own team with an in-house studio, you’ll want to have the right mix of creativity, strategy and production capability to capitalize on all the opportunities brands are facing.
Next, develop a “brand journalism” mentality by tracking major trends and story lines into which your organization can be incorporated. Pumping out content that is just about your company or products is a turn-off; attaching your brand to timely and relevant topics is a great way to connect with your audiences, and the media who reach them.
Finally, brands should be thinking about earned media opportunities at the front end when they’re developing their content calendars for owned and shared channels. If the functions are separate within your organization, bring everyone together for planning purposes, and work off a shared planning tool to align efforts across platforms. Planning ahead for how a soundbite or B-roll footage might be used can prevent last-minute scrambles and help cement your organization as a go-to resource for the media that matter most to your audience.
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