1 posts categorized "earned media"

02/08/2010 Earned or Deserved Media?

We talk a lot about earned media today. The thought is that with social tools and networks you can replace much of your paid media with earned media. I think that even this simple distinction is not quite so clear. For example, PR tends to fall under earned media even though companies pay the PR firm to get it for them. The difference may simply be that companies don't pay directly for coverage, as they do in ad space, but pay indirectly through PR practitioners. Should we call this earned media or paid media?

John Bell does a good job of taking us through the social media take on earned media, equating it with Word of Mouth. Sean Corcoran of Forrester adds another category, owned media.

Both of these descriptions tend toward conscious actions of companies to help spread buzz by customers or influencers. In a sense, earned is a good term, since it describes a payback on work with a particular intent: to get people to write about a product. David Armano puts it best: Earned media isn't free; you pay for time and resources.

I wonder if there's a third category: deserved media. While many people won't see the difference in the terms earned and deserved, I think there is a critical difference. You earn a paycheck. You deserve a medal. With earn, there's a clear and expected reward for work completed. If you've earned something, you've worked for it.

Deserve, to me at least, is reward without expectation. When you do things because you believe in them, that they are the right things for you to do, you may be deserving of reward. Whether you get it or not isn't the goal.

Let's bring this down to examples. Apple gets attention it deserves. It puts out great products with lots of fanfare, and invites both the pros and cons. But when people get their hands on the products they can't help but talk about them. Apple deserves this media because they focus on making insanely great products. They haven't "earned" the media since they haven't paid for, or focused on getting the attention.

HP, on the other hand, had a successful earned media campaign back in 2008 with their 31 Days of the Dragon where they gave out free laptops and encouraged people to write and then give the laptop away. It earned lots of media attention. Did they deserve it? Maybe, but it was earned in the sense that they paid for it with an expectation of publicity.

Maybe an easier way of looking at this is in the negative. Is negative buzz deserved media? I wouldn't call negative buzz earned. If we accept that companies deserve negative buzz, then we should accept that they deserve positive buzz as well.

When it comes down to it, if you focus your efforts on providing great products and services in a human way, you'll deserve positive buzz. If you martial your marketing team to build relationships with key influencers, you'll earn media buzz.

Even more simply, everything in the former is under your control, except for the buzz itself.

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