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Allyson Kapin 8 min read

Earned Media: How to Stay Relevant and Track It

“If you don't brand yourself, Google will brand you,” says branding expert Sherry Beck Paprocki. Yes, it’s true and that’s why it’s important for all nonprofits that are advocating for causes to start becoming a part of the conversation publicly and not just behind closed doors or on “the hill.”

Think about it. When the NYT writes about climate change is your environmental group quoted? When the Washington Post writes about health care reform or corporate accountability is your campaign mentioned?

How can your organization effectively brand itself and get on the radar? While paid advertising is a very effective way to increase your list of supporters and help brand your organization to target audiences, earned media is another key tactic to deploy in your overall online communications strategy.

What is Earned Media?
Earned media is media you don't “buy” but earn the old-fashioned way - by taking the time to properly engage reporters, bloggers, and influentials about your issue. Earned media is comprised of coverage through:

  • Blogs
  • Media outlets both online and offline
  • Podcasts
  • Photo sharing sites like Flickr
  • Tweets on Twitter
  • Links shared on Facebook
  • Tagging on social bookmarking sites like delicious, Digg, etc.
  • Word of mouth, etc.

Listen and Build Relationships
Some of the best ways to build relationships with reporters and bloggers who cover your issues is to examine their “byline profiles”, start listening and begin a dialogue. Share important news, feed them useful stats and resources that relates to your cause and the issues they have been writing about. Also, when appropriate tailor your pitches to broader topics that are generating news and frame your story in a similar context. As you begin to build your relationships, it’s also important that you be strategic in your communications. Make sure that the stories you are sharing or pitching are:

  • Timely and topical
  • Credible
  • Has a human interest angle
  • Good stats

Stories that are funny, sad, shocking, or emotional can hook the media too.

Brand Your Issue. Be Everywhere.
We talk a lot about the importance of embracing social media on Frogloop as PART of your overall online communications but traditional communications like press releases, news advisories and taking advantage of public service announcements should not be abandoned at all. They are still extremely useful in branding your campaigns so take advantage of them.

Participate in Online Spaces Where Your Issues Are Relevant
Aside from building your nonprofits profile on major online social networks like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, join other groups and participate in their community. Leave comments on blogs. Pose thought-provoking questions that will help spur discussions amongst the community. The more vocal you are and share resources on your nonprofits issues the more likely you will start to be seen as a leader or the “go to” organization for the cause you are advocating.

Tracking Earned Media
Monitoring earned media has become a lot easier and faster. If your organization is a on a shoe-string budget, setup a Google Alert to track mentions of your nonprofit, websites and campaigns, Executive Director and spokespeople. You can even setup a Google Alert to track the opposition. It won’t capture 100% of your earned media searches but for a free product, it’s a decent tracking service. If your nonprofit can afford to invest some money in tracking earned media there are some good paid services like Factiva, Bacon’s, or CustomScoop. In terms of tracking mentions on social networking sites here’s a few to start with:

Twitter: Summize.com. Type in your organizations twitter handle, organization or hashtags.
Blog Searches: Technorati. Custom RSS feeds let you get quick updates on blogs that mention your organizations name.
Digg and Reddit: Digg and Reddit lets you search for submitted stories that match your organizations name. You can also setup a RSS feed.
Flickr: Setup a RSS feed to track photos that are tagged with your organizations name on Flickr (one of the most popular photo sharing sites).
Yahoo Pipes: You can create your own monitoring tools using Yahoo Pipes which lets you quickly set up your own RSS tracking, complete with filters.

Search Engine Rankings Are Vital
At the end of the day, Google, Yahoo and all of the major search engines are still going to help define your brand so it’s critical that your nonprofit do everything in its power to generate as much media as possible so you can boost your search engine rankings. By taking charge of your brand and building relationships with the media, your organization will start becoming part of the news stories rather then being on the sidelines.

Have some more handy tips? Add your comments below.




Allyson Kapin

Allyson has been named one of "Top Tech Titans" by the Washingtonian, one of the Most Influential Women In Tech by Fast Company, and one of the top 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter by Forbes for her leadership role in technology and social media. As Founding Partner of Rad Campaign, she leads the firm's client and online strategic services. For over a decade Allyson has helped non-profit organizations and political campaigns create dynamic and award-winning websites and online marketing and recruitment campaigns. She works side-by-side with her clients to meet their web needs and maximize their online effectiveness to create real world impact.