You can never quite have too much information on earned media. Earning that visibility for your content is crucial to success in online marketing and this will only continue to become more important in 2015. Things have gotten harder as more and more companies try to jump on the bandwagon, so it’s vital you have a strategy in place and understand how it works so you can stay ahead of the curve.

Part I of this series will explain the outreach process for earned media (below), but stay tuned for Part II on monitoring earned media and Part III on reporting earned media this week.

Defining Earned Media

What earned media is: According to Hubspot, earned media is any publicity you haven’t paid for that’s owned and created by a third party. This includes social media, guest blogging, a horrible Yelp review, and newspaper or magazine mentions. In other words, this type of media is not controlled by a brand, so it’s considered more trusted.

What earned media isn’t: Publicity you pay for on your own. Writing a blog post for your company blog also doesn’t count as earned media, but it’s not paid media either. This is considered “owned media.”

The Execution of Earned Media

Earned media focuses on two key things: Creating quality content and getting that content published on the web. Both are incredibly interrelated and have to mesh well together in order to be successful, which is where careful planning comes into play.

  1. Have a solid portfolio of content on your own website.

Before you can even begin trying to offer content to a publication or on social media, you need to make sure you have a solid blog on your own website. Having a blog is how you’re going to establish credibility with your audience, it’s going to give you content to share and link back to when relevant, and it’s going to help you establish your own tone and style, or “brand voice.”

  1. Work on creating relationships with different publications.

Creating relationships in your industry is crucial to earned media. Not only do you want others in your industry to know you exist for natural-linking purposes, but you want to find opportunities to offer free guest content. Simply reaching out and saying, “I want to write for your website” isn’t going to work. You have to first engage with the website through shares, commenting, and connecting. Once you feel ready, you have to craft a pitch that lets an editor know how your companies are related, as well as what you can do for them. For many this means story ideas (discussed in the next section).

It’s also a good idea to start smaller and work your way up. There are plenty of quality websites out there that would love to have a guest post. Reach out to these editors first before reaching out to influencers. This will further develop your portfolio and help you gain the authority you need to work with some of the big sites.

  1. Analyze audience and tone of a publication, and then brainstorm topic ideas.

Once you have established a good relationship and are allowed to publish content on a website, you have to first think about the audience of that website. In most cases the audience will be similar to your own audience, but it’s not always identical. What is the general tone of the blog or magazine? Who are their main readers? What topics are usually covered or have already been covered?

Once you have a handle on the website and have done your research, brainstorm topic ideas that fit the criteria. Be creative, and pitch these ideas to the editor before you being writing.

  1. Write your article with links, mentions, and examples in mind.

Unfortunately for the writers of the world, online writing isn’t only about creative content—it’s about links and mentions within that content. Examples, statistics, quotes, etc. are incredibly important to help prove your points, but you have to make sure that what you mention is coming from a credible source. Linking back to a site that isn’t authoritative or has been penalized by Google can actually bring your article down from an SEO standpoint. You need to only be referring to the best, and many writers who aren’t used to online writing tend to forget that not all websites are created equal.

  1. Share your content on social media and continue the relationship.

Remember that your writing should not stop after the article is published. You generally want to continue to write for publications again (unless the data shows it isn’t worth it, discussed in the next section), and one way to make this happen is to set a regular schedule and continue to share and comment on that website to show you are involved.

Social media is also key to earned media. Whenever you publish anything online you should be sharing it on social media. This will help Google index the content faster and helps you get the content out there for others to share and engage with. This is not only great for you and your company, but it helps show the publication that you are bringing more than just content to the table—you’re promoting it and helping bring new eyes to the site.

Extra Tip: Don’t forget social media in general. Any retweet or reshare you get counts as earned media because you didn’t pay for it. You should therefore put a focus on your social strategy to try and increase your engagement numbers. You can do this by creating social ads, testing compelling content, creating quizzes, and making your social sharing buttons very apparent on each of your articles and your website.

I highly recommend visiting this article to hear from some top editors in the industry about their opinion on the outreach process. More thoughts or questions about outreach for earned media? Let us know in the comment section below and we’ll get back to you right away.