Great Stories = Great Earned Media

Seek Human Angles, Community Activity

It’s the age-old question: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

There are many ways to argue it of course. At its most basic, sound is vibrations in the air and whether or not there are ears there to hear it is irrelevant. But this blog is not about arguing the merits of old philosophical dilemmas. Rather, it’s about bringing attention to your organization’s events. And some might argue that if you have an event and no one is there to witness it, it really wasn’t an event at all.

But how do you go about getting the media to your events? It is incumbent upon you to get inside the mind of the viewer and the journalist and think about what’s newsworthy. We know the more salacious the better, and if anything bad or controversial occurs rest assured they’ll be out in force, possibly with helicopters. But if we’re being honest we also know that the media generally seek balance and will engage with a story that is interesting or has “feel good” value. These qualities, along with community outreach initiatives and technological breakthroughs can elevate the reputation of your hospital, health system or facility, and draw in journalists, so start by focusing your efforts there.
The Plan of Attack

A recent SPRYTE example illustrates this approach. Responsible for the promotion of the 2017 American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Philadelphia Marathon, SPRYTE employed two of our tried and true tactics, the media advisory and the story pitch, to gain a tremendous amount of media coverage over five months, culminating with the AACR Philadelphia Marathon Weekend Nov. 18-19.

Media advisories were used for pep rallies and announcements, and pitches employed for feature stories. These included the story of U.S. Army Sgt. (Retired) Earl Granville, an Afghanistan vet and wounded warrior who ran the Dietz & Watson Half Marathon Nov. 18 on a prosthetic leg. It was a powerful story that begged for media coverage…and received it, from NBC10, CBS3 and Fox29.

Breandan Lyman also got media loving for his two unlikely paired hobbies: distance running and competitive eating. The frequent Philadelphia “Wing Bowl” competitor was featured in Philadelphia Metro the week leading up to the Marathon. These are just two of the many powerful and quirky stories that have value. You can view these and other Marathon earned media results at this link.

 

The Best Laid Plans…

Alas, it is possible to work everything just right and still miss out on media engagement. For instance, your charitable fundraiser can easily get bumped by another story such as a house fire or local scandal. That’s the nature of the beast. You can’t count on the coverage until you see it on air or in print.

 

Media is Not the Enemy

As we alluded to above, it’s easy to think of the media as that ogre that shows up to call attention to something bad, but this thinking is limiting and not altogether true. The fact is, media want newsworthy content. Giving them what they crave helps them as well as you. Once your story gets covered, it is free and, via social media, possibly viral publicity, ready to be merchandised and shared through your own social channels and other communications tool, as discussed in last week’s Insights blog.

The “Afterlife” of Earned Media Hits

Extend Reach by Marketing the Marketing

If there’s one thing SPRYTE is good at, it’s generating great earned media results for our clients. But what becomes of those terrific stories after they appear?

In days gone by, an article would run in a paper or magazine, (hopefully) be seen by thousands or maybe millions of readers, then get relegated to the recycling bin or bottom of the proverbial birdcage. The agency or client might add the clip to a digital archive, to trot out when someone asked for it down the road. More savvy organizations might get reprints made and add them to their marketing materials.

With the advent of the internet, however, those once-fleeting media “hits” have found an extended afterlife. Those wonderful stories live online, potentially in perpetuity, to be found by consumers, prospective employees and journalists researching your organization. (Unfortunately, so do negative ones, but that’s a topic for another discussion.)

As those stories accumulate, your SEO results will likely increase too. If you’ve read our prior blog on getting backlinks, you’ll have had success in getting journalists to include links to your organization in the online version of stories. According to Google, a whopping 99.2% of sites that show up in the top 50 search results have at least one external link. The more earned media hits you receive, the more valuable links back to your site from legitimate news sources…and the more your credibility will rise in the eyes of Google and other search engines.

SPRYTE, like most agencies, has always merchandised our media results for clients, but our clients have become more and more interested in merchandising them to their own audiences, whether those are patients and prospective patients, employees/doctors, prospective partners and affiliates, franchises or the general public.

And we’re very happy to help, by providing new introductory copy, writing social media posts, or securing digital reprints.

 

Beyond the Birdcage

Here are some ways we recommend taking that glowing media story “beyond the birdcage”:

  • Post the article on your organization’s website, either on your dedicated “In the News Page” if you have one, or your home page if the story merits marquee treatment. You can include a thumbnail, a link to the original source, or a readable image.
  • E-mail a PDF of the article with a cover note to your marketing list, or consider snail-mailing hard copies with a cover letter or handwritten Post-It note (“I just wanted to make sure you saw this great article…”) to particularly hot prospects.
  • Include the article link or the entire article in your organization’s internal newsletter.
  • Share the article link on all your social media channels, and encourage your employees or employee-ambassadors to share or post it on their personal feeds as well.
  • If you’re a franchisor, like a home care company, provide your franchise owners with a ready-to-use blog or paragraph and link that they can use on their microsites, if available.
  • Prepare copy for each of the main social media channels, making posting a turn-key process for franchise owners or affiliates. (Remember, you now have 280 characters to boast on Twitter!)
  • Make hard copies of the article for hand out at trade shows or expos, or to include in leave-behinds. Enlarge and mount the article on foam board for display at your booth or table.
  • Broadcast stories can be edited together and added to the website, played on a loop in waiting rooms, or shown during expos.

One SPRYTE client was so thrilled with the breadth and quality of coverage we generated that they revamped their lobby wall to create a “Wall of Fame” featuring our greatest hits!

 

Run with it, but Play by the Rules

A word of caution: check with the article rights holder before mass distributing any story. Linking to the original source is acceptable in most cases, and the Fair Use Doctrine may apply in many others, but as some stories reside behind paywalls, written permission and/or a fee may be required. Many publications also provide official reprints, including the masthead, at a cost.

Even if you’re not redoing the décor to highlight media hits, positive articles about your organization should become another arrow in your marketing quiver. Fortunately, there are many avenues to prolong the afterlife of great publicity!

Running with Social Media at Philly Marathon

SPRYTE’s Online Storytelling Shines During Race Weekend

Like many communications consultants before us, “social media” was part of our Statement of Work on a very recent government engagement, and at the start of the contract earlier this year, it was relatively undefined.

As experienced healthcare communicators, SPRYTE has been the health system spokesperson and we’ve used earned media, not paid advertising, to deliver bodies to programs from scientific thought leadership panels to high profile entertainment fundraising.

Little did we know what joy we would personally experience and how well our public relations background had prepared us for taking the reigns as the voice of one of America’s top 10 marathons!

That’s right.  Beginning on the eve of the 2017 AACR (American Association for Cancer Research) Marathon Weekend, SPRYTE Communications became @philly_marathon on Twitter and the lead responder on the Philadelphia Marathon Facebook page.

We’re still sending love to triumphant runners by retweeting and liking their photos with words of encouragement and by answering their questions about times, medals and shirts.

But what we found so electrifying was the power of the message in the moment during Marathon Weekend.

SPRYTE was blown away by the reach and engagement of our messaging but we were also humbled by the giant responsibility we had as a guardian of the more than 25,000 registrants and an army of Philadelphia City personnel and volunteers.

And by the way, we didn’t delegate to juniors. Everything was handled on-site by pros with more than 25 years in the communications workforce. We may need our reading glasses while composing copy on a smart phone but rest assured, there are no typos and our extraordinary storytelling skills combined with our consumer brand-building expertise really delivered.

Here are three of our favorite posts on the 2017 AACR Philadelphia Marathon Weekend Facebook page:

We Caught the Moment:  Sarah Kiptoo is First Woman to Cross the Finish Line:  SPRYTE was at the Marathon finish line with dozens of media cameras and professional photographers. But the photo we shot one second before Sarah Kiptoo broke the tape was posted on Facebook while she was crossing it.  Everybody had great shots to relish later. Our shot was now! It was instant. (Stats as of noon 12.4.17: 9,242 people reached; 508 Likes; 15 Comments.)

Giving Prime Time Exposure to the Presenting Sponsor:  We gave continued exposure to 2017 Marathon Weekend presenting sponsor, the American Association for Cancer Research Foundation, throughout the weekend.  On behalf of the Philadelphia Marathon and the City of Philadelphia, we leveraged our social media channels to thank the AACR for their cancer research mission and their partnership for the Marathon. AACR Foundation Executive Director Mitch Stoller ran the Half Marathon on Saturday and presented the Marathon medals on Sunday. Check out all the great photos of him that are posted on the AACR Philadelphia Marathon Facebook page.

We Had to Tell a Story Without the Media:  After a heart attack at Mile 23 at age 38 in 2009, Ericka Emerson returned to the Philadelphia Marathon to conquer it. We worked with one of Ericka’s close friends on possible earned media opportunities for several months in advance of the 2017 Marathon. But when Marathon Weekend finally arrived, logistical challenges with all parties prevented a major print or broadcast story. So, SPRYTE stepped up and told the incredible story ourselves with an 11th hour reunion photo of Ericka and the four Philadelphia first responders who saved her life back in 2009.  The inspirational story, which reflects so well upon the City of Philadelphia, and the wonderful photo are still getting noticed.  It gives us chills every time we read it. (Stats as of noon 12.4.17: 13,296 people reached; 552 Likes; 32 Shares; 43 Comments.)

Thanks to our engagement for the 2017 AACR Philadelphia Marathon Weekend, SPRYTE experienced social media management in a new way for our firm.  We are smitten and we think we have a lot of potential. Let us know if you agree. We know “We Did It!” How do you think we did?