the importance of earned media

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In speaking with my boyfriend the other day about my life/internships/career/future/etc, we ended up talking a lot about what I want to do and how I’m going to do it. For a long time, I’ve wanted to be in advertising. I love advertising. I love designing ads, I love coming up with taglines, I love coming up with campaigns and extensions and ways to make people see the good in something.

Unfortunately, I don’t have some of the basic creative skills needed. I’m not interested in paying to go to portfolio school, and the people who direct the ads are rarely people who can’t execute them. Sure, I can muddle my way around photoshop or indesign, but I’d need extensive training to be able to become an advertising professional — and even then, I might never end up designing advertisements, only executing someone else’s vision.

I’ve been thinking more and more about it, and maybe I don’t want to work for a straight ad agency. The full-service firm is becoming more and more popular, and it’s key to be able to streamline your communications to your clients and audiences.

My major, integrated marketing communications, combines all of these disciplines — marketing, advertising, sales, public relations, et cetera. It helps you create a cohesive front and make sure that you’re getting at the essence of your message every time you put something out into the world. So with a degree in IMC, I can focus on any of those disciplines. I love advertising, and I’d love to continue to work in advertising, but I’m thinking that perhaps my advertising skills would be better put to use as a greater skillset, one focused on branding and public relations.

Public relations is one of the most valuable tactics an entity can use to raise their profile and get more people interested in whatever they’re selling. It’s a fact. Because when you use public relations effectively, people get their information about you from someone they trust, whether that’s word of mouth, newspapers, television shows, blogs, whatever. They’re not getting information from you, so they don’t have the inherent distrust of advertising or of promotions that exists in today’s society.

Trust is the most valuable asset.

Present a promotional piece about your business yourself, and you’re marketing, you’re advertising, you’re intruding and interrupting. Let someone else tell a story about your business — one that you’ve helped provide information for — and suddenly you’re interesting, you’re worth learning more about, you’re worth googling. And maybe you’re even worth buying something from, or hiring.

Earned media (media impressions you do not purchase) is incredibly valuable, and in some ways is more valuable than advertising. Earned media earns you trust, earns you respect, earns you a reputation. Your reputation, as a company, is worth a great deal; with a bad reputation, you can advertise all you want without effect, while as with a good reputation, you can run a few failed campaigns without disaster.

If you’re earning positive reviews from media outlets, consumers, and even bloggers, you are not just getting the number of media impressions provided by those outlets, you are getting the reputation that those outlets, consumers, and bloggers have built for themselves. If respected members of a community speak for or against a certain product, their words hold weight. And this is the power of earned media, the power that respect and reputation give you. The power of trust.

It all comes down to this: you cannot advertise yourself into a good reputation, but you can use public relations and earned media to establish one.

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